Friday, January 9, 2015

Embrace Reading Aloud – No Matter Your Child’s Age!

Reading aloud to students often gets lost when we teach reading due to  time consuming directives teachers receive (sometimes it seems daily) to prepare our students for testing, Common Core, and polar vortexes, to name a few.

But reading aloud to our students (and you to your children) is SO important. During read alouds, we share the emotion, excitement, suspense, and the fun of a new story. Read alouds have a profound impact on the success of a student. During read alouds, students internalize language and structures that they can apply to their own reading. Follow-up discussions help students develop background knowledge, build vocabulary and connect concepts. Building vocabulary is a critical way for students to become better readers.
One of my challenges during the read aloud time has been keeping the kids focused on the story.  Because it is hard to sit doing nothing but listen for 15 or 20 minutes, I used to let my kids draw during a read aloud. But sometimes a child would become lost in the drawing and forget about the story.

Now here’s my EUREKA moment!!!! During our professional development in December, I learned how another teacher handles his class read alouds, and it has had an amazing impact on my class read alouds! He buys the Kindle edition and projects it on his Smartboard.  The students sit on the ground in front of the board, and read the book while listening to the teacher read aloud.  I was skeptical my students would read along on the board but I was wrong.
This practice has been amazing for focus and vocabulary building in my class.  While I read, I pause and define words I feel some may not know.  The kids laugh at appropriate places, question when they don’t understand something, gasp at turns the story is taking, and best of all, beg me to continue reading when it’s time to stop.  One student, who has trouble focusing for longer periods, stated she was glad when I stopped and several kids turned to her and said “Why? This is the best story!”

I really think this way of reading aloud is going to be a great vocabulary enhancer.  Sometimes, when a student sees a word, they don’t recognize that they know it because the word is spelled differently than they expected.  An example of this was when a character named Sean was introduced.  When I said the name, several students said “Mrs. Raci, that word is ‘seen’, you’re saying it wrong.” We had a brief discussion on names, and moved on.
As important as read alouds are in the classroom, reading aloud at home is also a great way to help your child become an excellent life-long learner. Parents often read aloud to their younger children, but as kids grow older and electronic devices take over more of their time, that practice fades.  Start it up again! It may seem awkward at first, but give it a try.  You can take turns reading pages or chapters. Don’t make it a chore by quizzing or insisting on long discussions, just have fun with it. Another great way to facilitate read alouds is to get a book on CD from the library, and listen to it while taking longer car rides.

Remember the words of Dr. Seuss: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”

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