Teaching Tip Tuesday: Think Alouds

I have returned from maternity leave, so Teaching Tip Tuesdays have returned.  Hooray!

This week, we will focus on a reading strategy called Think Alouds. This is a reading strategy that is often used by elementary teachers, but should definitely become a practice used by secondary teachers as well.  In this strategy, teachers model for students how to connect what they know to the text they are reading.  This strategy will seem spontaneous to the students, but it needs to be carefully planned ahead of time by the teacher.  For teachers, this might be difficult at first because we often don’t think about how we think.  You will need to make a conscious effort to verbalize the running dialogue in your head and thought-processes that you use while you read. Think alouds are an important part of teaching any comprehension strategy to students. This metacognition is a way of helping students monitor and improve their own comprehension.

Click on the following link to view an excellent example of a teacher using this strategy with a secondary classroom:

Steps:

  1. The teacher reads aloud from a text
  2. Stop after a short passage and “think aloud.”  Demonstrate how to make connections that lead to better comprehension of the text.
  3. Model strategies for solving problems as they read.  Readers can run into all kinds of comprehension problems in a text, so a teacher simulates a comprehension problem and thinks aloud how the problem can be solved, showing students what to do when something is hard to understand.
  4. Students will read and think aloud.

Here are a few trouble-shooting techniques that are important to model for students:

  • Keep reading to see if the author explains what you don’t understand
  • Reread to see if you missed something
  • Read back to the part you didn’t understand, or, read forward skipping confusing words.
  • Reflect on what you have read and see if there is an alternative explanation that can be inferred based on your prior knowledge.
  • Seek information beyond the text (from a partner or a second source) in order to understand

Teachers need to encourage students to do think alouds themselves when they read.  As students think aloud, the teacher can monitor their understanding as well as observe their reasoning. Think alouds can easily be nested within any instruction, and they tend to make a teacher’s oral reading exercises more engaging and understandable for all students.

In your classroom, students can demonstrate think alouds in several ways:

  • Double entry journal/two-column notes/cornell notes
  • Take turns reading with a partner and stopping frequently to do think alouds as teacher circulates
  • Use sticky notes with codes for their reactions & thoughts
  • Record their voiced thoughts (on ipads, iphones, or electronic devices)
  • Provide question stems to prompt their thinking and responses to the text

Update: Read how a Math teacher in my district used this strategy in his classroom: Read Chuck Baker’s blog to learn more about his lesson plan & reflection piece

One important note Chuck Baker made is a major factor to consider before doing ANY reading activity in your class:

As far as choosing your text, its very important that the reading level is appropriate for your individual learners so they can get into the reading. A great opportunity for differentiation would be to group according to reading level and provide separate, approachable texts. My Stats class has been previously screened to make sure they could handle the reading required for the course, but when I try this with my Applied Math class next week, they willshut down if the reading is over the heads.

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2 thoughts on “Teaching Tip Tuesday: Think Alouds

  1. This would be a great strategy for word problems and all nonfiction texts! Think I’ll try out for math class, too! All of your implementation ideas are solid; what do you think if Cornell notes AND recorded discussion were combined to catalog student conversation but also preserve the writing/summary component?

    • After you use it in math class, please share how you used the strategy and how it went! I think this strategy will take some time for it to work and run smoothly; students will have have trouble vocalizing their thoughts in the beginning, but after some practice and modeling (on your part) the students will eventually get the hang of it. If it becomes part of the class routine, then students will get better and better at using this new reading strategy.

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