“Smart readers ask themselves very effective questions as they read to reduce their uncertainty about what they are reading; they know when they are more or less on-track.” – Marie Clay
Read Aloud is an essential part of the school day. Students get to see and hear how a fluent reader make meanings of texts and they get to try it out in a highly supportive environment.
- At least 20 minutes of your day- Developing readers need to see a proficient reader interact with text. It needs to be a routine part of the school day and it needs to be a significant amount of time if we expect students to grow as readers. When I taught 2nd grade I would usually read a picture book a day during read aloud and a chapter from the chapter book we were reading during snack. That means that by the end of the year my students had heard AT LEAST 200 stories read aloud to them. Mem Fox says that children need to hear a thousand stories before they can learn to read and it is no different with developing readers. As a third grade teacher I often read a chapter or two in our text during read aloud as well as a picture book during snack time. Children need to continue to hear stories and watch how they should interact within texts. No child is too old for read aloud. In fact, I used read aloud frequently when teaching middle school Spanish. Read aloud can be in any subject at any grade level.
- Has to be planned for and prepared- Read aloud is so much more than just sitting down with your students and sharing a text. It needs to be interactive. Winging read aloud shouldn’t be an option. When planning, I like to first sit down and read the book for my own enjoyment- even if I’ve already read it many times. Then I think about what I want my students to learn from this text. It could really be anything. It usually aligns with my current reading unit and is a lesson I will be teaching the students in the next few days. It could be a strategy you notice most students have been taught but aren’t using. Once I know what I want students to learn I plan crucial moments to model interacting with the text and places for students to interact with the text. I write down the exact questions or comments I will say and place them in the book at the exact places I would ask them. I also read it aloud to myself to see how the flow goes. You might find you planned too many stops in a short amount of time or you might find that you need to work on your fluency while reading. (It happens!) After that I can read to my students prepared with a focus in mind.
- Are Interactive! Students should be talk, talk, talking during read aloud. When we were in school teachers shushed kids who were talking when we were reading a story, now any child should interrupt the reading to make meaning of the text. We need to teach our students to interrupt a read aloud but once we do we need to let them build meaning themselves and help them build that meaning. The more kids talk during read aloud the more you know they are understanding the text and practicing vital skills you are teaching them. Have meaningful conversations based off of what you had planned. Let students ask questions to help build their meaning. LET THEM TALK!
- Log Your Read Alouds! I am always telling my students to log their reading. This is a huge struggle for me as a teacher. I am constantly asking myself if it is worth it because students don’t see value in it. This year I have really been focusing on why my students log their reading and have even started my own personal reading log. If we want students to see value in logging their reading we should log our read alouds too! This year I stared by only logging our read alouds and not having students log their reading at all. Once the kids saw the reasons we logged our reading they were literally begging to log their own reading.
- Read alouds = mentor texts- Children need to be shown the connection between reading and writing time and time again. In writing I frequently pull out old read alouds and use the authors we know as our mentor authors. Students will also begin to notice author’s craft in read aloud and point to the different ways the author wrote the words or the way the illustrator drew the pictures. When students are using a beloved book as a mentor text they begin to take on the skills the author uses much faster. When you tell them what writers do that is one thing. When you can show them what their favorite writers do and that they can do the same thing it is so empowering.
- Reread! So often I know teachers will read a book once and be done with it. As a reader myself I frequently revisit old texts and reread; children should have the same opportunity. A class favorite of mine has always been The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco. Each year I reread that story at least 10 times. Each time we reread we look through a different lens. The first time students read we often have a pretty surface level conversation with a few deep ideas sprinkled in. As we continue to reread a text students can have deeper thoughts. They already know the story now they can begin to ask big questions and really dive deep in their understanding. When I said earlier they should hear at least 200 stories, it might be the same stories over and over again.That’s ok! When we reread we also are modeling that rereading is an important skill. So often students think that if they read it once they are done. In fact, when we continue to reread we learn something new about ourselves and the world around us each time. Rereading is such an essential skill for readers.
- Great place to build conversational skills- During read aloud discussions students discover basic understandings about having a conversation with other people. We often talk about not speaking over someone, not raising hands, waiting for a pause or silence and then jumping in to the conversation. While all of this is happening students are beginning to understand how to communicate with others, a skill that will help them forever. Read Aloud can be a fantastic jumping off point for classroom conversations.
- A time for high support modeling- I know I’ve said it a million times already in this post but it deserves its own number. If you are going to be asking your students to take on a new task in their own reading, it has to be modeled in read aloud first. Let me repeat that again! If you are going to be asking your students to take on a new task in their own reading, it has to be modeled in read aloud first. AND it has to be modeled several times. They need the opportunity to see a proficient reader try out a skill. During a read aloud you are the one with the text. You are the reader showing how to navigate a text. They are watching you and now is the time to show off skills that you want your students to be doing. Show them exactly what you want them to do. If you want kids to stop and jot and they aren’t show stop and jots during your read aloud. If you want kids to infer about characters show the exact steps you take as a reader to infer. Show them! Show them so when they get to try it on their own they already have an idea of what happens when you do it as a reader.
- Go where your students lead you- After an entire blog post stressing the planning of read aloud… I have to say that we should go where our students lead us. At times I have had a phenomenal read aloud planned around noticing how characters respond to problems and then students really latch on to the theme of the story. I have a choice. Sometimes I redirect their attention to my goals and trick them into going along with what I have planned. Other times I let them latch on to theme (or whatever they are grasping) and plan to come back to the read aloud another time (maybe the next day) to engage them in the work I had planned. There are times I have to add in more turn and talks throughout a story because the room is bubbling with excitement. There are times when I eliminate a turn and talk and model it myself because I am noticing kids need more modeling this time and less talking. Remember we can plan lessons all we want HOWEVER if our lesson isn’t in the direction the kids are heading it might be best to put our lesson on the back burner and come back to it another time.
BONUS TIP!! It is also important the think back and reflect later on why the kids weren’t being led where we wanted to lead them. Did I not model things well enough? Was my wording confusing? Was I trying to model too many moves all at once? What could I do better next time? Even when I think read aloud goes really well I always can find one thing that I can tweak to make my teaching even stronger. Teaching is all about self-reflection. Make sure that you are reflecting after your read alouds to grow stronger as a teacher!
Now that you have these essentials what are you going to change or add on to your read aloud? I recommend sitting down by yourself and planning a read aloud from start to finish this week. Think about what your students are working on as readers. Think about where they need to go next. How will read aloud help them get there? What specific teacher moves will you make during read aloud to help your students become stronger, more proficient readers?