“I am sure you have never done this, but I used to grab my read aloud selections on my way past the bookshelf as I walked to the read aloud area. I was convinced that any read aloud was good and I still think it is. However, why would we settle for just good when we can have great?” – Linda Hoyt
Does this sound familiar to you? We’ve all probably picked up books for read alouds with no more than a glance at the front cover. We take the book and read it, possibly stopping to share important vocabulary on the fly or ask questions as appropriate along the way. The students enjoy the story and sometimes even engage in an interesting discussion.
However imagine, if you will, a more intentional approach to reading aloud to your students.
Imagine selecting a reading strategy or skill before you read aloud. One based on the needs of the students and/or the demands of your curriculum. Imagine that you plan and rehearse how you might explain what that strategy or skill is and how it will help your students as readers. Imagine finding a book that will help illustrate the use of that strategy or skill. Imagine, pausing while you are reading the book to model how an experienced reader (you!) can use that strategy or skill to comprehend the text better. Then, imagine you find a place (or two) in the book where you offer your students an opportunity to practice the strategy or skill right then and there, maybe by talking with a partner, with you listening in! Sounds powerful, right? Or as Linda Hoyt might say, “Great.”
There are many ways to add intention into your read alouds. Here are just a few:
- Choose a primary literacy objective (strategy, skill, or behavior)
These can be based on your observations and assessments of what your students need or your district requirements. Focus on one objective and be explicit in explaining to your students what the skill or strategy is and why it will help them as readers
- Select quality texts that support your objective
Read from a variety of genres, authors and cultures. Being purposeful in your book selection is one way to expose your students to a broad range of concepts and skills.
- Model your own thinking during the lesson
Don’t forget that you are the most mature reader in the room. Show your students when and how you use the skill or strategy you just taught. Put the book down on your lap and explain the internal thinking processes that take place when a reader is trying to comprehend text.
- Provide opportunities for students to practice the skill or strategy
Find a place in the text where you can ask students to practice this new skill or strategy. If you stop once or twice during your read aloud, students will be able to process their learning and strengthen their comprehension.
- Highlight two or three high utility vocabulary words
Rich children’s literature contains academic and literary vocabulary that students may not hear in everyday talk. Consider how you will explain the definition of some of these words in child-friendly terms.
- Maintain student interest through active engagement
When you encourage active engagement, you encourage comprehension. There are numerous ways to move past calling on only those students who raise their hands. Consider think/pair/share partners who turn and talk to each other to share their ideas. Or, consider asking a question and then suggesting a signal such as a “thumbs up.” If you wait for almost 100% of your students’ thumbs to go up, then you can reach out to students who may not normally share.
Which way will you add intention to your read aloud in order to go from a good to great?