Monday, November 12, 2012

Think-Alouds with a freebie

Happy Veteran's Day everyone! I'm a day late for my Saturday/Sunday "snippet", but since today is a holiday, the weekend all kind of just mashes together. Last week, I decided that I'd write a little snippet about guided reading every weekend. Click here for my post from last week.

The goal of guided reading is to give your students the tools to become independent readers. The main way you do this is by teaching them strategies. Strategies are the key to guided reading! These strategies will help them when they get to a word they don't know and when they've read a word incorrectly. I think of those as accuracy strategies. There are also strategies to improve comprehension. There have been numerous posts about strategies by other bloggers. There are so many great resources out there! I will post another day about strategies I use, along with how I introduce and model them.

When I introduce a strategy, I tell them about the strategy, then I model how to apply it. I do this using Think-Alouds.  At the beginning of the year, I mostly use Think-Alouds to teach those accuracy strategies (like chunking words, skipping and going back, thinking about what makes sense). As the year goes on, I'll continue to do this as needed, but I start to use them more to model comprehension strategies.

I went back and forth about which post to do first, but then I realized that Think-Alouds are such a big part of how I teach so I opted to go with this first.

What is it?
Usually your comprehension of a text and decoding words happens in your head. When doing a Think-Aloud, you are vocalizing these thoughts and explaining your thinking process. The teacher is using words, that the students will understand, to communicate strategies good readers use while reading. I think this is one of the most important things a teacher can do. To do this, read aloud from a text and stop frequently to make predictions, make connections, clarify meaning (I also call this a "check in"), ask a question, summarize and decode words (use those accuracy strategies).

How do I use them?
To guide students in this process, there are questions and phrases you can teach them.

  • Decoding/Accuracy:
    • "That didn't make sense. I better go back and reread."
    • "I'm not sure what that word is. I'm going to cover this part of the word and read a small chunk first. s-p...sp. Now I'm going to read the rest of the word, i-ll..ill. sp-ill...spill."
    • "I've tried sounding out and chunking that word, so I'm going to skip it, read the rest of the sentence and go back. (model this) 
  • Connecting:
    • "This reminds me of..."
    • "That was like the time when..."
  • Predicting:
    • "On the next page, I think..."
    • "I predict that..."
    • "I think I know what might happen next"
    • "This page makes me think that _______ will happen next"
  • Visualizing:
    • "I can picture..."
    • "I like the way the author described that. I'm going to stop and try to picture that in my head. I see..."
  • Questioning:
    • "I wonder..."
    • "Why did..."
    • "I don't understand why..."
    • "How did..."
    • "Is this because..."
    • "Where was..."
    • "Could this mean..."
  • Check in/Clarify:
    • "I'm confused about..."
    • "I'm not sure about..."
    • "I think this happened because..."
    • "I think this character did _______ because ________"
    • "I'll keep reading and check back to see if..."
    • "I'll reread this to make sure I understand"
    • "I didn't expect..."
  • Summarize/retell:
    • "Right now the character is..."
    • "So far..."
    • "On this page.."
    • "What just happened here..."
    • "I think this is mainly about..."
    • "The big idea is..."

To encourage your students, you could stop while reading and say/hold up one of those prompts from above and have them finish your sentence. You could have them finish your sentence in reader response journals or whisper to the person next to them.

When I am planning my guided reading instruction, I often look for good opportunities for students to apply this strategy. For example, if there is a page where I know my kiddos can all make a connection, I put a sticky note there and make a point to guide my students to stop and make that connection.

Being able to monitor their thinking and articulate these thoughts is a pretty advanced skill, but that is what we want our kiddos to be able to do.

Here is a graphic organizer that your students can use:

frame by:
clip art by scrappindoodles

I was thinking it would be cute to put the title on the book of this sheet.

The second one just includes two extra strategies (inference and check). I haven't taught inferences yet, so I wanted to make a separate sheet with that one for later in the year. 

Using this Graphic Organizer

To use this sheet, first make sure you've taught all the strategies that are included. Choose your text. For extra scaffolding, find a part in the text that would lend itself to using one or more of these strategies. Have your students read, then stop them to do their Think-Aloud. You decide how much support you want to give them. At first, you may want to choose the strategy for them and start them out by using one of the prompts listed above. As they get better, you can let them choose which strategy they want to use. Kids love to share ideas, so they may do better if they get a chance to share their Think Aloud first, before filling out this sheet.

You could also use this sheet each time you teach a new strategy. You could then put all the sheets together to make a little book of all their Think Alouds.

Remember, using the Think Aloud strategy isn't something that is taught once or twice. It is on-going and it is used to introduce/model/practice ALL the other strategies (accuracy and comprehesion strategies).

Phew, that took a lot longer than I anticipated! Thank goodness I have such a sweet, supportive husband to take my kids out to play in the puddles for the past hour! I'd love to hear from you!! Comments are what keeps me blogging, so don't be shy! :)


  1. This is fantastic! Thank you for sharing! We love it!!

  2. I can't thank you enough for this post!! I am a new teacher and have been having difficulty with guided reading. You have so many great ideas and ways for me to help my little babies. Thank you again!!!


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