March 2, 2013

Why I will Always Make Time for Read Aloud

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My first year teaching, I didn't make a ton of time for read aloud.  I remember wondering when I was possibly supposed to squeeze that in amidst the already jam-packed day.  If something was going to be cut from my lesson plans, read aloud was always first on the chopping block.  Why?  It just didn't see as important as the other 100 things on the daily to-do list.

Today, I can't imagine my classroom without read aloud.  It is one of the most special parts of my day, and I promise you this--it IS important.  In SO many different ways.   We all know that read aloud gives a great model of fluency for kids, but it does so much more than that.  I truly believe that my read aloud teaches my kiddos to fall in love with reading.  They look forward to those precious 10 minutes every day and beg me to keep reading.  Once they groaned when I had to pause the book because it was time for PE!  They cheer when the endings are happy and cry when the plot takes sad turns.  They line up at the library to put the book I'm reading aloud on hold because they love it too much to wait.  My read alouds expose kids to books that they might not ordinarily pick up on their own.
Seeing how excited this student was when reflecting on a book he probably never would have read on his own brought tears to my eyes.  Isn't teaching kids to love reading why I got into this business in the first place?

This year, I decided to use read aloud as a time to teach my kids important life lessons.  There is so much more to teaching than the content areas--we are truly playing a part in helping these little people grow up to face the world.  If I take a minute to think about the big ideas I want my students to come away from my class with, they definitely all don't have to do with reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.  I want to teach my students kindness, empathy, courage, friendship, owning their actions, honesty, and so many other things.  Read aloud is my chance to do that.  I started my year by reading Wonder, a truly amazing book with so many important themes.  While reading, I asked students to listen for examples of courage in the book.  By the end, not only did the students all understand that courage is so much more than going off the high dive, but they understand that above all other things, kindness is always the right choice.
We also read Because of Mr. Terupt this year and had some big, serious discussions about the importance of not laying blame.  When a tragedy happens in their classroom, the students in this book are quick to blame each other and blame themselves.  I repeated to the kids throughout the story, "Sometimes, when bad things happen, we look for someone to blame.  When we can't find anyone, we often blame ourselves."  This is a big idea for 8 and 9 year olds, but by the end of the book I truly felt like many of my students understood how important it is not to blame others or themselves for things that are out of their control.  They also talked seriously about how important it is to stick together in the midst of a tragedy.

Right now, we're reading The One and Only Ivan.  Vegetarian that I am, I'm doing my best not to get up on my bleeding-heart soap box preaching about the horrors of zoos and the importance of animal rights, but the book is starting some interesting conversations all on its own about kindness and living things.  I can't wait to see the deep conversations it stirs up in my little classroom.

I try to do quick writes or reading responses connected with my read alouds from time to time.  I find that my kids are able to think so deeply in their reflections sometimes, and that even my struggling readers shine.  The kids pick up on the important lessons and big ideas and are able to add their own insights in their reflections.  The kids get to practice literacy skills like metacognition, visualization, making inferences and connections, and making predictions in their reflections.  I don't often have time for them, but every time I do I find at least one kiddo who surprises me in their insights or deep thoughts.  Such a special teacher moment. :)

So, that is why no matter how intense our days become or how many new things Common Core adds to my teacher plate, I will ALWAYS make time for read aloud.  It is such a special part of our day, and there is just something about sitting so close together on the carpet enjoying a really great book that just makes our classroom community all the more close-knit.  Love it.

What are your favorite read alouds?


  1. Reading Wonder right now to my class.

  2. I agree! Read alouds a must for all classrooms! I also like to read the first book in a series to try and hook the students on a new series :)

  3. I read Wonder to my 5th grade class around November and December. We currently are reading City of Orphans by Avi. My class is loving it! One boy checked it out of the public library to read it along with me, and a girl ordered it from Barnes and Nobel. I also like to do responses after reading. We are coming close to the end of the book, and I am looking for a new book to read.

  4. I always loved it when my teachers read out loud, it was always one of my favorite parts of the day. I read to my kids very night and I love how much they look forward to it.

  5. Sometimes when I do read alouds, I notice that kids aren't paying attention or they use it as time to zone out. It's annoying. I start reading them a really good book but it never works out because they think it's nap time. We tried doing this with Holes by Louis Sachar earlier in the year. I teach middle school though. I totally understand the importance of read aloud, however. Just wish my students were more enthusiastic.

  6. I love read alouds! I use read alouds as a way to bring the kids a fuller and bigger picture understanding of our science themes. For some of the kids they totally get science in and of itself, but for some of my kids - those read alouds are their chance to get the content. Maybe its because they have something to connect it to, or because their reading on their own isn't at the level of our science texts. So its great to have that "other" chance to teach it! :)

    Plus, everything you said: Ditto!

    My favorite book I've read is something I picked up at a grocery store. Dandylion. It is a sweet story about inclusion, and it really resonated with a few my kiddos. (2nd graders)

  7. I have to admit, your post made me a bit shameful ;) I started the year off reading a great Indian Captive book and the kids really enjoyed it! As a kid, I remember it being one of my most favorite parts of the day - and I can almost remember every book we read! However, due to time I "chopped" it. Read aloud is ALL ABOUT THE BOOK - but when you find a good one, magic can happen. I do feel a bit better since I am incorporating literature discussion groups during my Guided Reading time - so kids are reading chapter books together and still enjoying rich literature. ... Thank you for re-inspiring me!


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