Do you ever find yourself talking aloud, sorting through a problem verbally even if no one else is around? Or maybe you have a business colleague you use as a sounding board, someone who you can talk with about your ideas and thoughts, just to hear them spoken aloud.
These classic think-aloud strategies serve a purpose. It's called metacognition, or thinking about your thinking. Verbalizing how we think, the processes we use, and why is a key strategy for reading and writing instruction, one that makes visible what often is an invisible process, i.e., our thoughts.
Think-aloud strategies allow students to hear how experts in certain fields think through problems or think through a specific task or skill. In many ways, thinking aloud mirrors the apprentice/mentor relationship where a skilled craftsman instructs, models, and redirects students until they master the craft themselves.
Teachers regularly model this process throughout the curriculum. In reading, teachers model how to pay attention to their reader's "voice", the one interacting with text, asking questions, making predictions, working out vocabulary, and analyzing structure.
In writing, teachers think aloud through the different writing processes. They draft, revise, edit, and work at the structure and craft level to make revision and writing transparent to their students. For example, a teacher might discuss word choice and its impact on the audience while making changes to a projected draft.
Math teachers use think-aloud strategies to explain equations and complex math problems.
Academic transcription services can serve as a useful think-aloud strategy as well. With transcription, teachers and students can employ the think-aloud strategy in a more lasting way. For example, teachers could take an example text and record two voices: a narrator's voice that reads the text and a "thinking" voice that interrupts the narrator with reading strategies. Teachers could upload this to their website to serve as a model for students doing homework.
Thinking-aloud strategies have played a role in education for centuries, and academic transcription services can take the strategy to a new level.