The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 38

Do you ever find that you get stuck in a rut of deciding the best way to introduce a new literary concept to your students? Do you ever have the feeling that the more you isolate the material, the more disconnected your students’ feel when trying to implement the skill in their own reading and writing? Do you notice little to no motivation when your students have the option to engage with a free choice text? Read alouds just may be the key to success for both you and the students in your classroom.

Just a few years ago, as a brand new teacher, I found that I would spend hours trying to find the perfect mentor text for all of my lessons. I would carefully browse the text to find aspects of the skill within the short text that I could bring to life for my students. Often, if one looked at my notes within the pages, they would clearly be able to see I was stretching some of the material to make it work for my lesson. To put it simply, my lessons weren’t authentic. There was little to no meaning, and there were very few connections being made by my students. I knew I had to find a new method. That’s when I discovered the value in read alouds throughout the day in my classroom.

According to Gold and Gibson (2015), “Children can listen on a higher language level than they can read, so reading aloud makes complex ideas more accessible and exposes children to vocabulary and language patterns that are not part of everyday speech. This, in turn, helps them understand the structure of books when they read independently” (p. 1). Read alouds allow a wide range of listeners in every classroom to synthesize the reading material, or if they cannot visualize the words on the page, they put images in their mind (visualize) of the story.

Often, I will have my students stop and sketch one image they saw in their head from a chapter they listened to me read. For example, our class recently finished the book, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. We are currently working on comprehension strategies, so this lesson tied in perfectly. First, the students drew pictures of both the main character and the setting of the story (in a specific chapter). After that, they noted some of the things they could see, hear, and smell while reading and explained their reasoning. Finally, the students chose one important idea from the chapter and described it telling what it looked like, sounded like, and felt like. This activity tied together the skill all good readers do, which it to use their five senses to visualize what is going on in the book. The students also find that they need to be attentive during the read aloud in order to get all of the needed details. The best part is students’ build upon these comprehension skills as we continued to work through the book.

Read alouds are also important due to the fact that they allow listeners to understand how we read. According to Routman (2003), “Many of our students are superficial readers; that is, they read the words but don’t think much about what they’re reading. We need to show our students that reading means making meaning” (p. 37). Think alouds are a perfect example of this. When I explain my thought process to my students, they are better able to make connections in their own reading.

It is suggested that teachers allow for 20-30 minutes of read aloud time in their daily schedule (Routman, 2003). It is vital for students to have time to see demonstrations and strategies for them to implement in their own reading.

I encourage you to be more intentional about reading aloud to your class. In turn, you just might spark a love of reading for students who were struggling readers to begin the year!

References

Gold, J., & Gibson, A. (2015). Reading rockets: Reading aloud to build comprehension.Retrieved from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/reading-aloud-build-comprehension-0

Routman, R. (2003). Reading essentials: The specifics you need to teach reading well. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Amy Finkle is a 3rd grade teacher in Liberty, Missouri just outside of Kansas City. She enjoys reading for enjoyment, and instilling that passion for her students!

Why Read Alouds and How Will They Benefit My Students?

By: Amy Finkle

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