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Re-Thinking Read Alouds

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by Aviva Dunsiger

 

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.  

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  • http://adunsiger.com Aviva (@avivaloca)

    Thank you so much for your reply! I also spread out texts over multiple days a lot when teaching primary. I still do. I think my problem this year is that I’m trying to read novels aloud. They’re too long. Maybe I need to explore more storybook options. I like your idea about picking read alouds that link with different subject areas. Then I could read aloud during these times as well. I think that I did this more when teaching primary. The biggest difference with primary though was that I taught my students almost all day long and completely integrated science and social studies. This gave me more literacy time, which translated to more time for each of the components as well. It’s strange to think that the way I actually did read alouds in K-2 is surprisingly similar to how I do them now in Grade 6. How do you structure your read aloud time? How do you incorporate writing with the reading? I’d love to know more! You have me thinking!

    Aviva

  • http://msduemm.wordpress.com/ Iris Duemm

    Hi Aviva,
    Great post! I agree with you that time is always an issue in the classroom. As educators we must constantly adapt to the needs of our students and determine the best use of class time. The changes you have made over the year in your literacy program have shown clear benefits and demonstrate that you know your students. I believe it benefits students when teachers prioritize and teach something really well as opposed to trying to fit everything in but without the depth and practise time needed. Sometimes read alouds can be lengthy, especially the texts you would be using at the Grade 6 level. One way that helps me include a read aloud every day in my grade 3 classroom is spreading the text over several days, even the whole week. The first day I might only focus on the text features, activating prior knowledge and making predictions. The last day usually includes a full reread of the text. Also, I don’t limit the read aloud to language periods. I often incorporate read aloud texts in math, science, art and social studies lessons, in conjunction with literacy. It’s engaging and helps students see the connection between reading and writing and the other subject areas. When you taught primary how was your read aloud time different?
    Iris