Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Read Aloud

Sarah over at The Reading Zone recently did a post on read alouds in her classroom that inspired me to do my own post on the topic using many of the same concepts that she explored, as well as adding some of my own.

I started doing read alouds because...
My first experience with read alouds in middle school was during my student teaching experience, and I have to admit, I was skeptical. I would skim the classroom and wonder whether or not it was really valuable or not since a lot of the students did not seem to be fully engaged at all times. Luckily, I did not go with my first impressions. My cooperating teacher was going through coursework to get her reading endorsement and had suggested that I should take courses right away since they were invaluable. I took her advice, and as soon as I could fit in the courses I did. The importance of read alouds came up frequently, and now it is a part of my classroom every day and I no longer question its validity. Thinking back to my earliest impressions make me laugh.

My read-aloud set up is...
I read aloud to my students daily for about 15 minutes. However, since I try to stop at natural points sometimes it may be a little more or a little less. The physical set-up of read-alouds in my class has changed depending on my job assignment and layout of my classroom. In my original student teaching room the students sat in their desks that were in straight rows while I stood at the podium. When I was a middle school reading specialist my room was a converted locker room, so there was not any other option than to have my students sit in their desks because of the space. I did, however, decide to sit down in front of my small class (no more than twelve students). This year I enjoy my read alouds more than ever because my classroom is large enough to accomodate a meeting area. My students move over to the carpet for read-alouds, making it easier for them to hear and enjoy the book.

I select books by...
I often consider what books will catch the interest my students and also serve as a good model of writing. A lot of the time the themes tie into concepts that we are studying in class. For example, we just finished a Take a Stand unit, so we read The Giver/El Dador and Bat 6 to go along with our unit. I find that there are a vast amount of books that easily tie into any unit that we do in our class. There would have been many other great options for the same unit. We read Bat 6 as part of Oregon Reads 2009.

Dual language considerations...
This year my read-aloud experience has also been different because I am in a dual language immersion school, so I also consider whether or not books are available in both English and Spanish. The structure of the 6th grade this year is one week in English and two weeks in Spanish. It is always hard to have a week away from a book that the students can't wait to see what is going to happen, and even worse if it is a Spanish book that they would have to wait two full weeks on. My first read aloud of the year was Esperanza Rising. I did not initially intend to read it in both languages, but decided to try it out so that the students would not lose momentum with the books. Wherever we were at the end of an English week, I found the same spot in the Spanish version and continued right along through the Spanish week, moving seemlessly through the book in both languages. It worked so well that it is something that I take into considerations for all of my books.

However there are some books that I do not have available in both langauges that I still want to read aloud. In such cases, during Spanish weeks I typically choose short stories that I can read during the week or books that are more like vignettes and not as hard to come back to after a two week break.

Occasional assignments tied to the read aloud...
Typically the read aloud does not have any assignments attached to it, but every once in a while I will have them do activities such as drawing a quick sketch of an image that the book created for them. This is really fun for them, but I do not do it too often because the read aloud is meant to enjoy the reading experience. In our school we also started asking short, multiple choice comprehension quizzes with state test stem questions for test prep, but again, it is not every day and not the main focus of the session.

My favorite part about read-alouds...

I love the shared experience of enjoying a good book and seeing my students get swept up into the story.

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