Methods and Strategies: Think-Alouds in Inquiry Scienceby: Lisa Martin-Hansen and Jill Caton Johnson

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As teachers, we know that learning through an inquiry approach is helpful for our students. However, not all students are accustomed to learning through inquiry. Some have never experienced an inquiry investigation in science. How can we assist them in the transition from solely learning content to actually applying content and using higher-order thinking skills? A strategy called "think-aloud" can help students progress toward thinking for themselves in questionable, devising investigations, analyzing data, and supporting conclusions with evidence.

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  • on Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:50 AM

A think-aloud is a way of asking questions that guides students to justify their thinking. Think-alouds make apparent the abstract processes of the students' own thinking as students ask questions from their head out loud and practice answering them. By using "think-aloud", the authors assisted their students in the transition from solely learning content to actually applying content and using higher-order thinking skills. By providing this cognitive coaching, not only enhance students' skills in inquiry investigations but also promote metacognitive skills in both reading and science. In the future, in my class, I would model the think-aloud process for students by articulating their own thinking during readings, science inquiries, and other subjects. I would write their questions on chart paper and add some new questions to that list. As students read the text, I will ask students to refer to their investigations to see if what they found corresponds to what they read in their books. Afterward, I will have the class revisit the questions listed on the chart paper. What answers have they found? Are any of their results in conflict with what scientists say? Conflicting information will sometimes be found. I will often have information that the students do not that can be presented to students to have them consider why their answers may be different. I will pause and ask them to "think aloud" again about questions they have about these substances or about how they might test. Then let students test their predictions. When everyone had finished reading the article, I would have them made "claims" based upon evidence from the article, like "Does my evidence support my claim? Do I explain so that another student can make sense of my answer?", and remind students that scientists are people who, like us, "see" different things in the same data or describe data in different ways.


  • on Wed Feb 17, 2016 1:22 PM

This article highlights many efficient and effective ways to implement a think-aloud in the inquiry-based science classroom. Many students are unfamiliar with the inquiry process and this article is a great resource to introduce inquiry learning into the classroom as well as the think aloud, a strategy in which some students might be unfamiliar with as well. I appreciate that there are specific questions given in which teachers can ask their students in order to engage them in a think-aloud. This gives me an accurate account of what a true think-aloud looks like. This article offers a step-by-step way to implement a think-aloud to promote inquiry learning and can be great for novice teachers such as myself. When teachers try to implement a think-aloud I would recommend writing a list of questions they think will be asked or higher-order thinking questions that they can ask the students to encourage them to think more deeply. I do not think a think-aloud is something that can be implemented effectively without any planning. I think this article provides a great resource for teachers to use when planning to implement the think-aloud or even when using inquiry learning in the classroom. Although this article specifically targets fifth grade it is detailed enough to allow any teacher to modify it for his or her grade level.


  • on Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:20 PM

As I work to implement more inquiry into my classroom, I've found that many of my students are unfamiliar with this process. This in turn causes some of my students to hesitate during investigations. This article addresses how teachers can introduce and teach students about the inquiry process. This is an excellent article for teachers using inquiry-based learning.

Maureen Stover  (Fayetteville, NC)
Maureen Stover (Fayetteville, NC)

  • on Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:53 PM

Cognitive coaching strategies can foster critical thinking. In this article the ‘think-aloud’ approach is discussed. Students can learn how reasoning can be used to approach a problem and therefore provides examples students can internalize for their own use. This can be used when reading an article or taking a test and deciding which answer is the best. The examples provided deal with inquiry learning. The teacher is a guide to deeper learning.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Wed May 18, 2011 3:04 PM

If you don't already use think-alouds in your classroom, this is a great place to start. I originally used think-alouds to teach reading comprehension in science, but found them useful for teaching thinking skills in general. This article gives great ideas (including details of what to say!) on implementing this in your own classroom.

Wendy R  (Pocatello, ID)
Wendy R (Pocatello, ID)

  • on Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:42 PM

I like that this article gives lots of specific examples oh what it looks like when a teacher leads their students through thinking aloud. It models what that looks like when the teacher is doing the thinking and when the student is doing the thinking. I think this article could give a teacher who is doing inquiry based science in their classroom so good ideas as to how get students to share their thinking with the teacher and the class.

Kate  (Louisville, CO)
Kate (Louisville, CO)

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