Think-alouds are the cornerstone to comprehension instruction. Think-alouds help make reading strategies concrete by allowing students to “see” what is happening inside the teacher’s head as s/he reads. During a think-aloud the teacher reads aloud a text, stopping at strategic points to explain what she is thinking and how she is solving problems. Nancie Atwell calls this “taking off the top of my head” and inviting students to hear her thinking and see what she does as an adult reader and writer. Think-alouds are an effective way to model metacognition for students.
Think-alouds help students:
- Understand that reading should make sense.
- Move beyond the literal meaning of the text
- Learn how to read using a variety of strategies.
- Use particular strategies when reading particular types of text.
- Become more metacognitive readers (able to think about their own reading and thinking processes).
Conducting a Think-Aloud
- Select a strategy to highlight.
- Choose a short, interesting piece of text.
- Explain the purpose and how this strategy improves reading.
- Read the text aloud to students. Stop periodically to think aloud, focusing on the target strategy.
- Have students identify words and phrases that helped you use a strategy.
- Help students identify other situations in which they could use the same strategy.
- Provide follow-up lessons that reinforce the think-aloud.
Source: Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D., Scholastic, 2001.