"The Read Aloud Experience", by Cathy Puett Miller, touts reading aloud to students as the way to move students from learning and practicing discrete skills (phonemic awareness, phonics, etc) to being engaged readers. In the article, she lists the components of "good practice" read alouds. I was pretty happy to see that I hit these. Here are her recommendations and what it looks like in my classroom:
- "Read aloud for at least 15-20 minutes a day, at the same time(s) each day." We read for about 15 minutes each day, sometimes a little longer, right after lunch. Check!
- "Present the read aloud as an enjoyable experience, not as a 'learning opportunity'." Our read aloud isn't tied to our curriculum, it's purely for the joy of listening. If possible, I'll refer back to something from our story if it comes up in a class, but that's not the goal. One thing she suggests that I don't regularly do is incorporating a variety of material...newspaper, poetry, etc. I can remember loving Shel Silverstein's poetry as a kid...I ought to drag out my kids' old Silverstein anthologies.
- "Choose materials of interest to your students and think outside of the box." You'll have to read the actual article if you want specifics for any of these, but I'm not as on target with this one. I don't give my kids a choice, as she suggests, though I do choose material that's above their reading level--for me, that's half the point. I don't choose books that connect with content learning, though as I mentioned above, I'll certainly link to it during instruction--or link to instruction during the story--where appropriate. Check!
- "Introduce new vocabulary in at least one daily read aloud session." Because the stories I read are above my students' reading levels, and because some of them come from homes where vocabulary and experience are somewhat limited, we come across lots and lots of words they don't know. So we stop frequently and talk about the new words. Today, we even came across a word I didn't know (galluses), so then we had to stop and look it up. Check!
- "Make it your aim to turn reading from a chore into an adventure." She goes on to say, "The cardinal sin is to have no interruptions and little expression." My cooperating teacher, when I student taught, told me I was one of the best questioners she'd ever heard. My current student teacher said the same thing. We stop a lot to talk about what's happening, why someone is acting that way, etc. And there's expression to spare, both from my voice and my hands. :) Check!
- "Close the read aloud session at a cliffhanger moment." Always! Sometimes I end up reading extra just to find a good stopping point. I love it when I stop and they say, "No!....just a little more!!" Check!