The Think Aloud strategy helps make visible the many invisible strategies that proficient readers use to monitor their comprehension as then engage with a text. During a “think aloud,” the teacher reads aloud a section of a text, pausing every now and again to reveal what they are thinking about and doing in order to understand what they are reading. This strategy demystifies the process of constructing meaning from a text and helps students see all of the active thinking that leads to comprehension. Think Alouds can be community-building experiences when teachers take interpretive risks in front of their students, especially when they model with texts that they don’t fully understand themselves.
You can model the following reading skills during a Think Aloud:
Pausing when something is unclear
Rereading a section of the text
Visualizing a character, setting, or scene
Figuring out vocabulary in context
Posing a question: Did I misread something? Is this a flashback? Did the narrator just change? What does this word mean? What’s the relationship between these characters? What does “it” refer to in this sentence?
Connecting what you read to something else in the text, another text, or your own experience
Predicting what might happen next
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Before teaching the lesson, choose a short text, such as a few paragraphs from a book or article, a poem, or even a work of art. Consider what skills you want to highlight and practice reading the text out loud, making notes about some of the places you will pause to “think aloud” and which skills you will identify. Alternatively, choose a text to “read cold” for a more authentic reading comprehension experience.
Project and pass out the text. Explain to students that you will be reading aloud and pausing to name the things you are thinking that help you understand the text. Start reading and pause for your first “think aloud” comment. For example, using the first poem of Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, you might pause to say, “I notice that the author says ‘I am born’ here. That’s interesting . . . usually we say I was born. I wonder if she is connecting her birth to the present time.” If you have the technology to do so, make a brief annotation as you think aloud. Continue to read and think aloud for a few paragraphs.
Ask students to name the strategies they notice you using. Write them on the board. Then have students work in pairs to read the next section of the text. One student starts reading, pausing periodically to “think aloud” while the other student listens. Then have them switch roles.
Finally, have students practice independently, pausing to “think aloud” in their heads as they read.
Conclude the activity with a class discussion or exit ticket in response to the following questions
What do you think about as you read?
What strategy did you find most helpful? How does it help you understand a text?
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