Think-alouds have been
described as "eavesdropping on
someone's thinking." With this
strategy, teachers verbalize aloud
while reading a selection orally.
Their verbalizations include
describing things they're doing as
they read to monitor their
comprehension. The purpose of the
think-aloud strategy is to model
for students how skilled readers
construct meaning from a text.
What Is It?
The think-aloud strategy asks students
to say out loud what they are thinking about
when reading, solving math problems, or
simply responding to questions posed by
teachers or other students. Effective
teachers think out loud on a regular basis to
model this process for students. In this way,
they demonstrate practical ways of
approaching difficult problems while bringing
to the surface the complex thinking
processes that underlie reading
comprehension, mathematical problem
solving, and other cognitively demanding
Thinking out loud is an excellent
way to teach how to estimate the
number of people in a crowd, revise a
paper for a specific audience, predict
the outcome of a scientific experiment,
use a key to decipher a map, access prior
knowledge before reading a new passage,
monitor comprehension while reading a
difficult textbook, and so on.
Getting students into the habit of
thinking out loud enriches classroom
discourse and gives teachers an
important assessment and diagnostic
How to use think-alouds?
• Explain that reading is a
complex process that
involves thinking and sense-
making; the skilled reader's
mind is alive with questions
she asks herself in order to
understand what she reads.
• Select a passage to read aloud that
contains points that students might find
difficult, unknown vocabulary terms, or
ambiguous wording. Develop questions you
can ask yourself that will show what you
think as you confront these problems
• While students read this passage
silently, read it aloud. As you read,
verbalize your thoughts, the questions
you develop, and the process you use to
solve comprehension problems. It is
helpful if you alter the tone of your
voice, so students know when you are
reading and at what points you begin
and end thinking aloud.
Coping strategies you can model include:
· Making predictions or hypotheses as you
read: "From what he's said so far, I'll bet
that the author is going to give some examples
of poor eating habits."
· Describing the mental pictures you " see" :
"When the author talks about vegetables I
should include in my diet, I can see our salad
bowl at home filled with fresh, green spinach
· Demonstrating how you connect this
information with prior knowledge: "'Saturated fat'? I
know I've heard that term before. I learned it last
year when we studied nutrition."
· Creating analogies: "That description of
clogged arteries sounds like traffic clogging up the
interstate during rush hour."
· Verbalizing obstacles and fix-up strategies:
"Now what does 'angiogram' mean? Maybe if I reread
that section, I'll get the meaning from the other
sentences around it: I know I can't skip it because
it's in bold-faced print, so it must be important. If I
still don't understand, I know I can ask the teacher
• Have students work with partners to
practice "think-alouds" when reading short
passages of text. Periodically revisit this
strategy or have students complete the
assessment that follows so these
metacomprehension skills become second
While I was
much did I use
Not much A little
All of the
. . . .
. . . .
I read to what I
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
Examples of Visual Representations: Think-Aloud Assessment
Why use think-alouds?
It helps students learn to monitor their
thinking as they read and improves their
It teaches students to re-read a sentence,
read ahead to clarify, and/or look for
context clues to make sense of what they
It slows down the reading process and
allows students to monitor their
understanding of a text.
Why Is It Important?
By verbalizing their inner speech (silent
dialogue) as they think their way through a problem,
teachers model how expert thinkers solve problems.
As teachers reflect on their learning processes, they
discuss with students the problems learners face and
how learners try to solve them. As students think
out loud with teachers and with one another, they
gradually internalize this dialogue; it becomes their
inner speech, the means by which they direct their
own behaviors and problem-solving processes
(Tinzmann et al. 1990). Therefore, as students think
out loud, they learn how to learn. They learn to think
as authors, mathematicians, anthropologists,
economists, historians, scientists, and artists. They
develop into reflective, metacognitive, independent
learners, an invaluable step in helping students
understand that learning requires effort and often is
difficult (Tinzmann et al. 1990). It lets students
know that they are not alone in having to think their
way through the problem-solving process.
Think-alouds are used to model comprehension
processes such as making predictions, creating images,
linking information in text with prior knowledge,
monitoring comprehension, and overcoming problems with
word recognition or comprehension (Gunning 1996).
By listening in as students think aloud, teachers
can diagnose students' strengths and weakness. "When
teachers use assessment techniques such as
observations, conversations and interviews with
students, or interactive journals, students are likely to
learn through the process of articulating their ideas and
answering the teacher's questions" (National Council of
Teachers of Mathematics 2000).
Students work together in pairs, thinking
aloud, while they read a difficult text or
hypothesize something in science, or compare
opposing view points in social studies.
How it works
• one student thinks aloud
• the other writes down what is said
• students change roles
• reflection on the process
• write about the findings
While the teacher reads a text aloud,
students complete a think-aloud thought on a
sticky note and mark it as an idea to use during
another project such as journaling.
Prompts For Using Think-Alouds
So far I’ve learned…
This made me think of…
That didn’t make sense…
I think _____will happen next.
I reread that part because…
I was confused by…
I think the most important part was…
That is interesting because…
I wonder why…
I just thought of…
"I've just got to get my merit badge today," thought
Jim. He was lost. His compass had broken when it fell
out of his hands and hit the rocks. Dad will be
disappointed if I don't pass this time. Jim couldn't find
the path to take to get back to camp. He saw some
boys through the bushes. They were wearing the same
troop number as Jim. "I'll just cut through here and
get back to camp. No one will know I didn't take the
right way, but what about the rocks?" he thought. He
was supposed to return with seven rocks that Mr. Sims
had left along the path. "I'll just bring back any rocks I
find," he thought. Jim picked up some rocks that
looked a lot like the rocks Mr. Sims had shown them.
"I'm here!" Jim shouted when he arrived. "Here are
my rocks." Mr. Sims took the rocks and gave Jim a
funny look. "These rocks don't have a green mark
painted on them, Jim," he said.
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