Posted by: Elizabeth Grochan | April 20, 2012

Read Aloud, and Read it LOUD!

The Commission on Reading stated “Reading aloud has been said to be “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required to eventual success in reading.”

“Reading aloud to children can be a very powerful way to increase their vocabulary, listening comprehension, syntactic development, and word-recognition skills” (Ivey, 2007).

“Read-alouds model expressive, enthusiastic reading, transmit the pleasure of reading, and invite the listeners to be readers” (Fisher, Flood, Lapp, & Frey, 2004).

So the research supports read-alouds in the classroom, but I know plenty of classrooms and schools who do not see the importance of doing read alouds, at least not after the primary grade level. In kindergarten, and even 1st grade I believe it is very common to walk into a classroom and see students sitting around a teacher as she reads from a picture book. No one would question this instructional activity. But if you walked into a 5th grade classroom where the teacher was reading from a book in a similar manner, many people would question the instructional benefit.

In a time of high stake testing, every moment of instructional time is invaluable. So how does taking 10-20 minutes a day to read aloud to students positively impact learning?

As teachers, I feel we are constantly going to be scrutinized by the higher ups at what we are doing in the classroom. They want to ensure effective instruction, even if these decision makers really don’t know what makes effective learning. When it  comes to something like read alouds, it is important to understand that while to the outside observer there may not appear be any learning benefits going on, the actual positive impact of read alouds has the potential to be a powerful learning tool and can lead to an lifelong reading enjoyment.

Read alouds have many benefits to students.

“Reading to students helps them to experience a sophisticated text the way the teacher experiences it (Ivey, 2003).”

“Students shared that teachers make an otherwise difficult text interesting and comprehensive” (Ivey, 2003).

“When teachers read to students they enhance students’ understanding and their inclination to read independently (Ivey, 2003).”

Often times, a text a teacher is reading may be to difficult for a student to read independently. Whether they are a younger grade student, or struggling reader, trying to focus on the decipher the print can take away from the overall enjoyment of a story. Reading can be a lot of work. We have to get students over teh hump where reading is work and to a place where reading is enjoyable. For many, this may take awhile to show them what a book has to offer. A teacher reading aloud from a text can help a student who struggles with print processing, or is just below grade level to enjoy a book they otherwise may not have been able to comprehend. Teachers can read with inflection and enthusiasm that students are just learning how to do to make a book more interesting. Teachers act as models as they read aloud from text. They can stop a certain points to engage readers to think through the story asking questions and having them make predictions. They can read using different inflections and accents to make a character seem more real. Teachers have a degree of background knowledge more developed than students that can be used in reading that can help students connect more with a book.

A good read aloud should be done with enthusiasm, enjoyment and passion. The excitement a teacher shows while reading to students will be evident to students, and they to will pick up on it. They will see what reading can be for them and be more inclined to pick up a book on their own.

 

When Artley (1975) asked teachers what they remembered most from their elementary school experiences, they consistently reported that teacher read-alouds were among their favorite memories” (Fisher, Flood, Lapp, & Frey, 2004).

The Westing Game was one of my favorite books a teacher read to me while I was in school

The Westing Game was one of my favorite books a teacher read to me while I was in school

This quote here pretty much sums up my favorite elementary experiences. I fondly remember both my 3rd and 5thgrade teachers being avid readers, and reading to us often. Years after I still remember these books and have since bought them and shared many with some of my students. I remember that my favorite time of day was when the teacher read to us. It was the time of day I could sit back and just enjoy being read to.

“Except for the bigger bodies, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders can look a lot like first and second graders when the teacher starts to read, slowly edging forward in their seats with eyes wide open in anticipation” (Ivey, 2003).

Now I read ALL the time at this point. There was rarely a time when I didn’t have a book in hand. Yet even though I was more than capable of reading myself, I enjoyed listening to the teacher read to us. Not only was I exposed to new materials, I was exposed to the reading world through my teachers’ eyes as they shared the stories with us.

During my student teaching experience, I worked with a 2nd grade classroom. Overall I felt this was a wonderful class and the teacher was amazing. The only thing I felt was problem some was that while the students had 20 minutes after lunch for SSR, no one seemed to use this time to actually read. This was definitely a filler time set between lunch and recess.  Many of the kids made frequent trips out of the class to the library to pick new books, others spent the entire time searching through the classroom library never settling for anything, or making multiple trips to switch books out. Others were whisper with friends, or what looked like mindlessly flipping through the pages of a book. Very few seemed to be engaged in reading, and I felt this was such a waste of 20 minutes when reading could be going on. I asked my partnership teacher if she wouldn’t mind if I took over that time and instead read to the class.

