Today is my third installment of my Reader's Workshop MiniSeries! Today I'm sharing about an important instructional tool: Read Alouds
Unfortunately, read alouds tend to be the first thing to be cut when your day is busy. To meet the demands of an overburdened schedule, we do without the read alouds, even though they are a valuable tool for teaching reading. These are some great benefits of including a read-aloud in your daily program.
Exposing Kids to New Books
Wouldn't it be great if kids went over to the library and carefully browsed through the baskets, thinking things like, "Hmmm... I know I enjoy Lois Lowry, but I think I'd like to try something a little different this time!" or "Ah! Look at that historical fiction basket! Maybe I can find something to help me use my background knowledge I gained from our unit on westward expansion!"
I know, it's not nice to laugh. But really?
That's something kids learn over time. I'm not saying they'll never get there (ahem ahem) but they aren't there when they walk in your door. Read alouds are opportunities to share books with kids who may not find their reading niche. By exposing them to a variety of books (often carefully chosen because you know your kids), we can help them see what exactly is out there to read. Many of our kids aren't readers because they haven't found the books they love yet.
Opportunity to Model Comprehension Strategies
Read alouds are excellent opportunities to model comprehension strategies. You're the teacher. You know where you're going with your lesson. So you can carefully choose your text and your pause points, making sure that they are the best possible places to pause and practice your strategy. For example, if you're teaching how to make an inference, you pull out your Chris Van Allsburg basket, and BAM! Inference CITY! An inference on every page! And because you're modeling, you'll provide a great example of how to make an excellent inference.
Opportunities for Students to Respond Verbally
Sometimes, in the race to make student tasks rigorous, I tend to focus on student reading and writing. I often forget the benefits of leveling the playing field by reading a text aloud and having students respond verbally. It takes away all the effort they have to expend on decoding and encoding, and instead allows them to focus on practicing the strategy and verbalizing their responses to their buddies. By creating some well-chosen opportunities to respond, sentence frames, and response structures (i.e., Kagan Structures), you can maximize your independent reading time.
Model of Fluency
There's a scene in Despicable Me 2 where Agnes is sharing her Mother's Day poem. She reads it like many of our kids do. Robotic. Monotone. Completely dull with no expression!
Read alouds are our opportunity to model fluent reading, including expression, intonation, and how to express a character's feelings through tone.
At the beginning of the year, I create the above chart (or something similar). It's great to read as a nonexample as fluent reading, and then identify what's wrong with it. Once you create the chart collaboratively, you can use it throughout the year to hold my own reading and the kids' accountable for fluency!
Models for Writing
I use read alouds as the first opportunity to interact with texts I plan to later use as models for writing. Throughout the year, my students use texts as models. This requires very close reading and dissection of the text. But the first reading should always be for enjoyment. These are a few of my favorite writing model read-alouds:
It's a sad truth that many of our kids don't love reading. They haven't had the comforting experiences that help us love reading and find it a cozy or exciting activity. Read-alouds are our opportunities to share a special time with our kids, close on the carpet, and grow the love of reading. The more interesting voices you use, the better. If your kids cry, you've hit the reading jackpot.
These are some of my favorite fun read-alouds.
These books won't make your kids cry... but anything by Eve Bunting might.