Reading aloud to children is truly an art. With practice, even standardized test directions can become appealing to your students. Reading aloud daily for just 5-7 minutes can have a profound impact on your students.
Read aloud have become a regular part of my middle school Language Arts classroom and was also a part of my primary classroom. Reading aloud can even work in high school and college. The key is you, the teacher. Your inflection, expression and book choices will influence your students’ own reading selections.
Practice Makes Perfect
Your classroom truly is your stage. Your students are your audience. When it’s time for read aloud, it is time for you to channel your inner Oscar Award winning actor/actress persona. Pretend you are putting on a show. In reality you are. Your students are listening to you. They are observing your behavior. They are hearing emotion in your voice and if you can hook them, will want to model their own reading after you.
1. Practice reading aloud at home, in front of a mirror.
What does your face look like? Are you presenting an expressive face to match your expressive voice? A picture is worth a million words. What pictures are your students seeing?
2. Record yourself.
Hear what your students hear. Do you want to keep listening or do you want to turn down the volume? Take notes on what you hear. Put those notes on Post-its to leave in the text that you’re reading aloud. Use them as a reference.
3. Survey your students.
What do they like about read aloud? What do they dislike? How can you improve the read aloud experience? Use the results from a formal or informal survey to guide your read aloud ship.
When you read aloud, you are modeling for your students what a “good reader” looks like in more than one way. They hear what reading aloud should sound like. They listen for expression, emotions, pauses, and your own questioning.
As readers, we are always activating reading strategies that we have learned. When I read aloud, it’s no different. I use questioning. I make predictions. I use context clues to figure out new vocabulary. Sometimes, I ask my students for assistance. Most of the time, I activate the strategies and talk my students through what I’m thinking.
Reading aloud is a community builder. It inspires students to read similar texts and introduces students to new authors. Read aloud provides a common text for students regardless of ability. I often refer to our read alouds when teaching new concepts.
Students also get to see another side of their teacher through his/her reading aloud. I’ve cried happy and sad tears in front of my students. I’ve gotten angry at characters for their choices. I’ve cheered for protagonists and booed antagonists. All the while my students were learning about me as a person, not just their teacher.
My read aloud choices always are selected based in part, on the students in front of me, and in part, based on the themes and concepts we are and will be studying. Short stories, novels, newspaper articles, poems, letters and excerpts can all be used as read aloud materials.
“Sister For Sale” by Shel Silverstein
“The City” by Langston Hughes
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost
“The Red Wheelbarrow” By William Carlos Williams
“Honeybees” by Paul Fleischman (you need a partner for this one, or two of your best voices!)
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus
Substitute Teacher Plans by Doug Johnson
Shark vs Train by Chris Barton
Snow Day! by Lester Laminack
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (great for voices)
Shiloh by Natalie Babbitt
Loser by Jerry Spinelli
The True Gift by Patricia MacLachlan
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Tangerine by Edward Bloor
This is just a short list to start. I’ve read aloud letters that the class has received, excerpts from my grandfather’s World War II diary, newspaper articles, student writing; the list goes on and on! Use your likes and passions to help drive your own read aloud. The possibilities are endless!