While I now know that it is so important to include independent reading as part of the whole reading instruction, at the time I saw the lack of benefit those 20 minutes were providing the students and wanted to find a way to promote reading in a positive manner. One of my favorite books used as a read aloud when I was in elementary school was the Wayside School is Falling Down series by Louis Sacher. I decided to read them to my class. At the time, the class had your typical students where some loved to read, some would read if they had to, and others hated it. I felt these books would appeal to every student since not only was it about students like them, each chapter was about a different student they may be able to relate to, and each chapter was funny and quirky in the way I feel kids like.

“Except for the bigger bodies, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders can look a lot like first and second graders when the teacher starts to read, slowly edging forward in their seats with eyes wide open in anticipation” (Ivey, 2003).

The Wayside series has been my favroite series since reading it with my 3rd grade teacher :)

The Wayside series has been my favroite series since reading it with my 3rd grade teacher 🙂

Every day I read about 3 chapters to the class. During this time, the class was completely silent and still, pretty much the only time of day they were like this! I always had every child’s attention on me. I thought there would be at least one that would be uninterested and lay his/her head down, fiddle inside their desk…yet I don’t remember one day where this happened. I think the moment I realized how effective and enjoyable this time was for the students was the day I stopped and announced it was time for recess. I was surprised by the loud groans I heard from the majority of the class begging to skip recess for the day and read more!

This time wasn’t just enjoyed by the students, but by me also. I felt like we shared this connection as I read to them. As we read each chapter and met new characters we formed a bond with their stories. We even made references to the book in everyday classroom dealings. One chapter is about the principal banning the word ‘door’ after an incident. He announced to the school that calling a door a door was now a punishable offense, and from that moment on it was to be referred to as the goozak. For the remaining part of the year, we called the door a goozak. I still feel bad for the person who came into our classroom calling the door a door and was met with a classroom of gasp for saying a bad word.

There was also a story about a boy named Mac. In every class we have a Mac. That kid who has a story, rarely related to the material, that he has to share. The stories tend to start with ‘This one time…’ He (or she) always seems to have a story to share that gets the lesson off topic just enough. So whenever we were in a lesson, and I asked for questions or comments, if I sensed this was about to happen I would stop the student and ask him if this was a Mac story. This usually stopped them and they knew to save the story to share with me during free time.

“Hearing a teacher read a book made them want to read that same book on their own” (Ivey, 2003).

When I left my internship, I bought each student a copy of the first in the Wayside series. I addressed each one personally to them. I hope they treasure the books and fondly remember our time we shared reading aloud together.

“Independent reading time and teacher read-alouds made them want to read more” (Fisher, Flood, Lapp, & Frey, 2004).

I left the books of the series in the classroom and available to the students whenever they had free time to read. Someone usually had a copy in their desk, and others asked me for other books like these to read. I’d like to believe that my passion for reading, modeled by my read alouds encouraged my students to read more.

Now I always loved to read. I also love discovering sequels to books and devouring other stories by a favorite author. When I was in school, after a teacher read a book with us, whether it was a read aloud, guided reading etc I would go out and find the sequel if possible, and usually look for other books by the same author. I clearly remember doing this with Hatchet and Julie of the Wolves to name two of my favorites.

In my classroom, I plan to have sequels to favorite stories available, and books by the same authors for students to pick up. I love book series because to me they encourage further reading. You pick up the next book to find out what is going to happen.  By reading a book aloud with a class (or even a child) you potentially hook them to the series, genre, author etc and the WILL go out and find more books like this. What a great way to get kids to keep reading!

Since I am not a practicing teacher I do not have much of an opportunity to read loud. I do occasionally make skype dates with my nephew, who is 6, where I will read to him. I love doing so because I feel that even though we are far away, we can share this time reading. There have even been times I called to read to him and he was busy doing something else, and my sister asked that I read any to her because she liked hearing me read 🙂 My reading to him has become our thing and for Christmas I recorded the Night Before Christmas in one of those recordable books and sent it to him. He listened to it over and over. I called to see if he liked it, and he ran and grabbed it. His friend was over at the time and he informed her that the

voice in the book was his Aunt Bis, and proceeded to ignore me the rest of the time in favor of listen to me read to him in the book instead of having a conversation with me.

