Click play below to hear 3 tips to maximize your read alouds:
Being an elementary teacher, you know the importance that is put on read alouds in your classroom. Read alouds have so many benefits, such as fostering a love of literacy and a connection to real life events and situations. However, getting the most out of them can be difficult. So before you jump into them this school year, I’m sharing 3 tips you can use to maximize your read alouds.
If you’re anything like me, I was incorporating read alouds into my daily routine, but I wasn’t confident in the effectiveness they could have. That’s when I started to maximize my read alouds with specific strategies. Each of these 3 tips shows students how literacy goes beyond the classroom, exposes them to new interests, and how reading can be enjoyable.
Bottom line, reading is important, and reading to your students is even more important. Read alouds helps build a community of readers and learners, along with so many other benefits. So instead of going through the motions, use these 3 tips to be intentional and start to maximize your read alouds this school year.
In this episode on how to maximize your read alouds, I share:
- How reading a variety of genres aligns with the science of reading
- A simple framework to use with your students before, during, and after reading
- Ways to incorporate more fun read alouds throughout your day
- How to gain more confidence and intentional when conducting read alouds
- Why read alouds help with all literacy skills, not just comprehension
- Sign up for my Private Podcast: Confident Writer Systems Series
- Check out the Stellar Literacy Collective Membership
- Free Literacy Block Workshop
- If you’re enjoying this podcast, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts!
Related episodes and blog posts:
- Episode 42, Pernille Ripp on Engaging and Empowering Students With the Global Read Aloud
- Episode 31, Why We Should Intentionally Teach Reading Genres
- Episode 28, How to Find MORE Time to Read Aloud For Fun Every Day
- 7 Ways to Make MORE Time to Read Aloud for Fun Every Day
- Master the Art of Sentence Deconstruction: Unleash Your Student’s Reading Power
Connect with me:
More About Stellar Teacher Podcast:
Welcome to the Stellar Teacher Podcast! We believe teaching literacy is a skill. It takes a lot of time, practice, and effort to be good at it. This podcast will show you how to level up your literacy instruction and make a massive impact with your students, all while having a little fun!
Your host, Sara Marye, is a literacy specialist passionate about helping elementary teachers around the world pass on their love of reading to their students. She has over a decade of experience working as a classroom teacher and school administrator. Sara has made it her mission to create high-quality no-fluff resources and lesson ideas that are both meaningful and engaging for young readers.
Each week, Sara and her guests will share their knowledge, tips, and tricks so that you can feel confident in your ability to transform your students into life-long readers.
Hey, there and welcome back to a another episode. I’m your host, Sarah Marye. And I just love starting off your Monday morning with you or Tuesday, Wednesday whenever you tune in, but I am so grateful that you tune in each week. And I look forward to putting together these podcast episodes. And I really think about the teachers who are listening to them. And I hope that you find them helpful.
Today, I hope you find today’s episode specifically helpful. We’re going to talk about a topic that I loved talking about when I was in the classroom. I loved doing this when I was in the classroom. But I also often wondered if I was doing it correctly. Or if there’s a way that I could make it more effective. And that has to do with the read aloud. So today we’re going to talk all about the read aloud.
And when I was in the classroom, so I was a fourth grade classroom teacher for many years, I also taught first grade and second grade and really kind of both in lower elementary and upper elementary, I always heard that reading aloud to your students was important. And I knew it is something that I should be doing every single day. And I knew I should be reading from a variety of books.
But I also often found myself finishing a read aloud and wondering if I actually made the most of that time. You know, it’s like, wait a minute, did I really connect it to as many skills as I could have? Could we have done something better during that time? Did I prepare the right questions? Am I focusing on the right things?
I think especially when I first started, I was like, okay, is all that there is to this is reading aloud to my students and asking questions. I felt like there was something that maybe was missing from my read aloud experience to my students. But like I said, I also knew that it was important and something that I needed to be doing. So of course, I stuck with it.
And the reality of it is is that reading aloud is important for our students, it definitely is something that we want to do. And there are very specific things that you can do to really leverage and maximize your read aloud experience.
