June 4, 2018

Make Time to Read Aloud!

What is it about reading aloud that’s so special? There's something about sharing a favorite book with your students that creates a unique bond and opens doors for discussion about sensitive topics. Even as a 5th grade teacher, I loved having my students to gather together on the carpet to listen and share a quiet moment in the day. Somehow it made us feel like one big family!

If you haven't been reading aloud to your students, you may feel that you simply don't have time to do so. However, you might be surprised at how easy it is to carve out a few minutes in the morning, after lunch, or at the start of reading class. Reading aloud is more than an add-on to regular instruction; research has demonstrated many real benefits to this practice. Among other things, reading aloud….
  • Allows students to hear fluent and expressive reading
  • Introduces students to challenging vocabulary
  • Provides a chance to address themes like friendship, courage, prejudice, bullying, etc.
  • Offers a chance to model reading strategies (questioning, making inferences, evaluating, etc.)
  • Introduces kids to a variety of literary genres and authors 

Reading Aloud and Reading Workshop
When I began using the reading workshop approach, I discovered how easy it was to create reading mini lessons based on my read aloud texts. Sometimes I read a short children's book to teach a specific skill, and other times I found a way to teach the skill using material from the chapter book I was currently reading. I always kept a copy of my current read aloud book at home so I could read ahead and plan my lesson based on the content in the upcoming chapter. I flagged challenging words so I could introduce them in advance, and I planned ahead about where I could do "think alouds" to model strategies like predicting, inferring, using context clues, identifying character motives, and so on.

Using Graphic Organizers 
One trick I discovered was to use graphic organizers and foldables as a way of holding my students accountable for instruction during my read aloud sessions. One of the easiest methods is to use the Read Aloud Snapshot printable. You can download the template from my Teaching Resources website, but it's so simple that it really doesn't require a printable if your students are able to fold a sheet of paper into six equal parts. Have them write the title and their name in the upper left block, and the remaining 5 blocks are used to create a visual storyboard. Each day when you finish reading, ask them to write the title of the chapter at the top of one block and draw a quick sketch of the main idea or main event. If they have room, they can squeeze in a short caption below their picture. At the end of the week, collect the Daily Snapshot graphic organizers and assign a participation grade. 

Read Aloud Book Suggestions
As an upper elementary teacher, I enjoyed reading chapter books to my students. They loved to get completely wrapped up in a story, wondering what would happen next! Some of our favorites were:
  • Canyons by Gary Paulsen
  • The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews 
  • Jake Drake, Bully Buster by Andrew Clements
  • Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
I recently posed this question on Facebook and received over 100 responses! I invite you to read the recommendations of other upper elementary teachers and share your own. You can also find more book recommendations as well as read aloud tips and free materials on my Read Aloud page on Teaching Resources.

Do you read aloud to your students? If so, what are some of your favorite books to share with your students? How do you fit reading aloud into your busy schedule?

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