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Welcome back, education enthusiasts!
In this post, I will be sharing five tips for leading effective, meaningful read alouds. These tips are for everyone!
There are several ideas surrounding read alouds. So, to clear the air, I have provided a definition of "read aloud" (from my course readings).
Read aloud: a shared, out loud reading of a book to one child or a group of students
Read alouds are an essential activity to include in early childhood classrooms because they provide several benefits for children's literacy development, including. . .
A read aloud can be a magical learning experience for young children. However, you cannot simply read a book aloud to lead a meaningful read aloud. To ensure you create a rich, enjoyable reading experience, explore the tips below!
1. Select your books with care
A read aloud cannot happen without a book!
It may sound like an easy process choosing a book for your read aloud; however, it is not as simple as picking up any book from the shelf.
Your read aloud must have a purpose. So, choose a book that aligns with that purpose. Ensure your book is developmentally appropriate and is appropriate to read in a small- or large-group setting.
Are you unsure where to start in selecting your books? Browse list of questions to base your choice of book on:
These questions act as a guide for all read alouds. However, Reading Rockets has a resource for selecting books based on age group, from infants to third graders!
2. Plan in advance!
As I stated earlier, you cannot just pick up a book and then expect to immediately lead an effective, meaningful read aloud.
When adults use this approach, they are viewing the book as a book, not a learning experience. Although it may be tempting to simply read the book front to back, that will not benefit your audience.
Three Stages of Read Alouds
A read aloud goes beyond the book and even the reading itself. Well-planned read alouds are structured in three stages: before the reading, during the reading, and after the reading.
Before the reading, take the opportunity to motivate the children through a question, story, or activity that increases their knowledge and activate background knowledge. This stage establishes a purpose for the reading and acts as a preview for the text.
During the reading, take steps to turn the reading to an experience or an adventure! The key to a successful read aloud is engagement. If your listeners are not being involved in the reading, they will not learn anything or have fun! I will dive deeper into engagement strategies later in this post.
After the reading, take time to recap the story and lead a discussion with your listeners. This post-reading discussion is a great time to make one of the three out-of-text connections. To make the read aloud even more meaningful, use an activity to recap and discuss. Children may want to act out what they heard and saw or may just want a change in pace.
So, how do you actually plan a read aloud?
While the planning does depend on each book or lesson plan, there are a few consistent strategies you can use.
The first reading your introduction to the book. Become familiar with the plot, the characters, the flow, and the language.
The second reading is the note-taking stage. Use post-it notes or stickers to mark where you want to pause in your reading to ask a question, point out a vocabulary word, think aloud, or describe an illustration.
The third reading is your practice reading. Practice stopping with your markers; practice the flow of the book, so it feels natural while you are reading.
For more planning tips and strategies, I have linked a video, "Think Aloud for Read Aloud," under the Additional Resources section of this post.
3. Set goals for each read aloud
Each read aloud is different; each read aloud has a different purpose. However, every read aloud does have a purpose.
The goal of a read aloud can be formal, such as fitting within a theme or introducing new vocabulary or style of literature. The goal can also be as informal as bringing comfort to a child because they want you to read their favorite story.
The goal drives the planning process. Especially if you are reading a class or child favorite, you may change the goal with each read aloud. It is just as important for you, the reader, to understand the goal and purpose of the experience as the listeners.
For the times you read a book within a thematic unit, long-term lesson, or project, plan to set two kinds of goals: those for the specific read aloud and those in context of the lesson, unit or project.
4. Engage your listeners!
In order for a read aloud to be "effective," children need to be engaged and learn from the experience! Young children are known to have short attention spans, so the more you engage their interest, the more enjoyable and successful the read aloud will be for both you, the reader, and the children, the listeners!
Browse the list below on strategies for engaging your listeners:
1. Think Aloud (during reading)
Try to voice your thought process while reading to model inner conversation fluent readers have with the text. State observations about vocabulary words, plot points, illustrations, characters, etc. Phrase questions through "I wonder. . ." statements. Make inferences about the story or illustrations.
2. Think-Pair-Share (before or after reading)
In a classroom setting, prompt students with a question or thought. Give them time to think and then to exchange their ideas with a partner. After one to two minutes, ask a representative to share both partners' thoughts with the teacher.
3. Transactional and Reciprocal Teaching (during and after reading)
Dialogue between teacher and student which focuses on a segment of text. Teachers and students can ask questions, clarify difficult words, summarize what has been read, and predict what happens next.
4. Retelling (after reading)
Ask students to retell the story through words, drawing, drama, or movement. Students can retell individually, as partners, or as a small group. Retelling can be assisted through a story story map or frame: a visual representation of the structure of the story or narrative (beginning middle, and end)
5. Using interactive visuals (before, during, and after reading)
If you are a teacher, you can use interactive visuals to track students' thoughts, ideas, or questions on paper. Below are examples of interactive visual activities:
Do you want more ideas for engaging read aloud activities? Click HERE to view Reading Rocket's list of read aloud activities.
5. consider the take-a-ways
For a read aloud to be meaningful to children, they must walk away with some kind of out-of-text connection.
As previously stated, there are three connections you can encourage children to make from a read aloud:
By teaching children to bridge these connections, you encourage them to expand their knowledge. Children's books can act as "windows" and "mirrors" to children's own life experiences and those of others.
As a teacher, it is magical to observe children seeing themselves represented in children's books! It is also wonderful to observe children's love, curiosity, and empathy for other peoples grow during a read aloud.
A read aloud example!
How do you apply these strategies and tips in real-life practice? This video from Teaching Strategies is a great example of an effective, meaningful read aloud.
There are two parts to this video: the read aloud and the discussion of the strategies used
This specific read aloud is directed towards preschool-aged students, but the strategies can be applied with other age groups!
Are you interested in another read aloud example? Click HERE to view my read aloud video!
Click the links below to explore the resources used in this post!
Video: "Think Aloud for Read Aloud"
(I highly recommend this tool!)
Reading Rockets: "How to Choose Read Aloud Books: Babies to Third Graders"
Reading Rockets: "103 Things to Do Before, During, or After Reading"
Early Literacy Checklist
Interactive Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth Through Five
Early Childhood Indicators of Progress (ECIPs): Literacy and Language (PDF)
TedTalk: "The danger of a single story" (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.