Friday, September 11, 2009

Reinventing the Read Aloud

Engaged Interactive Read Aloud is the best way to connect with Facebook savvy, blogging, and texting students because it mirrors that same quick, back and forth interaction, while embedding strong examples of what our brains do when we as mature readers read. I've been developing the technique for years, based on research from great thinkers like John H. Guthrie, Catherine Snow, Marilyn Adams, and S.J. Barrentine.

It takes enthusiasm, familiarity with the text, and a willingness to expose your thinking process to your students but the great news is it works with K-12th graders. And it doesn't take much time but a daily dose of even 5 minutes can make a tremendous difference in the comprehension skills of your students. That will bring a return in higher test scores, stronger reading skills and thinking students.

There's not space here to explain the entire process but here's a taste.

Step 1: Share a purpose for reading this text aloud with students. It doesn't have to be your entire purpose because your focus for them is engagement, hooking them in. However, you do want to set the stage.

Step 2: Have students predict, talk about what they know about the subject matter, prime the pump for the new information they will gain. Make sure that you do this, not in a strictly instructional way, but conversationally. Remember that you want them hungry for read aloud so you have to be a great commercial for it.

Step 3: Read from the text, explaining out loud (and using whiteboards and other tools ready at hand to illustrate) what your brain is doing as you read the first line or two. It might be an explanation of how you decoded a difficult word (make that a joint exercise - "how did I figure that out?"), it might be an illustration of how you took what you already knew to make sense of the author's statement. It might be raising a question that you want to remember as you continue to read. It might be just a wondering, pondering moment in which you think about the meaning behind the text, in many layers.

Get the idea? Remember you have to be as much a teacher as an entertainer as an enthusiastic and passionate deliverer. Try this new version of read aloud in your classroom tomorrow and let me know how it goes!

My in-service trainings this year will be concentrating on this technique which can be taught to not only professional educators but also librarians, paraprofessionals and parents. We all need to be on the literacy team.

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