And so today, I’ve got three tips that I’m going to share with you that are hopefully going to help you feel a lot more confident about how you handle your read aloud with your students. And these tips apply whether you choose to read picture books, chapter books, articles, passages, whatever you are reading, these tips can apply to it. So we’re gonna go ahead and jump right in.
Now my first tip, this may be one of my favorites because it is connected to one of my favorite reading topics, which is to read from a variety of genres. Now, reading from a variety of genres is really great for a variety of reasons. And it is definitely something that we want to be intentional about when we are planning our read alouds.
Now first of all, when we read from a variety of genres, it helps students to identify their personal reading preferences, and it helps them figure out the types of books that they enjoy listening to, the types of books that they enjoy reading, the ones that they feel most confident in understanding which are things that we want. It also gives students an opportunity to apply their reading and their literacy learning to a variety of texts.
I think sometimes we can get stuck in this, especially in upper elementary, I know the pressures of testing exist even from the beginning of the year. And sometimes we can get stuck with this idea of we got to prepare for the test. So we’re gonna go from fiction to nonfiction, and we’re going to focus just on the standards.
But the reality of it is is when students are learning, you know, skills like summarizing and identifying theme, those can apply to fiction, they can apply to poetry, they can apply to drama, they can apply to a variety of styles of texts. And so we don’t want students to be limited in how they’re applying their new learning.
But I think one of the most important reasons why reading a variety of genres is important is because it actually aligns with the science of reading. And it is one of those really simple and easy things that we can do to align our instruction with the science of reading.
And how it connects is through Scarborough’s reading rope. Which if you’ve listened to my science of reading summer series, then you heard me talk about that in every episode. But Scarborough’s reading rope has two different strands, the word recognition strand and the language comprehension strand and one of the sub elements in the language comprehension strand is having literacy knowledge.
So in order for our students to become skilled readers, they need to have literacy knowledge. And part of developing and increasing your literacy knowledge is understanding the different attributes and elements of genre. So when you read your students from a variety of genres, you are actually aligning your instruction with the science of reading. And you’re also giving your students another tool or skill that is going to help them become a stronger reader.
So some of the things that you can do to help yourself remember to read a variety of genres, because I remember when I was in the classroom, I was like, wait a minute, I really am reading a lot of realistic fiction to my students, both in picture books and chapter books. And I think part of it was is because those are the types of books that I enjoyed reading.
But it took kind of some effort and awareness for me to be much more intentional about reading different genres for my students, because we want to read things like historical fiction and fantasy and mystery and informational texts, and biographies and poetry and traditional literature, and the list could go on. But we want to make sure that we are exposing our students to all of these different genres.
So a couple things that you could do are, first of all, just keep a list of the genres that you read each month. So wherever you sort of track your read alouds, and this is even something that you could write on your whiteboard, you could just write the title, and then categorize the genre. And this is something that you can have a discussion and a conversation with, with your students, just to see what types of texts are you reading. So keep a list and then just be intentional about trying to cover three to five different genres each month.
You could also be really specific and you could do a different genre study each month. So you could say, Okay, for the month of September, we’re really going to study, you know, biographies. In October, we’re going to dig into fantasy. In November, we’re going to look at historical fiction, or however you want to break it up. But be intentional about studying a different genre each month of the year.
The other thing that you can do, and this is, I think, just great for a variety of reasons, but incorporate paired readings into your literacy block. So for example, maybe you’re reading a historical fiction novel, about westward expansion, World War Two, some topic that your students are learning about, and you are working your way through a chapter book.
Well, while you’re reading that chapter book that is a historical fiction book, you’re going to try to find informational texts on the same topic, maybe you’re going to look for a poem related to that topic, maybe you’re going to try to find a biography about somebody who lived during that time period. And while you’re working your way through this specific novel, that’s a historical fiction, you’re going to try to intentionally expose your students to two to three other genres that are related to that topic.
