Do we expect our students to go forth and read increasingly complex texts with little or no guidance? Of course, not!
Learning to read and comprehend is like driving a car, right?
How can we expect students to independently use what we have not modeled, shared and guided them through?
Before I got my driver’s license, I went through the process of learning to drive. My parents didn’t just throw me in the driver’s seat, watch me back out of the driveway and say go forth and learn to drive! That would be crazy dangerous!
Driving a car was a learning process just like reading! There was modeling for me, sharing experiences and guided experiences before ever expecting me to independently drive out of the driveway!
✅ First, I spent much time as a passenger watching licensed drivers drive all my life.
✅ I asked questions and had conversations with them about different driving situations.
✅ Then, I was able to drive down the driveway to check the mail—with dad in the passenger’s seat, of course.
✅ I’ll never forget when my mom stopped on the back-country road between my grandma’s house and ours and let me slide into the driver’s seat to take us home.
✅ Soon after, Driver’s Ed class came and I simulated different driving conditions before being put in a car.
✅ Next, I hit the open road with my Driver’s Ed teacher. My fellow driving students and I drove all over with him that summer.
✅ Finally, my 16th birthday and driver’s license time. Oh, what a feeling! I had my driver’s license and could drive independently! Although, I didn’t know everything about driving; my parents made it clear that I was still learning.
Now what’s this have to do with frontloading literacy instruction?
So, let’s talk about Read Aloud!
When Read Aloud is mentioned as an integral part of literacy instruction, I've seen educators tune out and look away with thoughts of “I already do read aloud in my classroom. What can I do that will teach my students to read better and comprehend better?”
Have you seen or heard that?
It all starts with Read Aloud!
If I want readers to think beyond the text and
have deep book conversations
with a partner,
in small group instruction,
in conferences and
in whole group discussions,
Readers need to have a good model to observe.
If I’m a primary teacher, I model appropriate primary book conversations.
If I’m an Intermediate teacher, I build on the primary talk and model appropriate intermediate grade level conversations.
If I’m a middle school teacher, I build on the elementary level book talk and model middle grade appropriate book conversations.
If I’m a high school teacher, I build on what the previous grade levels started and model appropriate high school book conversations.
My point…ALL students can have book conversations and think beyond the text. However, the complexity of those conversations increase depending on the grade level and reading strategies, elements and techniques that are being studied.
So, where does a teacher model grade level appropriate book talk to guide students to think beyond the text?
It all starts with Read Aloud!
I have seen and heard educators use read aloud as a time to just pick up a book and go. It’s not!
Read aloud should be an intentional daily practice within every classroom.
With intentional book choices and thoughtful planning, Read Aloud can frontload the skills and strategies your readers will need to help them along the path to become successful and thoughtful lifelong readers.
All children—all ages—can appreciate read aloud!
When choosing books for read aloud, teachers must know their classroom...
What authors are the students reading?
What genres are popular in the classroom?
What social issues are students facing?
What are the newest & most popular titles?
What topics do students have lots of questions about?
Frontloading Instruction With Read Aloud
Within Read Aloud, the teacher is doing the work of decoding and modeling fluency and thinking aloud to model what is going on in a proficient reader's head while reading. The readers can use that work to help bring meaning to the text.
The teacher provides a scaffold for students to make meaning by thinking aloud about what is happening along the way.
The teacher also engages students in intentional conversations with well thought out response prompts about the text. These conversations can be external and internal.
These authentic opportunities for students to jot their thoughts and/or talk about the book provide low risk practice at book talk beyond the text. Students are able to work on how they process and develop their thoughts about reading.
When frontloading literacy instruction with Read Aloud, teachers must know the book that will be used and model proficient reader skills for their learners without their readers even knowing. For example, I may not be teaching students how to notice the changes a character makes over time within my read aloud, but I can think aloud my processing while I'm reading so that students will know the character changed and why.
A variety of opportunities need to be planned for students to engage in natural conversation about text with the group, with partners and themselves.
Every Read Aloud should have planned opportunities for the teacher to model thinking with a Think Aloud, for students to talk using Turn and Talk and for students to write about text using the Stop and Jot strategy and/or the Stop and Sketch strategy.
Has your thinking changed about Read Aloud?
Are you inspired to try something different during Read Aloud?
Has your thinking changed about how Read Aloud is integral to literacy instruction in all grade levels?
Just as in my example above, my parents and Driver’s Ed teacher modeled driving, shared the driving experience with me and guided me through different driving situations before expecting me to independently do that work.
How can students be expected to independently use what we have not modeled, shared and guided them through in our literacy instruction?
Read Aloud is the first step in setting students up for successful reading experiences and building strong independent readers.
Until next time...
Check this out for planning tools and other resources to help build strong readers!