Skyping with my nephew and sister on Christmas Eve. You can see them in the right hand bottom corner :)

Skyping with my nephew and sister on Christmas Eve. You can see them in the right hand bottom corner 🙂

Not being home for Christmas, I missed out on the tradition of reading the Polar Express with him, so I Skyped with him while I read it. For my family, listening to me read a book to them is special. I love reading aloud to them, and they love listening to me read my favorite stories. I hope to take this special connection into the classroom with me.

“To ensure that reading aloud does not get lost in the press for higher student achievement, teachers, must maximize the effectiveness of their read-aloud activities” (Lane & Wright, 2007).

The problem with acceptance of read alouds in the classroom comes from the questionable instructional benefit to student learning. While we as teachers can see many of the positive impacts read alouds have, we need to ensure we maximize the effectiveness so that not only do students receive the most from these teachable moments, but that we can keep read alouds from being taken out of the classroom.

Lane & Write (2007) suggested ways to make read alouds effective. Some of these suggestions are as followed:

“The amount of read aloud time…teacher reflect on the amount of time spent to ensure it is time spent wisely.”

I think this is a major part of all instructional planning. We have a limited time to teach during the day and a lot to fit in! Time should be made to read aloud to your students. When and how much time spent needs to be considered and how this effects the students and other subjects. Time may need to be adjusted depending on the response of the students and in how it fits with the other curriculum needs. As you get to know your students, the curriculum and the schedule I feel you will find the perfect time and place to read aloud with your students.

“The choice of text for read-aloud activities…teachers should consider the instructional goals of the read-aloud when selecting books.”

Again, time during the teaching day is short. We as teachers do not have time for ‘fluff’ in our instruction. We shouldn’t choose to read a book with our students just because. How can we utilize this read aloud to the maximum benefit? What do we want our students to get out of our reading to them?

“The method of reading aloud…use their background knowledge to develop understanding of the text and ask questions that keep children engaged. Reading in a lively, engaging way, using voices, gestures, and expressions can enhance understanding.”

Pretty self-explanatory here. When we read to our kids, we are modeling for them how to read. Not just in the basic mechanics of this is a word, this is how you say the word, but in this is how you READ! You engage in the text, you bring the characters to life, you are invested in what is going to happen to these characters, you are making predictions and thinking ahead of what may happen, you make it interesting! Kids are not going to know how to do this right away. We as teachers want them to become engaged and a part of the reading. Have them become invested by asking them to make predictions and ask questions. Have them relate to certain characters and share their feeling.

“It is your knowledge about the world and your expectations that enables you to bring life to text (Ivey, 2003).”

When reading, show them how to bring the story to life! Read with inflection, add some different voices and accents to give characters individualness. Move around while reading, let your facial expression and gestures represent the characters. In a world of constant action and 3D images, we need to teach reading so it pops off the page.

“fit of the read aloud in the curriculum…teachers should match read-aloud texts to curriculum goals and consider how the book fits into the unit being studied. Developing connections across books makes learning more connected and meaningful. “ (Lane & Wright, 2007).

Time

               Time

                            Time

We only have so much of it. When looking for instructional goal that you want students to get out of a reading, look into how you can integrate a book with other subjects. If you are studying a unit on Indians, read a book with the class like Sign of the Beaver. Instead of trying to fit a read aloud in separately, have it fit with curriculum so it becomes a further extension to the learning. Learning becomes meaningful. If students enjoy the book, they may be further interested at the subject at hand and choose to seek out other stories about the same subject. We want students to make connections in what they  learn to other subjects as well as  in life.

I do a lot of my homework at my front desk job. There is usually time for me to read articles, books, and write some of my responses. That being said, my coworkers (none who are education majors) are use to seeing me reading children’s literature. I hadn’t had the opportunity to skype with my nephew recently, and not having a classroom limited my chances of practicing a read aloud for this assignment.

So I brought ‘I Broke My Trunk’ By Mo Willems to work with me, and read it to my coworker and manager 🙂 Well, it started with me reading to my coworker (a 30 plus male) and my manager came around the corner to see what we were doing. Needless to say, they actually enjoyed listening to the story! My coworker made predictions to what was going to happen as I read and everything. I was surprised how much fun it was to read aloud to an adult, and how these two adult men actually paid attention haha

That being said, I really enjoyed ‘I Broke My Trunk’. Not a difficult read, but I thought it was interesting enough to hold even intermediate aged learners attention. This book would be a great way to teach a class about making predictions. It also would be a good way to introduce a writing activity on how to tell a story. The Elephant’s facial expressions and gestures as he tells his story fit perfectly and would be a great way to show students how to do the same thing when they read aloud or tell a story on there own.

