Think Aloud: The New Read Aloud
To start, we will learn what a think aloud is, and in the following two articles, discover two think aloud lessons to exemplify.
One significant difference between a think aloud and a read aloud is that during a read aloud you teach (for example, predictions, character traits, beginning, middle and end, story elements and so forth). However, during a think aloud you model your thinking (in other words your reading comprehension) out loud as you read. In essence you are modeling to students how to think to themselves as they read independently. Also, you do not ask for feedback from the students during the think aloud by way of turn-and-talks. You simply think aloud as if you were reading the book yourself and at the end of the reading, formulate a summary of the book with the students.
It is quite easy to do, but requires some planning. You will also need sticky notes to jot down your thoughts.
Steps for Planning
First read your chosen book selection and notice your thinking as you do. Flag any pages with a Post-it where you had a thought about the character, feelings, cause and effect, small moments, story elements, word patterns, problem and resolution or rhyme and rhythm.
After reading, review the Post-its that you have left and jot down your teaching points on them. Limit teaching points to one or two. Remember during your think aloud to replace the Post-its on the pages so that you can refer to them in a future reading. Although you may be addressing a different skill in the next reading (for example, comparing and contrasting characters, a small moment in the book, problem and resolution or rhyme and rhythm), it is always best to save your work for future reference. You are actually modeling to students how to think aloud and can teach them how to use Post-its in the same way in any genre.
Once students learn how to do a think aloud with you, they practice in their own books (emergent books or "just right" readers). Don't exclude the Kindergarteners. They too can flag the pages by the illustrations they observe. For example, after modeling how to think aloud about the problem and resolution of a story (and flagging it with a sticky note), you might say, "Readers, today I would like you to find the problem and resolution in the story and flag them." This makes a great informal comprehension assessment.
Selecting Age Appropriate Text
When choosing a think aloud (and even a read aloud) it is important to select an age appropriate book. "Care in selecting books targeted to children's developmental skills will enhance the power and pleasures of reading to young readers (Dwyer, 2008)."
At ages four-five children begin to become attached to certain characters in stories and are interested in the cause and effect relationships in the world around them (Dwyer, 2008). A fantastic resource for finding age appropriate text for teachers, parents and kids is the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). On the PBS Bookfinder page you will find age appropriate books for infant through third grades for read alouds or self reading, by subject. You may also enjoy my series about how to choose "just right" books.
In the next two think aloud lesson plans, we model how to use a think aloud step by step, using these books:
Chrysanthemum (Henke, 2005) is a great cause and effect text that may help to students to think more about cause and effect relationships when reading. Chrysanthemum is a lovable character that students can identify with. It is a very popular book to teach about friendship in the beginning of the school year.
You are Special (Lucado, 2002) is also a great cause and effect text that will foster self esteem in students, particularly when they are going to school and faced with the challenges of academic excellence and peer relationships.
A natural follow-up to these lessons are reading activities on problem and resolution.