Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The (lucky) 13 benefits of reading aloud to your students

Delivering reading instruction in a comprehensive model requires a balance of student and teacher responsibility.

YOU DO IT: Reading independently and working/thinking through literacy stations are both necessary parts of any balanced literacy approach. During those two components, students are completely responsible for employing the strategies and skills taught to them during whole- and small-group instruction.

WE DO IT: During the SHORT whole-group mini lesson and during guided reading, students have considerable responsibility, but the teacher is there to scaffold the experience for the students to varying degrees depending on the task and the student's unique needs.

I DO IT: The one literacy event that the teacher should continue to hold the majority of the responsibility is the sacred "READ ALOUD". This essential part of the balanced literacy model shouldn't constitute a large part of the instructional day, but it is nonetheless crucial that students be read to, regardless of their age.

To learn more about the balanced literacy model that we're using at the school in which I work, click here: Balanced Literacy Expectations.

On September 10, 2015 I participated in a Twitter Chat (#ILAchat & #GRA15) that focused on reading aloud to students. The chat, sponsored by the International Literacy Association (formerly the International Reading Association), allowed me to think about the benefits of reading aloud to students. Below are 13 benefits I was able to capture from that discussion.

Benefits of Reading Aloud

1. To allow students to focus completely on understanding the story instead of decoding the print.

2. To improve listening comprehension.

3. To read books at a higher level than what they independently can.

Reading aloud benefits everyone, especially our non- and struggling readers because it allows them to develop high-level thinking skills, even though they cannot (yet) fluently decode print. Allowing students to build these critical comprehension habits, skills and strategies is essential - even if they're not yet reading themselves, because they'll need them once they eventually break the code.

4. To build background knowledge of the concepts studied during the other parts of the day (
like in the Unit of Inquiry in a PYP school).

5. To expose students to a variety of vocabulary.

6. To kick-off a mini-lesson.

It is no secret that we teachers are busy and there is a lot to get through! So why not make our read aloud an integrated part of the learning we're doing, rather than a random selection, separate from the other learning we're doing in the classroom?

7. To build community through a shared experience.

Especially at the beginning of the year, everything we do must be done to build relationships, establish trust and create community. Reading the same text, having shared discussions and contemplating together what will come next builds community in our classrooms.

8. To develop a love, enjoyment, interest, desire & motivation for/of reading and books.

9. To hear a model of fluent reading.

10. To see the authentic contexts in which particular strategies are used by thoughtful readers.

11. To understand the rewards of reading.

Our students look up to us. It is inevitable that we're their role models. Reading aloud to students allows us to show them through our actions that we're good readers and we're passionate about reading.

12. To honor diverse populations and establish an appreciation of others.

13. To recognize students’ own experiences, lives and struggles by reading books to which our diverse student population can relate.

The books that we choose to read aloud are important. As authors write and publish texts that better represent the diversity that mirrors our students and their lives, it is essential that we pick texts that reflect the students in our classroom. Our hope is that these choices lead to acceptance, empathy and tolerance.

Through the Twitter chat with ILA, I was able to gleam 13 benefits to a read aloud. But what do you think?
  • In your opinion, what are the benefits of reading aloud that I missed?
  • What are books you plan on reading aloud to your students this year? What have you read in the past?
  • Who wants to be a part of the Global Read Aloud: one book to connect the world?