Think Aloud Strategies

Over the past week, I’ve been working on thinking and reading strategies with each of my classes.  Connie Prevatte suggested in a workshop at Buncombe County Schools this summer that Roger Farr’s think-aloud model is excellent for inspiring thought about various types of text.  His basic week-long model is as follows:

  • Day 1: Read text to students, pausing along the way to verbalize thoughts.  Students record these thoughts.
  • Day 2: Students create a checklist of thinking processes, then with fresh text, check off as teacher reads/thinks-aloud again.
  • Day 3: Students bring in their own text, and follow the same process from Day 2, except one student leads thinking.
  • Day 4: Fresh text, students think in teams using checklist.
  • Day 5: Fresh text, students think independently using checklist.

I really agree with the instructor model, team model, individual plan that Farr uses to put thinking strategies into practice.  I did modify this plan to a certain extent.  First, as a class, we discussed the following questions:

  1. How do we know when a piece of text is too difficult for us?
  2. Should we be passive sponges or active filters?
  3. What makes a “good” reader, good?

From this discussion, we developed a list of strategies, based on our school literacy model and Cris Tovani’s literacy skills that all readers use to better comprehend text.  Then, using Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, the adapted version for 8th graders, we spent a week using these strategies in the checklist format.  Our checklist included: question, prediction, confusion, visualization, text organization, connection, and summarization.

Before we read each day, the students knew the places they were required to stop and verbalize their thinking.  At first, pulling teeth would have been more pleasant that the uninspired thinking that occurred with my students.  They wanted to do the least amount of thinking possible when left on their own, asking questions such as “Does Charlie like Algernon a lot or a little?”  and “Why doesn’t he just run away?”

By day 3, though, something changed.  First, I changed my plan of asking for volunteers to share their thoughts to pre-selecting my “thinkers” to respond when they reached the appropriate point.  Simply calling them “thinkers” had students practically jumping out of their seats screaming, “I wanna be a thinker, Ms. Riddle!”  I only required them to use three thinking strategies after each section, but as the week went on, most students were asking for extra lists so they could add more thoughts.  On the final day, I had each student write down his or her thoughts on post-its and categorize them in large circle maps around the room.  Some interesting discussion occurred regarding questions and if they should be categorized as confusion or question.

Overall this process was successful with the majority of students.  I found that their thinking began to climb from simple knowledge questions to analytical and evaluative as the week went on.  Next week, we will be applying these strategies to team readings of “The Most Dangerous Game” by Connell and “The Lady, or the Tiger” by Stockton.

I am trying to format a plan to apply this same strategy to other material, such as digital media, social networking, and other online content.  The process will definitely have to be tweaked due to the fast pace of most of this new content.  Here are my initial thoughts:

  • Use websites such as DHMO and checklist to discuss authenticity.
  • Election advertisements, newsreels using checklist to discuss bias.
  • Twitter/Plurk feeds and checklist to discuss perspective and characterization.

As I haven’t fleshed this out yet, I would love some input, advice, or inspiration on using a similar process, as my students are used to it, to uncover what thinking strategies we use, or should be using, when we approach digital media.


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