I love reading aloud to students. I have always enjoyed doing so. Reading is one of my favourite pastimes, and being able to share my passion with a younger audience is such a rewarding experience. This is why I have such mixed feelings as I struggle with how much time should be spent reading aloud in the classroom.
As a Grade 6 teacher this year, I have two periods of Language each day, and because of my timetable, one of the periods is the first one in the day. Part of that period is often spent on announcements, so my uninterrupted 100 minutes is rarely 100 minutes. Usually the remainder of that first period is spent doing guided reading and literacy centres (or my adapted version of literacy centres). This gives me one more period for the remainder of my shared, guided, and independent reading and writing activities.
I started the year using part of this second period for a read aloud, which I coupled with various writing activities. I added in a backchannel during the read aloud, so that students could reflect on the reading as they were listening to me, and I could help “guide” students during read alouds. I really liked this format, but as the year’s progressed, I noticed that many of my students need more teaching time on writing skills. They need to add more ideas to their written pieces, work on conventions and paragraphing, and develop sentence fluency. While I tried to target these areas in conjunction with my read aloud, the students were showing me that this approach was not good enough for them. I needed to make a change.
I have now devoted much of my second Language period to a Writer’s Workshop. I still try to incorporate reading as a part of this, but often I’m choosing shorter pieces, so that the students can read the text with me, and use the text as a guide for their writing. Having the model of good quality written pieces assist the students as they do their own writing, and I have noticed significant improvements in both written language skills and reading comprehension as we work with shorter texts. The students also become more involved in both the writing and reading process. I miss my read aloud time, but I think that maybe this quasi-read aloud/shared reading option is better for the diverse needs of my students given my time restrictions.
How do you make read alouds work in your classroom? How do you make the most out of your 100 minute literacy block?
Aviva Dunsiger taught Junior Kindergarten to Grade 2 for 11 years before moving to Grade 6 this year. She’s passionate about using technology in the classroom to support student learning, and she’s presented on this topic numerous times both online and offline.
She enjoys maintaining her blog, Living Avivaloca: My Many Musings on Life and Learning. Aviva’s reflective writing about her professional practice inspires communication between educators, administrators and parents.