So students are going to, you know, be learning about the topic through multiple genres, which helps just for a variety of their, you know, it helps build background knowledge, it helps them develop a stronger understanding of the topic, but they’re also learning through a variety of genres. And some students honestly gravitate towards different genres. And they might be more invested in that topic, because you’re giving them an opportunity to learn about it through a different genre lens.
Like I said, we want to be intentional about reading a variety of genres. And I think this is something that teachers actually do pretty well, at the start of the year. You know, I know a lot of teachers will sort of do an overall genre unit, when the year begins, they’ll introduce their students to you know, all the different genres when they’re introducing their classroom library.
But what we want to do is, after we introduce the different genres, we don’t want to stop the conversation there. We want to be intentional about continuously incorporating a wide range of genres into our read alouds throughout the year. So that’s your first tip to make sure that you are really leveraging and maximizing your read aloud.
The second tip I have for you, is to use a read aloud routine to maximize your read aloud time. And like I said, reading aloud is probably something that you already are doing with your students, or you’re going to be doing with your students.
And since it’s a daily thing, you know, we want to be intentional about putting some structures or some frameworks in place to make sure that we’re maximizing it.
And like I said, at the beginning of this episode, I remember when I was in the classroom, I would read aloud, and I remember sitting in on a professional development training, and they talked about how anytime we read a text to our students, we need to preview it ahead of time. We need to take sticky notes and plan out where we’re going to ask questions and what we’re going to connect to. And I agree with that. I think that’s great. That’s a good strategy to have to prepare for your read aloud.
But the reality of it is is sometimes teachers don’t have enough time to read every single text and to prepare a you know, really intentional read aloud before they read it with their students. You know, if you’re doing a couple of read alouds throughout the day or even throughout the week, you probably don’t have 30-40-50 extra minutes to pre read ask those questions prep. So you want to put some routines in place that will still help you maximize your read aloud time, even if you don’t have time to preview the book.
And so one of the things that you can do is use what I like to call a three two one routine. And you can come up with three two one routines for pretty much everything. It’s just an easy framework to help you remember things.
But I put this together to help tie in a variety of literacy skills, because the other thing that we know from learning about the science of reading is that in order for our students to be strong, comprehenders of the text, we need to focus on a wide range of literacy skills. So it’s not just about comprehension skills, it’s also about vocabulary and sentence structure and background knowledge and literacy knowledge. And so we want to be intentional about corporate incorporating those into our read aloud.
So you can do this three two one routine for any text that you are reading. And basically what it is, is there are three things that you want to do before you start reading, there are two things that you want to do while you are reading, and then there’s one thing that you want to be intentional about after your reading.
So, before your reading, there are three things that you can really do to help just prep your students for a strong and engaged read aloud session. And the first one is to activate and build background knowledge. And this is just going to help students, you know, warm up their brains access any prior knowledge that they have. But you’re also going to be intentional about giving them information or details that might help them understand the text even better.
So maybe you do a quick KWL chart, maybe you show them pictures, or an artifact that is related to the text, you know, maybe you show them some of the pictures in the story, or you find real images that are connected. You know, maybe you even just connect it to previous chapters. If you’re working through a chapter book, you spend some time and you connect it to what has previously happened, and help them get warmed up for the reading experience. So that’s the first thing that you want to do before your reading.
The second thing you want to do is to focus on key vocabulary words. We know that vocabulary plays such an important part in the comprehension process. And students need to be able to understand 90 to 95% of the words that they read in order to understand the text. And even if they’re listening to a story, they need to have an understanding of the words. So we want to be intentional about discussing vocabulary before we are reading.
So this might look like identifying one to two key vocabulary words in the text. But it also might look like pulling out some key word study concepts and connecting those to your read aloud experience. So maybe you pull out some words that have a prefix or a suffix or a route that you’ve studied. And you break down the meaning of those words with the word parts and then talk about how we’re going to see those words in the text that we’re reading. So focusing on vocabulary is another thing that you can do before you start reading.
And then the third thing that you want to do is to preview and identify the text structure. Now whether the book is fiction or nonfiction, it is going to have some sort of text structure. And text structure simply refers to the organization of the text how a text is organized. And text structure is really great for our students to understand because it serves as a roadmap for our understanding.
