The power of good storytelling, also known as a read-aloud, is about you, the teacher, joyfully and deliberately modeling a love for reading with your students. Read-aloud sessions can vary in length (anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes) and content, but the goal is the same: to demonstrate a passion for reading with your students. Here are strategies you can use to get the most out of your read alouds and to develop passionate, lifelong readers:
Vary the Stories.
Pick a variety of stories at different reading levels. Try to find fiction and non-fiction stories, articles, and poems that appeal to the varied interests of your students. You can also select readings that connect to what you are learning about in your class. For a great read-aloud resource, visit Read Aloud America.
Plan for Reading Aloud.
Read the text ahead of time and make a plan based on the needs of your students. Ask yourself how students will relate to the text. What types of discussions will this text encourage? How does this text relate to the other topics/lessons your students are learning? How can you use this read aloud to extend your students’ learning? Create a list of questions you will ask students as you work through the text.
Create a Booktalk.
According to Scholastic.com, “Booktalking is one of the most effective ways to get kids reading.” It can also be used to get your students interested in read alouds. Booktalks give students a tidbit of information about a text, and then ask them a question that will invite them into the story and heighten their interest in learning more. A shortened example of a booktalk is, “Sarah is the shortest girl in her school. She would do anything to grow faster. What do you think Sarah will do to try to make herself taller?”To get students interested in a story without giving away too much of the plot, you can also share the title of the text and ask your students to make predictions based on the title.
Be a Reading Role Model.
Read-aloud sessions provide you with an opportunity to model your thought process as you read and to encourage your students to think as they read, not just sound out words. While you are reading, model your thinking by pausing and stating your thoughts and/or questions. By acting as a role model, you will help your students develop awareness and reading comprehension skills. Your questions may sound something like this:
“Hmm, I wonder why Sarah decided to go there. What do you think?”
“Why is Sarah doing this?”
“I have a feeling the author wants the reader to see/think/feel… What do you think?”
“This part reminds me of something that happened in my life. Does this remind you of anything that has happened in yours?”You can also refer to the list of questions/discussion topics you created in your read-aloud planning (Step 2). Students learn by example, so when you are engaged and having fun with the stories you read, your students will also become interested and engaged in them. Students will become eager for your pauses, so that they can also share their thoughts and predications about what will happen next in the story, which brings us to Step 5.
Encourage Students to Speak Up.
Encourage your students to share their thinking aloud. When you pause, allow time for your students to say what is on their minds. You can also prompt your students by asking them what they are thinking. To encourage students to share their thoughts, post a chart of conversation starters in your reading area, such as:
“This part reminds me of…”
“I can’t believe…”
“I connect with…”
“If that happened to me…”
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In the beginning of the year, your students may look to you to guide the read-aloud discussion, but given time and practice, they will begin to engage in the dialogue by responding to and piggy-backing off of each other’s thoughts. As students become more comfortable with each other and your read-aloud sessions throughout the year, they will even begin to ask each other questions and independently engage in the discussion. At this point, your role shifts to that of a facilitator: observing, guiding, and monitoring the conversations.
Effective and engaging read-aloud sessions give students the opportunity to voice their opinions and observations, to broaden their thinking, and to actually become a part of the stories.