Literacy 7-12

Systems Change
Literacy 7-12 > Strategies > Explaining Their Thinking

Explaining Their Thinking


During reading, giving students the opportunity to explain their thinking process aloud allows them to recognize the strategies they use, solidify their comprehension, and move knowledge into their Long-term Memory. This can be achieved through student think-alouds, or self-explanations, which require students to reflect on the details of text, the strategies needed to understand or write it, and build their Cognitive Flexibility as they shift between strategies and tasks. Research cautions that this strategy is most effective when students are prompted with specific protocols or questions, and that prompts should be carefully aligned with target learning outcomes so students avoid reinforcing incorrect approaches or choices.

Use It in the Classroom

Watch how this high school teacher asks students to think aloud in pairs to deepen their comprehension, question the text, and build Critical Literacy. With some prompting, students push their thinking and connect their reading to their broader learning.

  • Teachers can and should model think-alouds, particularly early on to scaffold the process for students. Think-alouds can be used as part of group activities, and teachers can provide a framework, either verbally or in writing, to prompt students during the process. As a potential formative assessment to monitor students' understanding, think-alouds can be recorded or transcribed and saved to document progress and help teachers differentiate instruction. As students progress through school and texts become more complex, participating in think-alouds can help them monitor their understanding and sharpen their Metacognition during reading. Think-alouds can also be used to encourage student Inferencing and help students develop Critical Literacy through prompted questioning while reading.
  • Design It into Your Product

    Videos are chosen as examples of strategies in action. These choices are not endorsements of the products or evidence of use of research to develop the feature.

    Learn how digital portfolios like VoiceThread allow students to record their thinking in response to images, media, or presentations.

  • Products can provide question prompts that focus on the learning goal and have students write their self-explanations or audio record their responses to share with their teachers for feedback. These records of thought can be powerful reflective learning tools where students listen to older recordings to see their growth. Developers can build a designated space for these recordings to serve as a portfolio for teachers to assess student learning, particularly within the content areas.
  • Factors Supported by this Strategy