You know what let students sort of know and anticipate the information or the details that are coming up in a text. And it doesn’t take a long time, you don’t need to do a full blown text structure lesson with every read aloud. But you do want to take you know 30 seconds to quickly preview the text structure and let students know what to expect.
So it might sound something like today, we’re going to read a fictional story about a girl who’s trying to make friends at a new school, our story is going to follow the traditional story mountain and have the basic elements of plot. So in the beginning, we’re going to meet the characters, we’re going to be introduced to the setting. And then we’re going to learn a little bit about what the girl’s main challenge or problem is. And if you even want to share what that is, you can you know, and then after that, we’re going to hear a few of the ways that this girl tries to solve her problems. And then so on and so on.
So you’re basically just walking them through the events and the details that they’re going to experience in the text because that’s going to sort of give their brain something to pay attention to. It’s like okay, I know that this is what the story is gonna be about. I know the order of events that I’m going to be reading. And it’s going to be easier for them to understand the important details because they have an understanding of the organization of the events in the text. So preview the text structure, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.
So those are the three things that you want to do before you’re reading, activate background knowledge, focus on vocabulary, and then preview text structure and none of those things need to take a crazy amount of time, you can do them all in, you know, 30 seconds or less. So we’re talking a minute and a half before you start reading.
And then two things that you want to do while you are reading. One of them, which I think is so important, and something that we probably don’t do enough of, is to practice sentence deconstruction.
So what this would look like is, as you’re reading, you come across a sentence in the text. And maybe it’s a sentence that is either really complex and has some details that your students might miss. Or maybe it’s a sentence that is really important to the overall understanding of the text. And you’re gonna pause, and you’re gonna break down that sentence with your students. So students understand the structure of that sentence.
So they can, you know, understand that it’s a compound sentence, or they understand it’s a complex sentence, they can identify the adjectives and the adverbs that give us details that are sort of extra information. And ultimately, they can break down that sentence into the most important details, which are just the noun phrase, and the verb phrase, or the subject and the predicate. So they know the core idea.
Taking some time to do sentence deconstruction really helps. I know. And a lot of the books that I’ve read recently about the science of reading, they talk about how comprehension begins at the sentence level, but we often don’t take enough time to discuss understanding of single sentences. So that is a great thing to do while you’re reading.
And then the second thing that you can do while you’re reading, is to be really intentional about spiraling through previously taught reading skills, especially this is going to be a little bit more relevant when you get to like November or December. And it’s been a few months, since you focused on character analysis, or point of view, or author’s purpose or whatever you taught.
But you want to be aware of okay, what did I teach earlier in the year? And can I bring that conversation back up through this text to remind my students so that way, we don’t forget what it is that we’ve previously taught? So just asking a comprehension question or two, related to something that you’ve previously taught is a great way to maximize your read aloud experience.
And then after reading, you want to give students some sort of reading response. And this could be oral, it could be written, it could be a long response, it could be a short response, you know, a lot of that is going to depend on how much time you have. But you could even have students just do a quick turn and talk and summarize the text, or share their favorite part or share something that was surprising.
You know, you could also give students a written response. And it could be as simple as giving them a sticky note, and have them summarize the text in 10 words or less. Or you could even give them a graphic organizer that they’re going to fill out based off of the read aloud that you gave to them. But we want them to be reflecting on what they listened to and what they heard, and really working on applying those comprehension skills. So that’s the one thing that you can have them do after reading.
Now, this routine is great, like I said, because it gives you without having to do a lot of planning and prep work ahead of time. It reminds you of really key reading elements that we want to be intentional about focusing on with our students. Vocabulary, text structure, sentence structure, these things are things that we want to continuously come back to. And when you have a routine that reminds you of the three, two and one, you’re going to be much more likely to bring those things up into your conversation.
Now, with all routines, you want to make sure that you make it work for you and your students. So depending on how much time you have, or depending on the type of book that you’re reading, you might realize that this routine works for you to do daily. And whenever you’re doing an academic read aloud, you can put this routine in place.
