Tag Archives: Read Alouds

#DigiLitSunday: Stamina


Last August, the most difficult day of our trip to Rome was the very first day because it was not a typical day of just 24 hours.  We traveled on the plane overnight.  The perfect opportunity to rest.  Yes, restful, if you were used to traveling like a sardine.  Space between seats was extremely limited when reclined as most passengers were so inclined.  At the airport it was “Hurry Up and Wait” to get baggage collected and through customs.  And then the rain. All.Day.Long! The bus was always parked “just a little ways away” on this day where we had three stops scheduled but yet no “sense of the flow of travel or the schedule” on a bus with 50+ new best travel friends. Our sleep cycles disrupted, dining on new schedules, and walking, walking, walking.  On this day we discovered that the “step” measurements by my siblings were not the same; however, they agreed, we walked over ten miles.  Several of us had to call on every last fraction of an ounce of our stamina just to crawl into our hotel rooms.  Our energy had ebbed with the waning hours, the uncertain schedule and the never ending first day of travel.

I tell that story because any new adventure brings a bit of angst.  Last Monday was the first day of the August #TCRWP Writing Institute which began with a stirring keynote by Lucy Calkins for 1300 attendees, large group sections, simultaneous lunch schedule for all, small group sections and closing sections.  Content may have been familiar or unfamiliar, but the intensity of the schedule both physically and mentally could also make one question one’s personal stamina.

YET have high expectations.Stamina:

Synonyms include “endurance, staying power, fortitude, strength,toughnessdeterminationtenacityperseverancegrit”

Although it’s August, there are many stages of “school life” across the country:  students who have been in session for over a week, those who are returning this week, those that return in the looming weeks of August, and of course those who don’t return until after Labor Day in September.

Is back to school “stamina” a teacher issue?  A student issue? Both?

Already, I can hear the voices . . .”My kids can’t sit still that long.”  “I can only start with five minutes.”  “I’ll be lucky if they are able to sit for two minutes.”

It’s not about torture and being mean. Be realistic. 

YET have high expectations!

Plan for your situation!  And be purposeful!

Reading Workshop

Begins Day One.



If it’s a “Non-negotiable”, plan for how it will go on Day 1.  Plan for some book exploration.  Think about a soft start.  Think about how your respect for your students, their time and their year will be evident in all that you say AND all that you do!

It’s not about cutesy perfectly organized classroom libraries.

It may be about having students organize the library

as they review the books.

Do you have a book bin of “Favorite Treasures from Years Past”?

It may be that the students have book baggies

that were filled at the end of the last school year.

It may be that you create book baggies for your students . . .

ready and waiting for eager hands to cherish! 

When is it a physical challenge?

When is it a mental challenge?

How do we merge the two challenges?

What series of “work” will you begin on Day 1 in order to build stamina?

Writing Workshop

Begins Day One.



If it’s a “Non-negotiable”, plan for how it will go on Day 1.  Plan for some small “bits of writing”.  Think about a soft start.  Think about how your respect for your students, their time and their year will be evident in all that you say AND all that you do!

No rushing off to buy “The First 20 Days” .

No “cutesy” worksheet of “interests to fill in.

Writing Units of Study are written to begin on Day 1.

If you change the order, read the first bend of book 1.

What habits do you need to build?

What writing of your own will you share?

When is it a physical challenge?

When is it a mental challenge?

How do we merge the two challenges?

What series of mini-lessons might you use across the day to build stamina?

Read Aloud

Begins Day One.



If it’s a “Non-negotiable”, plan for how it will go on Day 1. Think about how your respect for your students, their time and their year will be evident in all that you say AND all that you do!

What book?



So many decisions?

When is it a physical challenge?

When is it a mental challenge?

How do we merge the two challenges?

How will your Read Alouds progress so that your students 

will be independently sharing THEIR OWN Read Alouds by the end of this year?

What are your classroom non-negotiables?  

How will you build your stamina?  

How will you help your class build stamina?  

What’s your plan?




#FallInstitute2015 @IowaASCD

What do these have in common?

Miami Vice,

Golden Girls theme song,

Mr. Rogers,

Dalai Lama,

Black Swan,

Literary giants:  Ken & Yetta Goodman, Jerry Harste, Donalyn Miller, Reba M Wadsworth, Katie Wood Ray

Authors:  Ezra Jack Keats, Abby Hanlon, Cindy Ward, Linda Oatman High, Meg Kearney, Julie Brinckloe, Leo Lionni

Books:  Ralph Tells a StoryApt. 3, Cookie’s Week, Beekeepers, Trouper, Fireflies, Fish is Fish 

Peeks / Previews:  Three Hens and a Peacock, Moving Day, The Leaving Morning, Snow Day!

The number of books by Eza Jack Keats with Peter as a main character? (7)


What do they have in common? Lester!

(Lester Laminack – In case you know multiple Lesters!)

Where was I?

. . . In a land where learners were not to raise their hands to garner attention but were still expected to LEARN.

. . . In a land where KIDS were first and foremost.

. . . In a land where adults were mesmerized by storytelling.

. . . In a land where “Movie Reads” (AKA first reads) were like gold.

. . . In a land where “sitting perfectly still” was NOT required.

. . . In a land where THINKING was required (not optional)!

. . . In a land where conversation is buzzing about a Summer Read Aloud Festival!


But what did I learn?  

And how am I going to use it?

Well, the content in this book is SOOOOO insightful!

writers are readers

Reading and writing are reciprocal skills, or as Lester says “opposite sides of the same coin”.  This book is about more than just mentor texts because it answers the question “WHY do we need to study and use texts?”  As an example, Lester recited the opening lead from Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge.

