I love reading aloud to students! It is truly one of my favorite lessons to plan regardless of the age of the students. Read-alouds are appropriate for any age or grade level – because, after all, who does not enjoy hearing a book read aloud?! However, they are essential if you are teaching students who are in the primary grades so that children can engage with books, learn from books, and enjoy what they are reading. During a read-aloud, the teacher is reading a book to the children that is beyond what they can read on their own. When I am reading aloud to students, I prefer to have them sitting up close on the carpet area so that there is a sense of community. I know that this is not possible during the global pandemic, so you may need to keep the students in their seats or hold the book close to the camera, if doing a virtual read-aloud .
Read-alouds are interactive, meaning that the students and the teacher are actively engaged in thinking about the book. The teacher reads the book to the children, but everyone (teacher and students) are doing the work of understanding the text. Read-alouds allow young children who may not be able to fully decode independently to “read to learn” because the adult reads the text to the children and facilitates the discussion. One reason that I enjoy conducting read-alouds with students is because I can demonstrate different comprehension strategies that I am teaching the students to apply when they are reading independently. I may have taught or will soon be teaching these strategies during a minilesson, but the read-aloud allows another opportunity for me to show students how to use the strategies and allow the children to try them out with guidance. I want my students to understand the books that they are reading, so I use read-alouds to show how I am paying attention and monitoring what I am reading. I also give the students the opportunity to try out the strategy that I am focusing on teaching during the read aloud. Below are some skills that I like to include into my read-alouds for primary students:
When reading to young children, I like to point out print concepts such as: book covers, titles, authors, and illustrators. If there is a dedication, I like to read that to the students so that they are familiar with that text feature as well. During the read-aloud, I point out print concepts such as words that begin or end like the children’s names. This helps children learn and pay attention to the words in the text. I also like to point out words that sound alike or sound different, particularly words that rhyme. Kids love rhyming words and noticing them can help them engage with the texts that they are reading.
Teaching students the strategy of “stop-and-think” is one of my favorites to model to students when I am reading aloud because it allows them to think about what we have read so far. By using this strategy in my read-alouds, I am showing the students how to pause and occasionally reflect or discuss what has been read so far and then make predictions about what may happen next. Some of the questions I model to students with this strategy are: What has already happened? What is happening right now? Based on what we have already read, what do you think is going to happen?
My purpose for discussing the story elements during a read-aloud is to get the children thinking about how the characters, the setting, the problem and resolution, and the main events work together. When working with emerging readers, I try to select books with only a few characters and a clear problem, so that the children will be able to identify the story elements. My goal is to get the students familiar with identifying the different story elements during the read-aloud so that they will be able to identify them when they are reading independently.
Children bring their life experiences to the text and these experiences help shape their understanding of the books that they are reading. I want the children to know that as I am reading, I am constantly making connections to my own knowledge and experiences and I want them to do the same. The connections that students make with the text involve what life experiences they bring to the reading as well as what they take away from reading the text. This is why it is so important to learn about students at the beginning of the school year (as well as throughout the year) so that we can help them make connections to what they are reading and select books that they can connect with so that we further develop their enjoyment of reading.
*Image: An interactive read-aloud with my daughters with the book, The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt.