Friday, February 5, 2010

About Reader's Workshop: The Mechanics of Read Alouds

So far this week I've talked about why I think Read Alouds are important and I've provided two lists of books I've read aloud (here and here - with another one still to come). Today I'm going to talk about what I actually 'do' in Read Alouds.

I think I've tried everything with Read Alouds from using the vocabulary for spelling words, to making students write essays on Read Alouds, to letting students just sit there and colour in while I read. Now I've done it pretty much the same way for the past year and I feel it is working best for me and the students I teach.

Choosing the book
I keep a number of things in mind when I choose a book. Sometimes it is connected to the unit of work we're doing (we read The Hobbit when we studied Fantasy) Sometimes it's just a great book I think they will enjoy, or it's about a part of the world I think they should know more about. I don't always choose a 'hard' book. Like we need a range of books as readers, you need a range of books as listeners. So at the beginning of the year I usually choose something smaller and lighter. I'll do the same after we read a really heavy book, so the kids see that there's a range of books out there. It's not always easy to choose the books, sometimes you just have to go with gut instinct. And there has been times when I've had to stop reading one book and move on to another.

How often do I read?
I have the fortune of having the same class all the time, so I try to read every day. I usually read after the students have their second play break, because I find it eases them back into work at the end of the day and it's a good calming activity (especially on hot days). I read for around 15 minutes, unless I'm right near the end of a chapter or something like that.

What do the kids do when I read?
They listen. A couple of years ago, I let one class colour in while I read, but I know the language and the stories weren't getting in well. I've never tried students taking notes, but I worry that it would take over the story itself, plus it would be very difficult for some students. Instead, they just sit on the floor (less to fiddle with) and listen. I think sometimes in school we underestimate the role that listening plays, especially when it comes to literacy. When the students listen, they begin to build the world of the book in their head. They also take in the vocabulary and they have the time to observe what a good reader does when they read outloud.

The attached work/assessment
I no longer insist the students attach work to the Read Alouds - it would be like making them complete a worksheet during Reader's Workshop time. Instead we involve ourselves in two main kinds of assessment - recall (what happened last time we read?) and prediction (what do you think will happen next?) I generally use recall before we read and prediction after. However, saying that, lots of other types of comprehension also come up in conversation (this comprehension is all discussion based) like when we discuss the motivation of a character, or how the author is trying to make us feel. If the story is well out of our knowledge base, we build our background knowledge and vocabulary. Occasionally in mini-lessons we'll engage in a discussion which will lead back to books we've read. Our Read Aloud books become part of a rich conversation which we continue throughout the year - further reinforcing our Reader's Community.

What am I able to assess from this? Well most the time it's pretty general. As a class are they 'getting it'? Other times, students will say something that is so interesting/thoughtful, you run for your notes to get it down! (I'll never forget the time a student applied the concept of foreshadowing, which I had mentioned once in a writing class to the book we were reading!)

What do you do during your read alouds? How do you use them to reinforce community or build your readers? Let me know in the comments.

Read more about Reader's Workshop here
Read Aloud Master List 


readingcountess said...

I love, love, love read aloud with accountable talk. I hinge many of my mini-lessons on them since we are crunched for time with four blocks. At the beginning of the year, they decide who their talking buddy will be, and for the most part, they stay together the duration of the year. I have only had to break one couple up in two years of doing talking buddies, and in today's society of high divorce, I consider that successful! Like a marriage, the buddies stay together because they build a relationship that takes weeks and months to deposit into. They can reference their talk from a month ago, whereas if buddies changed often, you would not be able to. I find it helps with classroom cohesion, too, because the fear of NOT finding a daily or weekly buddy is over (and that can be a reassuring thing at this tough age). During read aloud, I will have earmarked ahead of time items I wish to pull from the text and stop and model through think aloud what a seasoned reader does in order to fully comprehend the text. Oftentimes, even though we are the most experienced reader in the room, our readers don't see us struggle. They then think that reading is "easy" and that if they are having difficult that they must not be smart. After a few walk throughs of modeling what readers do when they come to something challenging, I turn it over to the talking buddies. They sit knee to knee and eye to eye and try out what they have seen me do in that day's read aloud. Turning and talking also gives the readers an outlet to talk at just the right moment (shouldn't we ALL want our readers to be excited about what we are reading and want to talk about it?) This is when I listen in and pick some treasures to pull my group back in and discuss. It might be that I need to clarify, or I might ask a partnership to share. I "train" my readers to start their words with, "My partner __________ and I thought that..." because it teaches the kids to think beyond themselves. They weren't the only one in the conversation, as is sometimes reported out with a phrase like, "I think..." I think read aloud is an indespensable part of any reading curriculum, and should always be viewed through the lense of pushing a reader further.

A Reader's Community said...

I love the idea of reading buddies, and now I know my class is stable (yay) I could begin that this week. I also love the idea of marking the hard bits - a really good way of modelling the talking about books that I've been worried about - thanks for the great ideas!

A Reader's Community

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Queensland, Australia
A Reader's Community is a place to find ideas, information, resources and recommendations about Reader's Workshop.

This Blog has five main types of posts.

About Reader's Workshop - information about Reader's Workshop in my classroom and how it works

Reader's Workshop Tools - resources you can access and use to help you with reader's workshop

Book talks - Book recommendations of two or three books centred around a particular theme

Book letters - in-depth reviews of one particular book

Reader's Workshop Links - Short links lists to help you find more information
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