Maybe this is routine that you do weekly. And on Monday, you do the three things before, you know then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, you work on the during the sentence deconstruction in the spiral, and then on Friday, you do the reading response to after reading. So you know really realizing that this routine is something that you can modify and adjust to make work for you.
But the whole point of having this routine is to remind you that we want to focus on a wide range of literacy skills every time we read, rather than just asking general or generic comprehension questions. So that’s the second tip, which is to use a routine to maximize your read aloud.
And then the third one is don’t forget to read for fun. Like I said, it’s important that we read from a variety of genres. And it’s important that we cover a wide range of literacy skills like we just talked about in the three to one routine. But we also want to make sure that we are making time to read to our students just for fun with no strings attached.
So there’s going to be no hidden agenda, no specific objective, it is just going to be an opportunity for you to connect with your students over a story. And I know it can be hard to try to find time to read aloud just for fun, especially because we usually feel like we are crunched for time. But there are so many benefits of reading aloud to our students just for fun.
I think one of the best ones is that it is a good brain break for you and your students, you know, it’s a chance for them just to take a deep breath and relax and enjoy a story. But it also helps build a community that is centered around literacy and around books. Reading aloud for fun can also spark students curiosity and their interest.
And I think it also helps students recognize that literacy isn’t just about academics, literacy is a part of life reading and writing is something that we do even beyond, you know, trying to master the standards. And also it can be enjoyable. You know, we want our students to enjoy hearing stories and talking about stories.
So a few things that you can do to just help you and your students make more time to read for fun, is, first of all use it as a reward. My students loved being read to and they knew that if we finished a lesson early, or if we made it through a subject, and were really on task that we would have extra time, and part of that time could be spent as reading aloud, so use it as a reward.
But also you can use it to start and end your day. We tried to incorporate a read aloud into our morning meeting. And then I also would use a read aloud at the end of the day. So while my students would be packing up their backpacks, and you know, writing homework in their agenda, and getting ready for the end of the day, they would be quietly moving around the room. And I would be reading aloud from either a picture book or a chapter book.
And it worked great because my students wanted to hear the story. So while they were multitasking and getting their assignments ready to go and packing up, they were quiet, they were slow. And when they were finished, they would come sit on the carpet to hear the rest of the story. So it was a great classroom management strategy as well. So really think about how can you build in read alouds into the parts of your day where your students might have a longer transition time.
Okay, so let’s recap. If you really want to rock your read aloud this year, and you want to just make it the best part of your day and also really effective, there are three things that you can do.
First, read from a variety of genres. Second, use a routine like the three to one that I shared in this episode to really maximize your read aloud time, especially when it’s an academic read aloud. And then three, prioritize reading aloud for fun sometime during the week. Ideally, this is something you can do every day. But if it’s hard to get it in every day, try to read aloud for fun sometime during the week.
So I hope you found this episode helpful. I hope that it is getting you excited for just a really fun and enjoyableyYear of reading aloud with your students. And I know so many teachers are getting ready to go back or you’re already back. And so just know that we are cheering you on as you get ready to start the school year.
And I have one quick request before we wrap up this episode. Now if you have been a longtime listener of the podcast, or even if you just found us today, but you enjoyed the episode, would you please consider sharing this podcast with another teacher friend.
We really want to be able to help as many teachers as we can through the content that we share on this podcast. And we continuously hear from teachers how helpful they find it, how encouraging they find it, how they get so many practical ideas with it. And so we want this podcast to help so many more teachers. And we have found that one of the best ways to spread the word is by word of mouth recommendations.
So if you wouldn’t mind, you know, text this episode to a teacher friend. let your team know about it. Even share this podcast with your principal and have them share it with your school. Or if you have a social media account, consider sharing that on social media. But if you would be willing to tell another teacher friend about the podcast that would be super helpful and would just mean the world to me.
So like I said, I hope that you are just getting so excited for this new upcoming school year. It is filled with new beginnings and we are excited for you. I hope you have a wonderful week and we look forward to seeing you back here next Monday.