Sunday, November 8, 2009

Reading Loud with Today's Children - The Technique of EIR

Did you know that reading aloud has the potential to be the greatest instructional tool in your teacher's toolbox?  It connects to more levels of learning than any other single activity you can do in your classroom today (according to the landmark report, Becoming A Nation of Readers.  And it helps students see how the strategies and ideas they are learning in the skill-based instruction you provide apply to real reading.  Here are just a few of the benefits:

Exposes students to a richer vocabulary than they may encounter in leveled text (they can often understand up to two years higher in their listening vocabulary than in their own reading vocabulary levels.  You can learn more about this in Reading and Vocabulary Development from The Journal of Instructional Psychology)

Stretches and expands the number of words a child knows

Develops a strong concepts of story and how print works

Demonstrates proper grammar and sentence structure and exposes students to more complex levels than they can manage independently in print.

Exposes students to a variety of different types of stories, informational text and rich literature

Reinforces letter sounds and blending sounds into words (essentials in how our language works in print)

Gives opportunities for students to practice prediction and the order or sequence of stories and learn to evaluate together the validity of predictions as one moves through text

Builds background knowledge

Strengthens listening skills and the ability to understand what they hear

Puts a strong model of fluency (and thinking) in front of children

Encourages higher level thinking while freeing the brain to concentrate solely on understanding the story without the "burdens" of fluency and decoding.

Increases attention span

Builds excitement about learning and reading.

I expect you can find even more connections to your standards and those outlined by a joint listing from the International Reading Association and the National Council for Teachers of English in this simple activity.  When you give students a daily diet of read alouds, especially the Engaged Interactive type, you set a class culture, you layer and support the instruction you do at other times in the day and you promote motivation, as essential a component as the sub-skills we teach if we are to create lifelong readers.

"The truth is, if we can't find time for anything else, we should find time for reading aloud," says nationally  board certified Master Reading Teacher, Lisa Frase.   I couldn't agree more!

Now you are ready to try an EIR in your classroom:

Choose 5-10 minutes (write it in your lesson plan or it gets squeezed out)

Preview the text to look for those connections to your standards, your goals for learning in your classroom.  Look for places that are natural opportunities for you to split open your brain to show students what is going on when you:

question - especially "how" and "why" questions
think, wonder and ponder
pay attention to context clues to understand vocabulary

Take time to explain what you are doing in quick interjections into the storyline.  It may take you a few times to fine-tune the balance between insertions and moving the story along but today's students are used to a back and forth, multi-tasking, quick approach.  EIR fits that to a T.  It may take a bit more practice on your part if you are used to "sit still and listen" read alouds.  Your students can tell you when the fit and balance are correct by their level of engagement.

To learn more about how to select the right books for this type of read aloud, contact me at


Remember when you are planning to deliver an EIR, that it's easy for mature readers to rely on the automaticity with which we use these strategies.  However, those readers who are still growing need explicit examples of how to apply those strategies in real reading situations.  Dr. Michael Pressley speaks to that in his chapter in the Handbook of Reading Research (check out particularly the segment on "what comprehension instruction could be).  EIR gives them that!


How does this compare to the reading aloud you do in your classroom?  Has the strict scripting of reading programs and tightly scheduled dates given you the mistaken idea that you don't have time for reading aloud with students?  I'd love to hear questions and comments about what is happening in your school.