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It is known that implementation of
reading strategies in the classroom can often improve student reading habits
and comprehension.  In my opinion,
reading is the most important subject because it is the foundation of all
subjects.  If you cannot read
effectively, it makes it even more difficult to learn the subjects of math,
science, and social studies.  This is why
I decided to research one specific strategy so I will know it inside and out in
order to implement it in my classroom properly and effectively.  After looking at popular reading strategies,
such as the fish-bowl discussion, Jig Saw, and various others that are used, I
decided on the think-aloud strategy.  All
of these strategies are beneficial in their own way and at some point I will more
than likely use them all with my future students, however, focusing on a
particular one at the moment will give me the opportunity to become a master of
it.

As I was studying, I began to wonder
about the origins of this reading strategy. 
I finally came across a very informative scholarly resource titled The Think Aloud Method: A Practical Guide to
Modeling Cognitive Processes. This journal states that the think-aloud
method has its roots in psychological research. 
By the end of 1960’s, the interest in internal cognitive processes was
growing very fast and so was the interest in methods that can provide data
about these processes.  Over time experts
noticed it became possible to obtain the knowledge and thoughts of others by
allowing them to be vocal and free with their thought processes while they were
completing a task, studying, reading a text, and more.  The journal tells us that currently the
think-aloud method is accepted as a useful method by a large part of the
scientific community.  Fortunately, this
method has trickled over into the educational community and teachers have
witnessed the benefits think-aloud provides students when reading (p. 32).  Because of the original interests of
scientists, the think-aloud has evolved into what it is known for today.

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According to Leslie Oster, author of
“Using the Think-Aloud for Reading Instruction,” think-aloud is a technique in
which students verbalize their thoughts as they read and thus bring into the
open the strategies they are using to understand a text (p. 64).  As teachers, we often wonder what our
students are thinking as they read.  What
are their thought processes?  What do
they think about a particular character or passage in a novel?  This is where the think-aloud strategy comes
in and saves the day for educators.  It
provides us with a tool to dive into the minds of our young students.

One of our many roles as educators of
reading is to create an appetite for reading. 
From personal experience, I had a teacher that was a tremendous reading
teacher and I will never forget her.  I
believe she is one of the main reasons I am such an avid reader today. She gave
us the chance to read what we wanted, to tell her about a book we loved, we had
opportunities to read with our friends, and most importantly, she allowed us to
have a voice and express our thoughts while reading.  I can remember some of us racing up the
stairs to the library to get our books and we truly loved it.  This is one of the very reasons why I want to
be a teacher; I want to see that love of reading, or any subject for that matter,
blossom within a child.  This why
teaching strategies, such as the think-aloud, can play a beneficial role in the
classroom.

In addition, the think-aloud strategy
gives students the opportunity to use their voices by allowing them to be open
with their thought processes, ideas, and questions.  While reading to my younger sisters and
cousins in the past, I used the think-aloud strategy and I did not even know I
was using it.  I have learned that it is
often used by teachers without them even realizing it and I even pointed out to
my cooperating teacher the other day that she was using the think-aloud
strategy during a lesson and she was surprised because she told me that using
this strategy has become so natural to her that she does not even notice she
using it sometimes.  I have noticed her
students have even began to mimic her actions and will often stop and make a
comment or ask questions they may have on a passage while they are
participating in a read out loud. It is such an exciting moment when you see
children becoming engaged with their reading process.

Moreover, while I was researching and
reading about the think-aloud strategy, I had some questions arise in my
mind.  Is there more to this strategy
than just reading and expressing your thoughts? 
Is it just teacher-led or can students participate independently?  What are the overall benefits of using this reading
strategy?  Also, can it be incorporated
into other subjects that elementary educators teach?  Since I will have my own classroom in the
near future, I wanted to know everything I could about this popular reading
strategy.  A typical think-aloud lesson
for reading comprehension instruction involves three phases: modeling, guided
practice, and reflection (Coiro, 2011). 
These three phases work together for the benefit of both the teacher and
students.

