6 Tips to Make the Most of Read Alouds

Teacher Reading to Preschool Students
Photo: Yan Krukov/Pexels

Reading aloud to students is an essential reading strategy for all ages that will help readers increase their vocabulary, grow in their listening comprehension, and more! Teachers should include read-alouds in their daily routines for several reasons.

Demonstrate Deep Thinking Aloud

Read-aloud is a great way to model comprehension skills. For example, when advanced readers come across new vocabulary, they use context clues to figure out the meaning of the word. Natural to the advanced reader, this skill must be taught. The best means to do so is through modeling. Take for example the sentence:

The boy squandered all of his lunch money on candy. Now, he is hungry.”

As a teacher, I would model the thought process of how to determine the definition of ‘squandered’:

Hmm . . . I don’t recognize the word ‘squandered.’ I am going to look at the words around it to see if I can figure out what ‘squandered’ means. Well, I know that lunch money would be used to buy lunch, but I see that he buys candy instead. Now he is hungry. Based on the clues, I can guess that squandered must mean ‘to waste’ or ‘use up.’ If the boy wasted or used up his lunch money on candy, it would make sense why he is hungry because candy doesn’t fill you up.

By modeling this deep-thinking skill out loud, students are more likely to grasp this vital reading concept because the skill was put into context.

Engage Students in Meaningful Conversation

According to Shifting the Balance by Jan Burkins and Kari Yates, “When it comes to language development, read-aloud is one of your most powerful tools. Interactive read-aloud provides an important bridge between spoken and written language, combining a more conversational guided experience with the more complex and formal language of books.” Books are great starting points for meaningful conversations. 

When reading aloud, teachers should seize the opportunities to point out the author’s craft, make text-to-text, start conversations, or text-to-home connections. Each of these models deep and thoughtful reading which students can apply to their personal reading.

Read Complex Texts

When choosing a read-aloud, teachers are free to choose books that might be at students’ frustration level if they were reading on their own. This allows teachers to introduce students to new vocabulary, complex storylines, and different genres that complex texts can provide. Reading aloud gives students access and understanding to texts that they may not be able to understand on their own.

Introduce New Vocabulary and Build Background Knowledge

Read-alouds are an excellent and organic way of introducing children to new vocabulary. As students build their vocabulary knowledge, they will be able to read and comprehend higher reading levels on their own. Students can also incorporate their new knowledge into their everyday conversations.

Background knowledge is built in a variety of ways including personal experience. Without background knowledge, students may be able to decode the words, but they will not be able to understand the text. Teachers can help students build their understanding on a variety of subjects through their read-aloud choices that will help students comprehend texts that they read on their own.

Model Fluency and Expression

Reading aloud to children models fluency and expression. While these are skills that students must practice themselves by reading out loud, it is helpful to hear how sentences should be read smoothly, such as pausing for breath at punctuation marks. It is also helpful for developing readers to hear advanced readers read with expression.

Introduce New Genres and Series

In my classroom, I use read-aloud for different purposes. Sometimes, I use a read-aloud to support my instruction. Other times, I choose a “fun book” to read to the class. I read a “fun book” to my class for a few minutes after lunch or recess to give students a moment to calm down and refocus.

I strategically choose books in my classroom library that my students may not choose at first glance. I use these fun books as a subtle way of getting my students hooked on a series available in my classroom library or interested in the works of a particular author. At the beginning of each school year, my students gravitate towards graphic novels, leaving the rest of my library untouched. As the year progresses and we dive into various novels for fun or for instruction, my students begin to explore other book series or connect with a particular author’s style of writing. Soon, my other library books are flying off the shelves, and students begin to branch out in their reading choices.

Teachers should incorporate read-alouds into their daily routine as a way to demonstrate deep thinking, introduce students to new genres, increase background knowledge, and more! Overall, taking a moment to stop the hustle and bustle of the classroom to pick up a book and read together is a beautiful classroom bonding experience. 

Gabrielle Cashner
Gabrielle Cashner is a wife, mom, and elementary teacher. She recently began Simply Literature, a blog designed to offer families and teachers tips and tools to instill a love for reading in young people.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chalkboard Review team.

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