Reading aloud to students of any age is beneficial in many ways. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the benefits of reading aloud to students:
- Increases vocabulary
- Promotes comprehension
- Instills a love for literature
- Provides a shared experience that builds classroom community
- Incites conversation
- Exposes students to more complex language structures than they are able to read
There came a point when, due to many imposed mandates, I had to work really hard to fit in just one read-aloud daily. I decided to write out a prioritized list of what the most important experiences were for my students – read alouds ended up at the top of my list. I felt that the many benefits of Read-alouds made them non-negotiable.
Use Odd Bits of Time for Read-Alouds
I took a critical look at how I spent every minute during the school day. I used any random bits of time I could find for read-alouds. When a lesson finished early or we were waiting for the buses at the end of the day I read to my students. For these little bits of time, I would often choose a favorite read-aloud to reread or a wordless picture book. Sometimes, for my second grade students, I would read from a chapter book we were currently reading. These books were often prominently displayed, so that they were always on hand for a quick read.
A few of our favorite wordless picture books:
Some favorite books read over and over again:
Favorite chapter books:
Use Read-Alouds to Support Content
I used read-alouds to introduce or reinforce topics in math, science, and social studies. Read-alouds are a great way to expose students to content vocabulary in a meaningful and authentic way. I enjoyed reading not only nonfiction books, but also literary nonfiction stories.
Gail Gibbons is one our favorite nonfiction authors.
Nicola Davies is a favorite literary nonfiction author.
Planning with intention will help to make sure that the time we spend reading aloud is powerful for our students. When planning for read-alouds we should choose a piece of quality literature that we know our class will enjoy. We should read a variety of genres and themes and books that reflect various cultures and ethnicities. We need to expose our students to literature with beautiful imagery and books that invoke a variety of emotions.
I find it helpful to pre-plan a few stopping points and mark them with sticky notes. These stopping points consist of carefully crafted questions to help facilitate conversation. We only want a few stopping points because we do not want to interrupt the flow of the story. We also want to be responsive to our students’ thinking despite having a particular teaching point and planned questions.
Examples of teacher talk that helps to facilitate and deepen conversation:
- “Talk more about that.”
- “What do you mean by that?”
- “Can you give some examples?”
- “Does anybody agree/disagree with _____________?” “Why?”
- “Can somebody add on to what __________ said?”
During student conversations, we can have students turn and talk to each other to share their thinking. We can model for students the type of language they might use when sharing their thinking with their partner or the class.
Examples of sentence starters that can be modeled for students:
- “I agree/disagree with ___________ because _______________.”
- “I think ___________.”
- “I wonder ______________.”
- “I noticed ___________.”
- “This reminds me of _______________.”
Read-alouds were a favorite time of day for my students and me. I found that routine read-alouds created students who were able to talk to each other about books and knew the role they played during our read-aloud time. I also saw my class grow closer to each other as a community and in their ability to talk with each other in general.