August 25, 2015

Teacher Stuff: My Read-Aloud Strategies

As a highly-organized and (hopefully) effective teacher, I have a book list that I choose from for my read-alouds every year.  I start every day with a read aloud.  It keeps them calm and eases them into school.  And let's face it, it's a much more enjoyable way for me to get their attention; no one likes barking orders or hearing orders barked at them.  This is the list I work from every year for 4th grade (my year in 2nd grade was different, of course) and I have grand plans to add in new books this year.  I haven't read all of these books every year; sometimes personalities don't allow certain books and/or kids don't like them. For example, the year I read Farmer Boy: I spent more time explaining things than I did reading, but the kids loved that book so it was worth it. They were a patient class and I don't think that book would work with every group of students.

Read-alouds are great because they give you teachable moments and a chance to discuss books with kids. Number the Stars, for instance, was my favorite to do that particular year because it was then that I developed my WWII for Kids lesson.  The absolute outrage the kids expressed at the Nazi slapping Mama across the face was priceless.  I still remember the cries of injustice.  It was, for lack of a better word, beautiful.

I've learned that if you don't expose kids to new books, they'll never pick those books up themselves. We all tend to stick to what we know so, even if they don't love it at first, give it a few chapters.

My Read-Aloud Strategies

1.  Let them work while they listen.  The ultimate in multi-tasking.  If you force them to sit on the floor in a circle, they're going to do stuff they're not supposed to: poking, pinching, making faces, etc.  Someone will have a toy. Someone will start arguing over a "spot" on the floor.  Give them something to do while they listen. Most districts don't really encourage the old-fashioned read-aloud anymore because it takes away from instructional time, so I do it while they're working on Morning Work for the first 10 minutes of the day.

2.  Don't force them to sit still.  If someone needs to go to the restroom or get a drink, they just go. If someone wants to read their own book, let them.  You're not quizzing them on your read aloud (unless you are).  Your job is to expose them to a new book.  You'd be surprised how much they listen when you think they're not paying attention.

3.  Don't let them talk.  It's disrespectful to you and everyone else.  I also don't let them sharpen pencils.

4.  Don't let them interrupt you.  I have a standing agreement with the class: they can go to the restroom or get a drink (one at a time) while I'm reading, but anything else can wait.  They can try to stand in front of me and start asking questions, they can try to raise their hand forever, etc, but I won't stop reading (unless there's blood or serious injury, obviously).  This takes a certain amount of tolerance on the teacher's part, but it's a habit worth adopting.  So many kids are used to running up to the teacher and just talking and most (not all) teachers will acknowledge it, answer them, indulge them, hug them, etc.  I don't because it's disruptive and they need to learn patience. I actually have a "sit" symbol and a "put your hand down" symbol so I don't have to stop what I'm saying and redirect them verbally.

5. Walk around while you read.  Proximity is the best way to squelch behaviors.

5.  Leave off at a cliffhanger.  I do this on purpose.  Nothing is sweeter to a teacher's ears than the chorus of "Noooo!" she hears when she closes the book for the day.


  1. My 4th grade teacher read Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing aloud to us and I'm pretty sure that's the only book in my entire life I've ever had someone read to ME. And to this day, almost 20 years later, I can still hear the voices she used and how she said "Peeeeeeetah" in Fudge's voice. I'm sure she's no longer with us (she was an elderly woman, then) but I thank her for taking the time to get us so interested in a book. And for being the only human to ever read a book aloud to me.

  2. Repeat: I want my daughter to have you as a teacher.

    I love that list and I'm copying it because I think the child will love some of them.

  3. You are such an awesome teacher, seriously!

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  4. I love your list! Mostly because I recognize a lot of the names and read them myself years ago.

  5. Great ideas!!! I was definitely one of those kids that would have needed something to do while being read to. I'm such a visual learner, to this day I can't stand being read to. I need to read it myself or I'll remember exactly nothing.

  6. Your books! Your strategies! Read aloud is one of my favorite parts of the day.

    I do read aloud with my K-2 right away after noon recess. It helps them to settle in when they move to my room for the afternoon.

    I love the idea of "sit" and "put your hand down" symbols!!

  7. You sound like a great teacher to me! I love your no interruption policy. My 5 year old is terrible at interrupting, and I am working with her on waiting. It is tough!

  8. Oh to have time to do a read aloud! This sounds wonderful! Life is so different in 6th grade. Once I figure out what I'm doing with this new schedule, I might need to find a way to do this.


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