Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Using Think-Alouds to Improve Reading Comprehension [1-2]

by Cindy Price, First-Grade Teacher, Guest Blogger

What is a think-aloud?
Thinking-aloud is a popular strategy that can be described as "eavesdropping on someone's thinking." With this strategy, teachers verbalize aloud while reading a selection orally. Their verbalizations include describing things they're doing as they read to monitor their comprehension. The purpose of the think-aloud strategy is to model for students how skilled readers construct meaning from a text.

When I perform a think-aloud, I like to choose a skill to focus on and select a book that best illustrates that skill. I notate talking points, like vocabulary, so that I can discuss it later with my class. I write these talking points down and then type them on bright sticky notes to place throughout the book. These are important because they teach the students how to read and how to think critically as they read.

Where do I begin?
When you are planning a think-aloud, first you must begin by evaluating your students, considering the following questions:

  • What skills do they need to know?
  • What skills are they lacking? 
  • What skills do they already know? 
  • How is their vocabulary? 
  • When they read on their own or listen to others read, are they understanding what they are reading or listening to?

When I plan a think-aloud, I consider my class and choose a skill that they need to learn or practice more.  The text selection should be a book that best represents that skill, simultaneously offering plenty of opportunities for students to practice. The skills I like to hone in on are prediction, inferences, point of view, and character traits. These are common areas that beginning readers have trouble with on their own. When students have the skills modeled for them, they can recall that example as they integrate the skills into their own reading.   


Modeling a Think-Aloud
There is a new series out from Hameray, the Greedy Cat series by Joy Cowley. I love these books, and they are great to use to model think-alouds with your students. I will share how I prepare for a think-aloud using the book, Greedy Cat at the Market , describing what I do before reading, and what I would say during the think-aloud.




While I am planning a think-aloud, there are two things that I always do for myself. I type a small summary of what the book is about, and I find vocabulary and create vocabulary cards for my students to see. And occasionally, if the skill or text requires, I create visual aids to help my students understand the purpose of reading the book. 


                                                                        Book Summary: 

This is a story about Greedy Cat, a mischievous feline, who wants to go the market with Katie but is left behind. He decides to go anyway after Katie and her family have left. Once he arrives at the market, the adventures begin!


Set the Purpose:

First, I introduce essential vocabulary. The vocabulary words I chose for this story are:  market, dribbled, stomped, wobbled, twitched, glimpsed, and sobbed. 

Then I would explain to students what a prediction is and share that we will be making a prediction today. We use the clues from the author to help us make predictions. Some possible clues are the title, the illustrations, and the character's actions. After reviewing this with my students, I ask them to make a prediction based on the vocabulary words we've reviewed.

Before Reading:

Direct attention towards the cover and say something similar to this: " When I read the title: Greedy Cat at the Market, it makes me think this book is about Greedy Cat going to the market. When I look at the picture on the cover, I see characters are going towards tents. Those tents must be the market. Let's see if I am right. "


During Reading:

Here are some examples of what I would say during the reading of Greedy Cat at the Market.

  • After reading page 4: I ask myself out loud, " Hmm was my prediction, right? Is Greedy Cat at the market or going to the market? There are characters going to the market, but Greedy Cat is not allowed. I was close. Somebody is going to the market but not Greedy Cat. Let's read a little more to see if this changes. "
  • After reading page 5: I like to ask students, " Was your prediction correct? " We usually discuss their predictions and then proceed to read the rest of the story.  
  • After reading page 7: " What a mess! My prediction was right. Poppy did make a big mess when he ran through the market. As I was reading, I noticed that Poppy was alone. I wonder, is he lost? Will Katie find him? What do you think will happen next? Why do you think that? Let's read to find out. "

  • After reading page 11: " Was your prediction correct? Give me a thumbs up or down. So we see Greedy Cat and Poppy at the Hot Dog Man. We see there is a sausage on the ground by Poppy. Make a Prediction. Do you think they ate a lot of sausages? "


After Reading:

After completing our reading, I like to ask students:

  • Were you surprised by the ending of the story? 
  • Were you surprised by who got into trouble at the market? 


Releasing the Responsibility to Students
Through extensive modeling and practice, teachers can eventually release this to the students. I like to do it in baby steps. I model the skill extensively for the whole group. When students are in their guided reading groups, I model again. Then I have students practice with me in a guided reading group. They will do it on their own in a guided reading group, before having the opportunity to do it all on their own. Assign passages for them to practice for homework and make it a part of your routine. The students will begin to do these skills and steps automatically because of repeated exposure!



This is a guest blog post by Cindy Price, a first-grade teacher from Delaware. If you like what you read here, take a look at her blog at  Mrs. Price's Kindergators , and be sure to check back here for more of her guest blog posts!