Using The Think Aloud Strategy with Dr. Molly Ness

I wonder…I think…I like that…I feel….

Do you want to help build your child’s language during read alouds? Try the Think Aloud strategy!

As a speech language pathologist and parent, I am always searching for any new evidence based strategies that can help a child improve language and literacy skills during read alouds. I recently read a fascinating article titled Reading with Training Wheels by Molly Ness in the magazine Literacy Today in their January/February 2018 issue.

What is thinking aloud? The Think aloud strategy is a powerful metacognitive strategy that is simple and easy to implement both at home and in the classroom. The author, Molly Ness describes think alouds as the reader’s strategy of sharing their thoughts out loud during certain stopping points in the book. Instead of asking “wh” questions throughout the story, the reader uses “I” language with phrases such as “I wonder why  _____”, “I think that ______”, etc. What can this do for students? This can help students “internalize reading comprehension strategies that will help them during independent reading.” Although this strategy is easy to use and implement, it does require planning ahead on the educator’s part. What type of planning does that entail? Dr. Molly Ness lists and describes the process of identifying points in the story that may be confusing or difficult for a child to understand, determining when and where to think aloud, writing the think aloud scripts on sticky notes and then finally using language that builds understanding. The author also advises educators to not overwhelm the students by having too many stopping points. After reading this article, I was very interested in this strategy and wanted to learn more. I decided to contact Dr. Ness via email to ask her some additional questions.

Dr. Molly Ness is an associate professor at Fordham University Graduate School of Education in New York. She recently wrote a book titled Think Big with Think Alouds. Do want to learn more about Dr. Molly Ness? Check out her website here.

Watch videos of how to read aloud on Molly’s website here.

1. How do you train teachers to use this strategy of think aloud?

I use a three-step approach to train teachers – first I teach them to put sticky notes all over a text to identify potential stopping points. Next, I have them examine each sticky point to evaluate its usefulness – the goal here is to winnow down to about 10 stopping points total. In step three, I have them write out a transcript for their think aloud. To train teachers about this approach, I model it, we watch and evaluate videos of think alouds, and we collaboratively design think alouds until they are ready to try it themselves.

2. I can visualize the think aloud strategy being very effective during speech and language therapy and at home. How can a parent best use think alouds at home?

On my webpage I have a parents’ guide to thinking aloud – I’ve also attached it here. On my website under resources, there are also videos to watch of me thinking aloud.

3. At what age is optimal to begin this strategy of think alouds? 

The younger the better, I’d start with very simple think alouds at age 3.

4. Can you use think alouds with picture books or is it used exclusively with articles and chapter books? 

Absolutely all types of text – science text books, chapter books, poetry, etc.

5. Can think alouds be used to motivate students to get excited about the text they are reading? If so, how? 

Absolutely – we know from research that kids are more engaged when they get a model of how to be successful – that’s what a think aloud does. It’s the equivalent of cracking open our head to show readers exactly what we are thinking.

Interested in purchasing Think Big with Think Alouds?

Think Big With Think Alouds, Grades K-5: A Three-Step Planning Process That Develops Strategic Readers (Corwin Literacy)


affiliate link in post


Ness, Molly. (2018). Reading With Training Wheels. Modeling metacognitive process using think aloud. : Literacy Today.

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