At the beginning of the semester, I ordered all of my books and anxiously awaited there arrival. Once I received them, I knew that out of all of them Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book would take the longest to read. I hate feeling like I am wasting time doing certain tasks, which is why I LOVE listening to audiobooks. They allow me to work on something menial while engaging my brain in a story I otherwise might not have time to read. I like to listen to audiobooks usually while I drive, during certain workouts, or other activities that might engage my hands but not my mind. So in anticipation for needing to find time to read The Graveyard Book, I downloaded the audiobook version read by Neil Gaiman. The best part about it, is I listened to the  whole book before realizing the assignment in connection with the book was all on read alouds!

I could probably spend pages discussing the awesomeness of Neil Gaiman (seriously Stardust is one of my favorite books and movies; had to watch it the other day just because I had Neil Gaiman on my mind). But I will try to keep it brief 🙂

In all of my reading history, I do not recall reading a book quite like The Graveyard Book. Just the name I think strikes interest for the reader. What little boy, or adventurous girl, wouldn’t want to read a book about a graveyard. Overall, the book has such a dark theme overall, yet Gaiman is able to weave a story that is about friendship, family and growing up in one of the most touching ways I have ever read. I wanted to be a part of his graveyard family. I admit to having teared up towards the end as I realized he was to old to stay in the graveyard and his friends and family were fading from him. In the same way I was happy for the new life Nobody Owens was about the embarq on.

“But between now  and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with his eyes and his heart wide open.”

Again, I could spend so much time delving into the intristic plot and fascinating and multidimensional characters, but for now I will focus on using The Graveyard book as a read aloud. In listening to Neil Gaiman read the book on audio as well as watching him read it on video, I was able to develop a better sense of the characters.

His usage of accents for instance helped give a sense of background to a character without actually talking about it directly. Just listening to the Sleer as he spoke sent chills up my spine. Scarlett’s scottish lilt gave definition to where she grew up. When Silas was speaking, you lisened.

When you read aloud, most people read using there normal voice. But in that way you give no distinction between each character. I classify an audiobook as being good if I can tell which character is speaking just by the readers tone. I am always impressed by a good audio readers ability to create distinct voices for each character, especially a character of a different gender.

For me, not being from the UK, it is difficult for me to picture what I think some of the characters voices may sound like. Even if I can recreate their voices in my head, reading aloud using a Scottish or British accent is very difficult for me, well at least maintaining the same accent for a character taht way. Listening to Gaiman read gave me an idea of what the characters sound like which enabled them to become more alive for me. To me, I felt the setting of the story was important to the reader. Understanding that this story

After learning a lttle more on read alouds, and having the chance to observe Neil Gaiman read his story I would like to work on my ability to use different voices when I read. I have always been good at reading aloud that was engaging to those listening, but I want to make the experience even better.

Works Cited

Fisher, D., Flood, J., Lapp, D., & Frey, N. (2004). Interactive read-alouds: Is there a common set of implementation practices?. The reading teacher, 58(1), 8-17.

Ivey, G. (2003). The intermediate grades: The teacher makes it more explainable and other reasons to read aloud in the intermediate grades. The reading teacher, 56(8), 812-814.

Lane, H. B., & Wright, T. L. (2007). Maximizing the effectiveness of reading aloud. The Reading Teacher, 60(7), 668-675.

Gaimen, N. (2008). The graveyard book. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Willems, M. (2011). I broke my trunk. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.

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Responses

  1. Elizabeth,
    I read aloud The Westing Game to a group of 5th graders and they LOVED it! I think that you are well on your way to having a positive read aloud experience when you finally have a class of your own. Thank you for sharing about you Skype experience for read aloud time with you nephew!
    Elizabeth A

  2. Elizabeth,

    Thank you for sharing the experience with your nephew. I saw those recordable books this last Christmas and thought they made wonderful gift ideas. I also love to read aloud, and I believe that our passion for reading aloud, combined with the knowledge of the benefits of read-alouds,will help us to have a successful read-aloud experience when we get our own classrooms.

    Lisa Beach


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