Need to Know
- Read alouds continue to be an essential component of literacy instruction and have the power to build fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and a love of reading in students.
- Maximizing the benefits of read alouds requires thoughtful planning and high-quality read aloud resources.
A Closer Look
The Commission on Reading has said that the “single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” This likely comes as no surprise, given that many educators themselves remember the joy they felt when sitting on their own teachers’ classroom carpets immersed in the magic of a read aloud. However, not all read alouds are created equally, and they require far more than simply grabbing a book out of your library shelves and reading out loud to students. High-impact read alouds need intentional planning and execution in order to best engage students and improve literacy development. When done thoughtfully, read alouds significantly extend student comprehension and accelerate vocabulary acquisition, proving particularly helpful for English Language Learners and struggling readers. Read on for five strategies to amplify the impact of your read alouds.
5 Ways to Make the Most of Read Alouds
- Identify opportunities for student voice and choice. According to Robert Marzano and many other education experts, providing students with choices increases intrinsic motivation, effort, and performance. This concept certainly applies in planning your read alouds. Ask students to pose their own questions, provide flexibility in the ways students can represent their understanding of a text, and gather student input on the types of texts they love. Excite Reading™ from Learning Ally provides students with a vast library of high-quality eBooks read by human narrators, giving students the power to choose their own read aloud adventure, whether at home or at school. Perfect for whole class instruction, small groups, or intervention, this program meets the needs of diverse learners.
- Take care with text selection. The first criterion of any high-impact read aloud is selecting a worthy text. Multiple criteria should be considered during text selection.
- Reading level: Select a text that is beyond students’ independent reading level. This helps expose students to more sophisticated vocabulary and syntax.
- Cultural relevance: Connect text selection to the identities of your students. This elevates interest in a text, supports building a love of reading, and exposes students to unique perspectives that help cultivate global citizenship, empathy, and belonging. Check out this list of ten children’s books that highlight different cultures.
- Content connection: Select texts that connect to content students are learning in other parts of the day. More on this below.
- Connect read alouds to other content areas. When examining your social studies, science, or arts units, identify opportunities to connect a worthy read aloud to instruction. By integrating these connective threads, students strengthen background knowledge to support comprehension and are more likely to retain new vocabulary. Every book in the Excite Reading™ e-library is organized into thematic text sets and each comes with a comprehensive book guide that teachers can use to make cross-curricular connections, expand understanding of larger themes, and extend learning beyond the read aloud. Get your copy of a free story and book guide here!
- Enhance discussions about the text. With careful think alouds, modeling, and questions, teachers deepen students’ comprehension and equip them with stronger literacy skills moving forward. Pre-plan think alouds to model reading strategies as well as discussion questions that encourage students to think deeply about the text. Programs like Excite Reading™ take the guesswork out of planning with carefully created book guides that provide clear modeling and discussion prompts. This blog from Learning Ally explains more on the importance of strong think alouds and discussions. Further, consider rereading the same text two to three times, each time raising the rigor of your questioning to match students’ increasing comprehension.
- Preview vocabulary and weave across the day. Identify vocabulary words in read alouds that have potential to be used across other contexts and content. Before reading, introduce students to a few carefully selected words, give them the meaning, use the word in context, and cue students to listen for the word during the read aloud. During other subjects, find ways to organically use the word and encourage students to do the same. The more they can experience the word in context, the more likely they are to retain and use the word in the future. Excite Reading™ provides a menu of potential vocabulary words for each book, and educators can select the few that best meet the needs of their students and curriculum.
Try Excite Reading™ for Read Aloud Success!
Want to strengthen your read alouds but feel short on time and resources? Need tools to plan and facilitate high-quality read alouds? Excite Reading™ from Learning Ally empowers educators to make the most of each teachable moment in every story, with a special focus on developing children’s vocabulary and background knowledge. Complete with extension activities, at-home connections, and social-emotional learning support, Excite Reading™ is the supplementary literacy tool pre-K through second grade classrooms need.