Show them the inside of your brain
I used to tell my kids, “I can’t show you the inside of my brain, so instead, I’m going to think aloud! This is going to help you understand exactly how I think as I write.”
And then I did it!
But sometimes teachers are unsure how to do this. Here are some thoughts on how to think aloud for your kids while you’re writing (or reading, for that matter):
1. Slow your thinking down and notice every decision you make as a writer. The choices you make as a writer are exactly what kids need to hear! Why did you decide to start with a description? How did you know when to start a new paragraph? How do you introduce a new character? All of those decisions happen like magic in front of students – they see it but can’t understand how it happens – so we have to spell it out!
2. If you’re having trouble doing this, assign a student in your class to be your “Wonder Kid”. Every time you do something, have them say, “Why did you write that?” It’s a good way to train your brain to notice your thought process!
3. Need some starters to help you think aloud? Try these out!
- Where should I start? I can always skip the beginning and start with my main event. I think I’ll do that and come back to the beginning later.
- Let me check my prewriting to see if I’m sticking to my narrative plan.
- I’m stuck. Let me think about what I can do to help myself.
- I don’t think I’ve added enough development here. What other details should I add to help the reader understand what this felt like?
- I think I should add in a thought/description/feeling here to help my reader visualize this moment.
- Hmmm. What word could I use that would express my idea clearly?
- If I say, “___” will the reader understand my message?
- Have I painted a picture in my reader’s mind? I may need to add more development to do that.
- How can I move from this idea to the next idea? Can I think of a transition that would help?
- How can I close this piece to help the reader understand the message and why it’s important?
- Is there a tool or chart that can help me? Let me check.
- I’m going to reread to get a running start and see if I can figure out what I should write next.
- Does that make sense? I’m not sure. I’m going to reread.
- I think I’ve found a good place to close my writing because my reader will have a really strong feeling in this moment.
- I don’t like this word/sentence/idea, but I can’t think of any other way to say it. I’m going to write it down anyway because I can always revise it later when I think of a better way.
- I think I want to try out that craft/strategy we noticed our mentor author so-and-so using the other day. Remember that? In the book __, so-and-so did ___. I think that, if I try that, my reader will really get the feeling I want them to have.