Last night my dear sister was over helping my 15 year old with her algebra. Although not a teacher professionally my sister is a natural educator. I found myself smiling at all of the “think alouds” that came up during the homework session. For those of you who are not teachers, and might not be familiar with this technique, a think aloud is when a teacher briefly interrupts his or her formal instruction in order to share their thought process with students. Last night it sounded like this:
“You know when I see a problem like this without the equals sign I automatically think…..”
“So whenever I see this sign I think about how I need to….”
“Oh….. I see where you went wrong. It’s right here. You know whenever I come to that part I automatically think…
These think alouds were very valuable to my daughter’s understanding of the problem solving process. They took the learning beyond just getting the correct answer and on to the much more important goal of understanding the logical process of solving ANY problem.
Think alouds can be an important parenting tool as well, especially for parents working with kids who have extra challenges. They have a way of making the invisible act of decision making visible to the child.
Here are some parenting examples of think alouds.
From a dad of a child who has problems with anger: “I’m feeling really irritated with my boss right now! I actually would like to give him a piece of my mind when he calls back in a minute but I’m thinking that could end badly. (laugh) I’m also thinking I need to cool off. Excuse me for a moment, son. I’m going out on the deck to clear my head before he calls back.”
Mom of the child who tends to hoard or gorge food: “I’m thinking about another piece of watermelon. It tastes sooooo good and it is almost gone. There won’t be any tomorrow. But you know I think I will wait. After all we will have more watermelon next week and I don’t want a stomach ache!”
Parent of child with anxiety issues : (while driving) “You know it’s funny. Merging in traffic like this always makes me feel anxious. I’m thinking about focusing on the road and breathing.
And again after merge: “Whew! Breathing and focusing doesn’t take that feeling all the way away, but it sure helps!”
Think alouds are like narrating while you model the behavior you want your child to learn. They can also be a chance for your child to learn while they themselves are not in a difficult or challenging situation. So next time you find yourself modeling positive behavior, make yourself a “supermodel” and think out loud!