I don’t know about you, but I love having someone read aloud to me. I will never forget when I was a senior in high school, and my AP English teacher read aloud to us from Hamlet. You would think that a group of 17- and 18-year-olds would roll their eyes, but instead, my whole class was enthralled by Mr. Schaefer’s love of Shakespeare. We actually wanted to know what happened next. When I became a teacher, I vowed to bring this excitement and interest to my students.
A reality check happened when I saw how much curriculum and data-driven lesson plans were forced on me during my first year of teaching. Still, I vowed to fit in a read aloud somewhere. Once I did, I never looked back. Over the years, I found out more tips and tricks to read alouds.
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Why should I bother trying to fit in read alouds?
Because students love it! They are engaged, they ask questions, and they start looking at new books. Reading is actually teaching kids how to think. During direct instruction we’re giving them a lot of guided practice and strategies for how to be a good reader. A read aloud takes the pressure off, but students will still be using those reading strategies. I love to throw out quick questions to them for discussion: Why did that character act like that? What will happen next? Would you be friends with that character? Do you like this book so far? And follow up those questions with a why or why not? I like to use discussion task cards, like this free set, which works well with small groups. Using easy journal entries can allow students to write about the novel, as well. Plus, read alouds can act as mentor texts when you’re providing direct instruction also, because students love to talk about them. Fit in a read aloud because students love it and because you can.
Discussion task cards, journals, and a Venn-diagram- easy ways to reinforce read alouds. This set is from my Matilda Read Aloud Activities.
What should I pick for a read aloud?
Well, what was your favorite book as a kid? Chances are your students will love it, too. I have always started out my year with Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. The hilarious characters and situations are engaging for students. This book will end up being perfect as a mentor text for character traits. This upcoming year, I’m switching it up and starting with The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming. I used a portion of it last year for teaching theme. Using it as a read aloud, I can start to introduce the idea of theme without my students even realizing it! I’ve also used The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (great adventure story!), simply because that’s what MY fourth grade teacher read to me. We used it for character traits, theme, and text connections. Choose something you like, and if you’re not sure where to start, try this great list of 215 Read Aloud Books for Elementary School Students.
When am I supposed to fit this in?
Whenever you can. Write it into your schedule if you need to! Take 5-10 minutes after morning announcements. Use it as a transition between recess and afternoon classes. How about that day when you finish up your lesson earlier than you thought (it’s a miracle!), and you have five minutes to spare? Or that time when you come back early from an assembly and now you have five minutes before lunch? At my school we are departmentalized, so if there was five minutes left until we switched classes (and my students know), at least one student will say, “Can we read Narnia?” So happy to oblige. I try to schedule a little extra time on Friday at the end of the day, just to read aloud. Our brains are a little fried, but when we’re reading aloud for fun, it’s amazing what they can focus on. Fit in a read aloud whenever you’re able to.
Any more wisdom to impart?
Of course–one last tip! This year, I started my amazing five-years-in-the-works Roald Dahl author study. I was so excited for this, because I planned to read aloud Matilda to both sections of fourth grade while my different reading levels read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or James and the Giant Peach. One book to read aloud and compare to their individual books–great idea, right? I read a lot out loud, and then I started to realize we were falling behind due to snow days. The only way this plan could work would be if I read aloud for the 45+ minutes while my students did independent work. That’s a lot of reading. To read all of that, with expression and excitement…goodbye voice. Then it hit me: audio books. Kate Winslet does an AMAZING read aloud version of Matilda. I was afraid my students wouldn’t be able to follow along, but they did! They asked for me to play it whenever they were working, and they were able to recall what they heard. So if you can, get audio versions of books, and play them aloud. (Kate Winslet had a great Miss Trunchbull voice…way better than mine!)
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I’ve taught 3rd-5th grade and have been in fourth grade for the past four years. I also teach college English in the evenings, besides working on Cait’s Cool School, which includes my blog and my Teachers Pay Teachers store. When I’m not busy working too much, I love hanging out with my husband and our fur babies, a playful yellow lab named MacGyver and a cute gray skinny kitten named Skitten (my blog just might feature at least one or two more photos of those cuties!).
The Friday Afternoon Files says
Wonderful post and right on the mark! After receiving a copy of Jim Trelease's READ ALOUD HANDBOOK nearly 20 years ago, I've worked to establish a read aloud climate in each and every class I've taught–even freshmen in high school! I save it for "dessert" at the end of the period and it works like magic to get the stragglers to hurry. 🙂
Sara at School says
You have encouraged and inspired me! I have let read alouds slip through the cracks and regretted it. I'm going to try again to find time for it — make it a priority! Thanks, Sara
Jo Senftleben says
My grade 5s and 6s love read alouds and it's been a great way to introduce books that are above the normal comprehension level of some of my at risk kids while supporting them with discussion and reducing their need to get bogged down in the mechanics of reading. Even my struggling kids have opinions and get involved in discussion which is awesome. I am currently reading "out of my Mind" by Sharon Draper about an 11 year old girl with cerebral palsy. So much to explore with inclusion and celebrating difference and recognising similarities. I highly recommend this book for this age group.