“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (William Shakespeare)
Read Alouds have had an important place in education and the lives of our students since Jim Trelease published his first book about read alouds in 1982 (more information about his work here). Some other names that have been used to describe read alouds include:
- Shared reading
- Close reading
- Cross text read aloud
- Interactive read aloud
What are read alouds?
A planned oral reading of a book or print excerpt, usually related to a theme or topic of study, is a basic read aloud. Typically, read alouds have been used to engage the student listener while developing background knowledge, increasing comprehension skills, and fostering critical thinking. The Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA) has archives of articles (research-based) about using read alouds for engagement and comprehension.
What can read alouds do for instruction?
A read aloud can be used to model behaviors that powerful readers use to make sure that they understand the text as a reader or to understand the author’s craft as a writer. These parallel processes can provide a model for teacher demonstration/thinking to allow students to be active listeners prior to student practice of the same reading behaviors when reading their own texts in a small group, with a partner or individually. This “deep understanding” is important as the Common Core State Standards demand moving beyond literal understanding to Webb’s “Depth of Knowledge” as used in the assessments coming soon.
What format is used for a read aloud?
There are many formats that match the different names already listed above. See if one of these sounds familiar to you and also matches your goal for increasing student comprehension? In Iowa under Every Child Reads, the observable moves for a read aloud were:
- Activate students listening
- Read passage
- Elicit responses
- Conduct student application of knowledge
Planning a Read Aloud
1. Read the text as a reader first
- Spy on yourself and take notes on post-its
- Where do you react strongly?
- Where do you have a new insight?
- Where do you revise your thinking, etc.?
2. Decide if there are particular skills or strategies your class really needs to see modeled. *Check CCSS standards
- Defining vocabulary in context
- Noticing author’s craft
3. Choose the post-its that model the skill you want to model and have students practice.
- Decide what parts will be interactive
- Decide where you will pause
- Decide where you will have students turn and talk
- Use prompt sheet for support
4. Rehearse it
- Check that it “feels” right
- Check that it “sounds” right
Did you notice the subtle differences? Which one do your students need to be using themselves as they read? Increased understanding of the simultaneous processes used by powerful readers may mean a shift in your use of read alouds. What will be both efficient and effective for your students?
How does this read aloud fit into my 90 minutes of reading instruction (or 60 minutes of reading workshop)? It doesn’t under the model proposed by the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project(TCRWP). The read aloud is both outside the workshop time and in addition to the workshop time! Yes, one more thing to be included in the busy school day. Reading workshop time is predominantly for student “work” with less teacher talk time! That work time is the necessary “practice and game time” for students to work through text with the coach (teacher) by their side so they can successfully accelerate through the rigor of the expectations of the CCSS.
So if a read aloud is NOT going to be a part of instruction and work time, what do I use for my focus lesson during reading workshop? At TCRWP, a mini-lesson is a part of reading workshop. Is it the same as a read aloud? What’s different? Check out the features listed in the chart below.
Mini – Lesson
|The teacher reads aloud to students in order to model and demonstrate all of the strategies that characterize proficient reading.The teacher could do a focused read aloud where one or two major strategies are popped out.A read aloud is interactive:
- Are you currently using read alouds for instruction with your students? If yes, which format is similar to the one you are using? If no, which format will work best in your classroom to provide the robust instruction that will increase student learning?
- CCR Reading Anchor 1 demands “close reading” by the students that will require explicit modeling and instruction in order to avoid being another example of “assigning” reading. Students may need some initial scaffolding with sentence frames in order to practice oral language structures for this work. Read Alouds can and should be a part of that instructional sequence! Consider how Read Alouds can help meet the goals of the other nine CCR Reading Anchor Standards!