First years of teaching are great aren’t they?! What a learning curve I have made in the past 20 years within my Read Aloud! When I first started teaching, I thought Read Aloud was a time for my students to kick back and relax. It was a time for all of us to unwind. I did Read Aloud right after lunch or recess. We would gather in a spot all together in the classroom. There wasn’t really a defined area for class gatherings. I would sit in my chair while the kids would lay down, relaxing after the activity of recess or to let their food from lunch digest. I would pick a book from the shelf and start reading. It was Read Aloud. I knew it was important. But I was grossly mislead into thinking it was NOT an integral part of my classroom instruction.
In my third year of teaching, a literacy consultant began working with the teachers at my school. It was only then that I truly began to realize the importance of each of the components of Balanced Literacy. The first component I was introduced to was Read Aloud. I began to understand the importance of this piece of my literacy instruction. Over the years, through research and experience, my approach to Read Aloud has evolved.
We must consider three things when preparing to Read Aloud to our students. The logistics of Read Aloud include:
an area of the classroom for students to gather and listen
a high interest book that will engage the majority of the students
a thoughtful plan for questioning and student responses throughout the reading.
Each classroom needs to have a cozy area to gather and enjoy the reading.
Everyone likes to gather around to listen in closely to a speaker’s message, such as, open mic night at a local coffee shop, seminars, author’s book readings at book stores, etc. The structure of Read Aloud—and there is structure—can capitalize on these ideas. Just like the last seminar you attended with tables arranged for the participants to engage in conversation during the day’s proceedings. The coffee shop open mic night has people gathered at tables in groups, sitting on sofas and standing around in groups ready for conversation. During Read Aloud students need to be gathered and arranged ready to quickly have a short conversation with others about the text being read.
Book choice is key to a successful read aloud.
Books selected for read aloud must reflect the interests of the students in the classroom. Many times, teachers choose books to read aloud that are their favorites, but the students in their classrooms cannot stay engaged because it doesn’t reflect their interests. Don’t get me wrong, classic reads do have a place in the classroom but if students are not excited about the text and cannot stay engaged, then the purpose of read aloud is lost. Teachers must be intentional in their book choice for read aloud. I have walked in to a classroom during Read Aloud and the teacher was clearly excited about the text she was reading, but many of the students were
sleeping, others cleaning their desks and the remaining few being ritually compliant but not actively engaged. The read aloud for this teacher was for her personal reasons and clearly did not reflect the interests of her students. The value of Read Aloud was lost for this group of students because they were not interested. A teacher has to be able to read the classroom to make text selections that will keep students engaged.
Intentional and thoughtful planning are key to a successful read aloud.
Once a book has been chosen, the teacher needs to read the book before sharing it with children. This provides opportunities to capitalize on text features and ideas based on student needs in the classroom. For example, if the students in the classroom are not using text clues to build theories and understand character development, then the teacher can use the chosen text to model what a proficient reader does to understand character development throughout the plot of a story. Strategic questioning for student partner talk can center on character development. Check out this link to Teachers College Reading and Writing Project about Read Aloud with Accountable Talk.
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Read Aloud is an integral part of daily classroom instruction. With intentional book choices and thoughtful planning, Read Aloud can frontload the skills and strategies your students will need in Shared Reading and Readers’ Workshop that will lead them to be successful and thoughtful lifelong readers.
Until next time...