Comprehension Strategy 1: Think Aloud

Comprehension strategies are seen as one of the most effective ways of helping struggling readers. In this article we explore the rationale behind the mini-skill 'Think Aloud' - 1 of 12 in our comprehension resource

Think alouds externalise the thinking that a strong reader might do 'in their head.' We often witness thinking aloud when a strong reader (parent, older sibling, teacher) reads to a child. The questions they ask of text - "Why did he do that?", "That must have been cold!" or "Where might she go?" are examples of the think aloud principle.

Why think alouds?

Teaching your students to think aloud

This example uses an extract from The Red Stone of Calcutta. Obviously you can use any text and adapt the process. After settling down for a reading session (one-to-one, or group), try the following:

Intersperse the text with questions and comments (thinking aloud!)

The Master was waiting when the helicopter touched down on the roof of The Block. His long coat flapped in the wind. Ah, so it's a windy day - or is the wind caused by the helicopter? He strode forward immediately. The Master sounds like a confident man. He held his long beard with one hand and reached with the other to help the doctor from the helicopter.

Introduce questions that stimulate prior knowledge:

The Master was waiting when the helicopter touched down on the roof of The Block. I've never been close to a helicopter - I wonder how big they are in real life? His long coat flapped in the wind. I remember standing by the sea once with strong wind blowing my coat around... He strode forward immediately. He held his long beard with one hand and reached with the other to help the doctor from the helicopter.

Elicit questions from the learner:

The Master was waiting when the helicopter touched down on the roof of The Block. What does 'The Block' make you think of? He strode forward immediately. What does this verb 'strode' make you think of? He held his long beard with one hand and reached with the other to help the doctor from the helicopter.

As you can see, the think aloud strategy is a simple thing, something many of us do naturally when reading with a learner! It is also excellent for your strongest readers where you can explore the range of their prior knowledge and the limits of their vocabulary.

How can technology help develop think alouds?

Our comprehension resource offers think aloud activities. These are completed by learners independently. They then discuss the strategy as a group at the end of the session. As groups of ten can work simultaneously on the comprehension programme, all learners are benefiting from think aloud input at the same time. This allows the programme to reach greater numbers of struggling readers per session when compared to one-to-one or small group interventions.

The image below is of the think aloud episode from 'The Red Stone of Calcutta.' As learners work through each paragraph, they listen to think alouds. These recordings play the part of the stronger reader, slowing down and deepening the reading process, encouraging learners to think ahead and to make meaning. They are encouraged to bring their own think alouds to the discussion session.

Listen to a group of KS2 learners discussing ReadingWise comprehension here.

Like to learn more? You can arrange a demo to suit your timings.

Research that supports the think aloud as a comprehension strategy

The Reading Rockets website offers a wealth of information on all things reading. For more on think alouds, try:

What do you think?

What is your experience of think alouds? Are they something you've used in your classroom? Let us know your thoughts below.

And finally - if you'd like to explore using ReadingWise to empower your struggling comprehenders, you might like to arrange a demo with our friendly team.

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