Readers Workshop Think Aloud Strategy


     The main purpose of a think aloud is to model for students the thought processes that take place when difficult material is read. A think aloud is a great strategy to use to slow down the reading process and let students get a good look at how skilled readers construct meaning from  text. Explain to your students what you do while you read: "When I'm reading you'll see me looking at the text and stopping. I'll tell you what I'm thinking at this point in the story. This helps me understand what I'm reading.

     When using think aloud a teacher may say things like " Oh, that's sounds like evidence that John is a caring person" ( if you are using the strategy to find evidence- I Say- Book Says and So-) The teacher verbalizes his/her thoughts while they are reading orally. Or If the strategy is using context clues to find meaning the teacher may say, "I was wondering about the word consume- now I'm guessing it could mean to ruin or destroy- because the passage is describing how the forest looked after the fire. Did anyone else notice another way we know it means ruin or destroy? 

     Students will understand comprehension strategies better because they can see how the mind responds to thinking through trouble spots and constructing meaning from text.

A simple Example of a Think Aloud Procedure

    Find a suitable selection to read aloud.  Think about the comprehension strategy you will concentrate on. For this example I am going to concentrate on the hyphen and its uses.

Setting the Purpose

     I explain that the purpose of the lesson is to understand how the author uses hyphens to emphasize a word, explain the meaning of a word, or to slow the reader down. Be careful because sometimes it is used in compound words and this is not part of the author's intention.

Before Activity

    I read the title and asked the class to predict what the book could be about. I also put ten to fifteen of the plot words on the board and ask them to predict the plot of the story and to write one or two sentences about it.  I ask for volunteers to read these orally.

During Activity

    For this exercise I run off the text for all to see, because we worked on hyphens and their usage. (This is the strategy lesson) I demonstrate by explaining how to complete the large chart I have taped to the board. I read orally, but I would stop now and again to verbalize the thinking that takes place when difficult or confusing material is encountered. I purposely chose selections that were appropriate for what I wanted to convey. For example I wanted to work on hyphenated words and how authors use hyphens in three ways. So I found a book that contained several examples. 

     While I read I would "wonder" out loud what the author meant when they used the hyphen in that part of the text. I would stop reading  and ask the students about the hyphen and its use. I would ask how it affected the way I read, how my voice changed and why. We would discuss the various uses of the hyphen.

    I would then have the students use the sticky notes I passed out to fill in the chart while it was fresh in their minds. The students follow along silently and listen as I think through the book. They would highlight the hyphens as we encounter them.  I allow them to get up and place their sticky note on the chart as I read. We would discuss what they found when I finish reading that section.

After Activity

     I get the students to read their own books and find examples of ways authors use the hyphen. I gave each student a copy of the same sheet I demonstrated from. They then go and find a piece of non-fiction and locate hyphenated words. They fill in their sheet and hand it in. I put in a third column so that they could put their own thoughts on why the author needed to use the hyphen.


 Paired Think Aloud

Below is an independent activity. Students pair up and read a picture book together, taking turns to read. Students must stop while they read and think out loud using the strategies we talked about. They then use the checklist below to verify use of comprehension strategies. Partners discuss what they noticed about each other's reading. 

Think-aloud Review Book

Student Copy

Strategy Used

Check Mark if yes, x if no

Predictions at the end of each page or chapter  
Stopped and told what they visualized  
Stopped and asked a question of their partner  
Reread a word or passage they were unsure of  
Made a connection to self or another text or world  
Inferred something the author hinted at  
Determined what the main idea of the story was and explained it using story details  
Was able to explain the main ideas and the reason the author wrote this book  
Was able to summarize a section or chapter  
Could compare and contrast content  
Inferred based on background knowledge  
Drew conclusions from the text  
Made evaluations based on what they read  


Based on information from Content Area Reading: Literacy and Learning Across the
Curriculum by Richard T. and Joanne L. Vacca