“There was once a small boy called Wilfrid Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and what’s more he wasn’t very old either. His house was next door to an old people’s home and he knew all the people who lived there.

He liked Mrs. Jordan who played the organ. He listened to Mr. Hosking who told him scary stories. He played with Mr. Tippettt who was crazy about cricket. He ran errands for Miss Mitchell who walked with a wooden stick.He admired Mr. Drysdale who had a voice like a giant.  But his favourite person of all was Miss Nancy. Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper because she had four names just as he did.”

Not just a “party trick”

Instead this was a demonstration of the power of a well-crafted text when the lead was incredibly effective.  When do leads work?  When do they not work?   Teachers need a deep understanding of leads as both a reader and writer.  Using Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge as a mentor text might have students imitate the beginning in their own text.  But how would a teacher REALLY know that any one student or the whole class really had a deep understanding of what they read or wrote?

AHHH! . . .

So the goal is NOT to just write a lead like Mem Fox’s!

Not just imitation!

So then what is the purpose of using mentor texts?

There are several purposes, but it’s not just about “copying a craft move” into personal writing.  Using a mentor text is about studying and loving that text as a reader in order to fully understand and appreciate the care and attention that the writer has given to the work.  The “depth” of the qualities of the literature allow for multiple rereads or visits to the text in order to both admire and study the words, paragraphs and story.  It’s the reason that the literature may transcend time and cause us to revisit an “old friend”.

Using mentor texts is also not about just reading one text and then turning around and using that text as a model for an “activity” that involves writing.  True workshop writing means writing day after day, developing, growing and naming those moves discovered from reading that are now a part of writing craft.  But that takes time and study – multiple books, multiple reads, talk, and thinking. Not just being told in a mini-lesson to “Do this!”

What does that sequence look like?

Lester Laminack said it begins with a “Movie Read” of a carefully chosen “Best Friend” book. A book that the reader loses himself/herself in and becomes a part of the story.  A book that students must hear the whole book!

Then parts of the book may be revisited with students asking questions. Students may go in search of other examples . . . text structures, meaning, story elements . . . but moving beyond a surface look to a deep study involves time, purpose and attention to how reading the book enriches one’s own life. Reading, talking and thinking!

It’s not a new book every day.  It’s a planned, deliberate sequence that ends with students being able to revise and improve upon a description or substitute a “telling” for an inference.  It’s work but yet it’s fun without artificial motivation (punishments?) because students have stories they are bursting to tell and real audiences who can’t wait to unwrap those stories.

As teachers, we need to be more planful in our use of Read Alouds.  We need to carefully study the texts and consider how they can inform our instruction.  Use precise language. Check in on students’ schema and background knowledge.  Don’t stop when students have cows with “fish bodies”!

Read!  Write! Think!

Be true to students and their needs!

K – I – D – S! 

Additional Resources:

Unwrapping the Read Aloud with Lester Laminack

Videos of Lester and Reba talking about their book here.

Tweets from the @IowaASCD #Fallinstitute2015 are archived here.

(First draft / Round One of my thinking from a day with Lester Laminack!)

CCSS: Read Alouds and Increasing Comprehension

“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:

  1. Introduction
  2. Activate students listening
  3. Read passage
  4. Elicit responses
  5. Conduct student application of knowledge
Linda Hoyt has her own version of Interactive Read Alouds.  Here is a link to a sample K-1 lesson for Goodnight Moon.  And Hansel and Gretel as a sample lesson for grades 2-3.
Last week I was introduced to a third version of a Read Aloud that involves many of the phases of a lesson using Gradual Release of Responsibility.  Here are the planning stages for a TCRWP Read Aloud.

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?

Caution 1:

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.  

Caution 2:

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.

Read Aloud

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:

  • Think aloud
  • Turn and talk
  • Stop and jot
  • Stop and add on
  • Stop and sketch
  • Stop and take notes
  • Explicit teaching
  • 8-10 minutes
  • Follows clear architecture
    • Connection
    • Teach
    • Active Engagement
    • Link
    • Students go off to read independently
      • Teacher confers and pulls small groups
      • Mid-workshop teaching
      • Share
      • Could do an inquiry or GRR lesson
For your reflection:
  • 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!

How can you increase the effectiveness of your own Read Alouds?  What are you planning for this next year?


Seeking Ways to Grow Proficient, Motivated, Lifelong Readers & Writers

Doing The Work That Matters

a journey of growing readers & writers

Present Perfect

adventures in multiple tenses

Leadership Connection

from Great Prairie AEA

The Blue Heron (Then Sings My Soul)

The oft bemused (or quite simply amused) musings of Krista Marx -- a self-professed HOPE pursuing Pollyanna

Middle English

Life as an English teacher leader

steps in the literacy journey

Walking the Path to Literacy Together


Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Resource - Full

Sharing Ideas, Strategies and Tools

Joel Pedersen

be that #oneperson


All Things Literacy! Brianna Parlitsis


A meeting place for a world of reflective writers.

elsie tries writing

"The problem with people is they forget that that most of the time it's the small things that count." (Said by Finch in All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. These are my small things that count.

I Haven't Learned That Yet

This blog serves to document my path of learning and teaching.

Simply Inspired Teaching

A blog by Kari Yates

Reflections on Leadership and Learning

Sharing my learning experiences

AnnaGCockerille Literacy

The Generative Power of Language: Building Literacy Skills One Word at a Time

Reading to the Core

Just another WordPress.com site

Karen Gluskin

My Teaching Experiences and Qualifications

To Read To Write To Be

Thoughts on learning and teaching

Books and Bytes

Exploring the best of literature and edtech for the middle grades.

To Make a Prairie

A blog about reading, writing, teaching and the joys of a literate life