Go Beyond a Model; Reveal a Think Aloud

When introducing any literacy skill, teachers typically tell students what it is and show them some examples. However, teaching goes beyond telling. It reveals more than just what to do; it reveals the process for how to do it.

As an expert on the skill or subject, the teacher tends to execute the skill without putting much thought into it. But, it’s that “automatic” process that needs to be dissected. Before students can master a skill, they need it presented concretely and precisely. There is a lot of invisible thinking that goes into accomplishing that skill.

Students need to know more than what the teacher did to achieve the skill. They need to be privy to the thoughts about how to do it, why to do it, when to do it, and where to do it as a reader/writer. These behind-the-scenes reader and writer thoughts need to accompany the skill modeled “live” in front of the students.

The difference between telling about an example and teaching through an example is the power of a Think Aloud. When Think Alouds are integrated into lessons, they include the teacher’s slow-motion self-talk throughout the entire process.

Compare the difference between modeling a free-throw and Thinking Aloud while executing one, as shown in the video.

When planning a Think Aloud into any lesson, anticipate the struggles, questions, and confusions of students. How did you ___? Why are you ___? What about when___? How come ___? Answer these questions throughout your modeled example.

Done well, Think Alouds replace the students’ novice thinking with the teacher’s expert know-how.

[Read the research on this topic.]

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