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Helping Children Build Metacognition by Modeling in Read Alouds, Think Alouds

Categories: Curriculum & Access, Early Literacy, Education & Teaching, Reading Strategies for K-12

Read Alouds / Think Alouds (RATA) are an effective teaching strategy to build and strengthen children’s metacognition in early childhood. 

Slide for What Makes It a Read Aloud Think Aloud activityMetacognition is “thinking about thinking.” It is an increasingly useful mechanism to enhance learning, both for immediate outcomes and for helping children and adolescents understand their own learning process.

In our Spotlight on Early Literacy and the Whole Child, Dr. Terrie Noland, Heather Wiederstein, and Lia Preuss discussed this important strategy and gave examples of how teachers can model this technique in their classes. Our blog today provides a brief overview of RATA. For in-depth knowledge of this effective strategy and further discussion on ways to implement RATA in real-time, register for this edWebinar on Thursday, February 10, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. EST. 

You can also learn more about Learning Ally’s professional learning offerings and Spotlight Series and request the RATA presentation on demand. 


What are Read Alouds / Think Alouds?

First, let’s distinguish Read Alouds / Think Alouds (RATA) from reading aloud. Reading aloud has its benefits in early childhood learning, but it is passive in nature – a one-way delivery from teacher to student. 

Read aloud / think aloud experiences are dynamic and interactive in nature – a two-way discussion intentional on the teacher’s part to render explicit modeling to help children and adolescents build metacognition by integrating literacy and learning together as a source of delight and curiosity. This engagement leads to interaction. Children begin to think critically about the text they are hearing and discussing. In RATA, teachers are intentional about giving children foundational context that can help them build their own reservoir of knowledge. 

Slide for Why Read Aloud Think AloudThere are many benefits of RATA:

  • metacognitive development 

  • foundations of comprehension

  • critically thinking about text 

  • social and emotional self-belief that a child can be a good learner

RATA builds positive feelings about learning. It is rich in reflection and understanding. It brings about self-awareness – to believe we are good learners – to believe we can solve problems – to close gaps, and believe we can figure things out that we do not know. RATA helps children become resilient learners who can approach challenges and regulate their actions by thinking critically. 

Modeling a read aloud / think aloud instructional process 

In RATA, teachers read text that is more complex and has rich, relevant themes. They give explicit instruction, like asking higher-order questions and going beyond basic recall to enhance comprehension, larger vocabularies, and metacognition skills. Teachers shower children with tier two words and give ample time to discuss and assess. They model good strategies for decoding and understanding. They are deliberate in exposing children to become familiar with metacognition – “learning to learn,” and reflecting on the “thinking process, or the act of thinking.”  

In Think-Alouds, students experience their thought processes beyond engaging with and analyzing a text, and witness what “thinking about a text, “ and “thinking about thinking” feels like in action. Students become active learners, readers, and thinkers with RATA – as their comprehension skills and understandings, their cognition and social-emotional learning and development – build and reinforce each other - all while enjoying and delighting in books.

In these videos, Dr. Terrie Noland works with a developing reader in second grade to model RATA. “We never want to teach skills in a vacuum,” says Dr. Noland. “It’s not just about decoding, but the meaning of words, thinking about words, how we put them in phrases, sentences, and build in paragraphs.” 




RATA builds foundations of knowledge

Read Alouds / Think Alouds experiences are not just reading aloud, but an engaging learning experience that integrates literacy and learning as a source of enjoyment. They help children think critically and pique their curiosity and wonderment. They lay a foundation of knowledge to forge new connections through questioning. They include culturally-relevant books that resonate with children's own lives, traditions and experiences. 

Learning Ally’s supplementary reading programs will support your school or district’s mission of "literacy-for-all," and help you make reading fun and relevant to improve learning outcomes for emerging and struggling readers in K-12. 

To learn more about early literacy and the whole child, diversity, equity, inclusion, and dyslexia awareness and instruction, as it relates to academic achievement, sign up for our Spotlight on Learning series. Upcoming events include: 

  • March 30, 2022: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion webinar (free)

  • June 10, 2022: Spotlight on Dyslexia virtual conference

Thank you for following our “Perspectives in Whole Child Literacy” blog to learn more proven strategies from the nation’s top literacy experts and practitioners. 

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