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…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

“Think Alouds” In The Classroom & “Driving Alouds” In The Car


“Think Alouds” are an important instructional strategy I use in my mainstream English class and with my Intermediate English Language Learners. I read a passage and make transparent what good readers do, or I’ll write something and model what good readers do. I write about this process in my new book, and you can read more about it at our school consultant’s website, Kelly Young’s Pebble Creek Labs.

Now, The New York Times reports on a major new study examining car accidents and driver education recommends that driving lessons incorporate this same kind of strategy:

One way to address all of these issues is “narrative driving,” in which the adult drives while giving a teenage passenger a play-by-play. Point out examples of unsafe driving, explain why you are changing lanes or slowing down, announce when you are checking the mirrors, and explain how you are reacting to information. Show the prospective driver how you deal with distractions like a disruptive child in the back seat without taking your eyes off the road.

“It’s helpful to talk out loud about what you’re seeing and doing,” Dr. Durbin said. “It sensitizes your teen to the fact that there is a lot more going on up here in the front seat than he thought there was.”

Good teaching strategies don’t have to be limited to the classroom….

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. I loved reading about this strategy for a somewhat different audience and in an entirely different context! For years, I have taught a unique version of this “drive aloud” to my college-level public speaking students (we call it “cognitive reciting”). On the day of a student’s speech, anxiety often sets in on their drive to the college. I encourage students to narrate everything they are doing and what they are seeing out loud, while driving. This strategy forces them to stay in the present moment, avoiding mental “slippage” into the “what if’s” of the future or failed speaking situations from the past. The mindfulness of the activity, combined with the physical act of speaking out loud, also helps quell students’ physiological symptoms of speech anxiety. I now see that this activity, used in the context noted in the study, can also be used to teach other aspects of speech-crafting, such as organization and clarity of an informative message. Who knew the car could hold so many “teachable moments”? Thank you!

  2. In fact this strategy is also useful in helping students do numerical problems. Most of the errors made by students can be caught if they can think aloud their steps in problem solving. If this seems not scalable, paired problem solving where one student instructs (thinks aloud) and the other one follows the instructions is a very effective strategy. Actually articulating a thought in words is a process that brings clarity to the thought itself.

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