During the first phase called modeling,
teachers take full responsibility and set an example for their students.  The role of the students during this phase is
to listen, watch, and most importantly, learn. 
I believe modeling is an important phase during teaching no matter what
subject is being taught or strategy is being used.  Modeling for students gives them an
appropriate and accurate example of what they should be doing while using this
strategy.  Although, before teachers
complete the modeling phase, they must plan an effective lesson with the think-aloud
strategy.  Coiro (2011) says that
effective lessons are designed to anticipate what students will struggle with
most as they approach, navigate, negotiate, monitor, and respond to text; and
offer think-aloud models of the thinking and reading strategies one would use
to scaffold their understanding of these areas (p. 111).  I always say to practice what you preach and
if your students see you using the think-aloud strategy while teaching, they
will follow your lead and do the same.  I
have observed that modeling is such an effective teaching strategy in itself.

After the teacher has completed the
modeling phase and students have witnessed what the think-aloud strategy looks
like, they will be encouraged to read by themselves, but with guidance from the
teacher.  Here, students are actively
taking part in reading and thinking alongside the teacher (Coiro, 2011).  During this phase, students are not
completely independent just yet; they are working with guided assistance from
the teacher.  Over time, the teacher
begins to provide less and less guidance while asking questions that get them
thinking about what they are doing and providing feedback along the way about
their performance.  After students seem
to be grasping the strategy on their own, students will be given the chance to
work on their own without guidance from the teacher.  Also, if a teacher feels comfortable with
using implementing collaborative learning in the classroom then this would be a
perfect opportunity to partner students appropriately and allow them to work on
the strategy as a team.

Moreover, Coiro says that it does not
just stop there.  Teachers will often
stop with the process after they believe that students are mastering it
independently, however, teachers should move students to the reflection
phase.  During this phase, the class will
come together to discuss their thoughts, questions, and strategies they used
while completing their think-aloud.  Often
during this phase a discussion will open up and students will share their findings
to compare with the others.  The purpose
is for students to learn from one another and discover how differently every
one else’s minds operate.  When I
completed my veteran teacher interview for this strategy, one of the teachers
said he likes using this strategy because it promotes diversity in his room and
he aims for his students to learn that it is okay for others to think
differently from themselves.

Furthermore, the goals of think-alouds
are directly connected to national and state literacy standards.  Tama and Haley, authors of Guiding Reading and Writing in the Content
Areas: Practical Strategies, say there are three goals for using
think-alouds that are connected to the standards.  The first goal is connect reading selections
to other texts, experiences, issues, and events.  The second goal is to draw connections and
explain relationships between reading selections and other texts, experiences, issues,
and events.  The third goal is to
practice fluency to increase comprehension. 
All of these work together to meet the primary focuses of the
think-aloud strategy.  Tama and Haley
tell us that the primary focuses for the usage of this strategy are to activate
prior knowledge, to understand the reading process, and increase comprehension.

Additionally, this brings me to my
question of how often to use the think-aloud strategy.  I know how to begin using it by implementing
the three phases into my lessons, I know the goals of using it, but I wanted to
know how often we should use it.  I began
to wonder if you could use it too much and burn students out on it or if you
can use it too little and result in a disaster by not helping students like it
is intended for.  After my interviews, I
have come to the conclusion that you should use it before and after reading in
the classroom as much as possible. 
However, if you are actively holding a lesson over the think-aloud
strategy it has the potential to be time-consuming, especially if students are
still in the learning process of it. 
Over time, this should be resolved, as the teacher and students grow
used to it using it actively during all reading.  Moreover, the think-aloud strategy belongs in
all subjects.  Like I said, reading is
the foundation of every subject so of course the think-aloud strategy would be
perfect in social studies, science, and math too.  It is important for a teacher to not restrict
using think-alouds for just reading lessons. 
Think-alouds are very versatile and if you used correctly, has the
potential to help in all areas of the classroom.

In closing, after completing this
research paper and conducting my veteran teacher interviews I am a huge
advocate for the think-aloud strategy.  I
now plan on using it during my student teaching, which is fast approaching!  This strategy along with our Edward Tulane
novel would be such a fun and wonderful reading lesson for children!  Even though I feel as if I know all the ins
and outs of think-alouds, I’m still going to need practice to model it
effectively for students, just like numerous other aspects of becoming a
teacher.  In the end, I truly believe the
think-aloud strategy is tremendously beneficial tool to use in all classrooms
and I plan on spreading the word and my new knowledge to other future teachers. 

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