Instructional Purpose:
The Think-Aloud exercise draws on specific reading skills to explore the information in a selected reading passage.

The Think-Aloud exercise can help students formulate questions before, during, and after reading the novel. It also can help them make predictions about what will happen and when, based on what they learn in the selected reading passage.


Suggested Uses:

When using think-aloud reading with your students, use the list below (“Reading skills students draw on for strong reading comprehension”) to structure the reading tasks. Either introduce the list directly to students before reading or during the think aloud with them, showing students what skills you are using as you use them, and then guiding the group or class can create the list of skills together.

Step 1: Begin with a short section of a text (1-2 pages); the text should be challenging for most of your students and give you several opportunities to illustrate the various reading strategies.

Step 2: Depending on your students’ skills and grade level, choose 3-5 strategies on which you want to focus from the list. For instance, Activate Prior Knowledge, Make Predictions, or Ask Questions. Tell your students what the strategies are that you will be using, why each of these strategies helps on this particular section of text, and when to use them (i.e. before, during, and/or after) as you read the text.

Step 3: Make sure you give your students the purpose or goal for this reading or have them come up with it if that’s appropriate for the particular reading.

Step 4: Read the text to your students and model the chosen strategies as you read by stopping to articulate aloud what skills you are using and what conclusions you are drawing as you read.

Step 5: Have your students annotate the text by underlining, circling, or putting post-it notes near the cues that called for the use of a particular strategy. Discuss them after the read-aloud is complete.

Step 6: Have students brainstorm a list of other texts and circumstances where they might be able to use each of the strategies. Have the students connect these strategies to real life situations.

Step 7: Consistently reinforce the use of these strategies as you continue reading this text and as you introduce new texts to your students.

Adapt the Think-Aloud to suit the students in your class, depending on how independently students are capable of working, how they are used to working, and how you want to evaluate their work. Possible instructional scenarios include:

  • Have students either listen or participate as you conduct the think-aloud; use an overhead projector if possible.
  • Have students do think-alouds in small or large groups, aided by the teacher.
  • Have students do think-alouds as individuals, writing instead of working orally, and then comparing their work with other students.
  • Students do think-alouds outside of class (for example, for homework), and present their work in class either to small groups or to the class as a whole.


Reading skills students draw on for strong reading comprehension:

If students are not familiar with the following list of reading skills, review the following list with them:

What skills do you use before, during, and after you read?

  • Activate background knowledge: Approaching a text for the first time, summon any information or background that you have in relation to the topic of the text, the ideas, the people or characters, the setting, historical context, author, or events. Any background knowledge you can draw on provides a foundation for your reading experience, helping you to make sense of the new text.
  • Set a purpose/reason/goal for reading: Establish what you expect to get out of the reading. Depending on the purpose you identify, you will adjust your reading in order to meet your purpose or goal. Completing this crucial initial step will help you to successfully interact with the text.
    • Are you reading for pleasure or entertainment?
    • To gather information about, for example, a different culture or way of living?
    • To support a thesis?
    • To answer an essential question?
  • Decode text into words and meanings: Reading decoding is the ability to figure out how to read unknown words by using knowledge of letters, sounds, and word patterns. This is a basic reading skill but it is important to draw on when encountering newer, more diverse, and more sophisticated texts. Decoding text into words with meaning involves using such strategies to define unfamiliar words as using context clues or word parts (e.g., prefixes, suffixes, roots).
  • Make personal connections: In the process of reading, constantly compare and contrast your own knowledge and experience with what the text presents and reveals. The process of “personal engagement” with the text improves your comprehension and understanding. Ask yourself the following questions as you read:
    • How is this like or unlike something I know or have experienced?
    • How can I connect the ideas here to other texts I have read?
    • How is this text (and the ideas presented in it) useful or relevant to me?
  • Make predictions: From the moment you pick up a text, start making predictions about it. Look at such things as the title, table of contents, dedication, number of pages, font size, photographs, and the commentary on the back or book jacket. Begin to make predictions about the contents, quality and your initial reactions to the text. As your reading progresses, continue to check and revise your initial reactions and predictions.
  • Visualize: While reading a fictional text, create a mental picture of the setting and imagine what the characters look like. Essentially, immerse yourself in the visual world of the story. In a nonfiction text that may have abstract elements, create visual symbols, concept webs, or mind maps that help you keep track of the information and organize it.
  • Ask questions: Make a habit of asking questions while you read. Ask questions about the text, the writer, your own responses, opinions, and reactions to the reading. You may ask questions that probe deeper for understanding, or you may simply ask questions that voice your internal confusion and need for clarity. Even if you view yourself as a less skilled reader, use questions to work through your confusion instead of simply stopping reading the text.
  • Monitor understanding and summarize: Carry an “invisible suitcase” of information with you as you read a text. Along the way, drop important skills into the case that help you to make sense of the text; if something doesn’t make sense, unpack it and take a closer look. Review those collected items at various points in the reading in order to move toward understanding, synthesis and evaluation of the text.
  • Apply what you have learned: Both during and after the reading, regularly ask yourself:
    • “How can I use this information?”
    • “What does this story mean to me?”
    • “How can I apply this in my own life?”
    • “Is this relevant to other situations or circumstances?”

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