The Read Aloud Component of Balanced Literacy Instruction

For many fortunate students, the read aloud strategy was first introduced to them on their parent’s knee. Long before they were developmentally capable of learning to read they experienced the joy and pleasure of reading. These students were not only given a strong foundation for becoming lifelong readers, they were also given a head start on vocabulary, thinking skills, and listening skills.

Parents in the know understand the need to read aloud to children. It’s the same reason we talk to them: to bond with them, to entertain, to explain, to reassure, and to inspire them.

What’s more, by reading aloud, teachers and parents build the essential framework for early reading development.  This is the cornerstone of balanced literacy instruction in the primary grades. When we read aloud to children they learn to enjoy stories and anticipate reading on their own. Children begin to grasp that reading can be fun, especially when an adult reads fluently and expressively.

Reading Aloud in the Classroom

During a read aloud the teacher doesn’t simply read students a book or story and call it a day. It involves much more than that. Teachers verbally interact with the class throughout the process. This process includes pre-reading, during reading, and post-reading activities to ensure they understand and make connections with the story. The read loud selection can be a variety of genres — fiction, nonfiction, a simple picture book, or poetry.

Though a read-aloud seems pretty straight forward, there are actually a lot activities going on for the teacher.  These include

  • Previewing the selections and choosing those that allow students to make predictions and relate to prior knowledge
  • Emphasizing story elements
  • Guiding students with questions
  • And closing the selection with oral or written responses to what they heard.

Why is it So important to Read Aloud?

Words are the primary foundation for constructing meaning. You can either help students internalize the words through their eyes or through the ears. And because the first several years of a child’s life their eyes aren’t ready for reading, the best way to help children internalize words is through hearing. The sounds of words children experience in the younger years will help them make sense of what they’re reading later on.

Read Aloud Teaching methods — what to keep in mind

First and foremost, teachers should understand that the read aloud strategy involves creating a time for oral reading on a consistent basis using selections that exceed student’s independent reading level yet are at the correct listening level.  This is crucial in order to progress comprehension.

Also, be aware that teachers can use read alouds to achieve different goals:

  • To introduce a new theme
  • To get students talking and thinking about literature
  • To help students explore new worlds
  • And to familiarize students with different genres.

There are several vehicles you can use to do this. In addition to fictional tales, use magazine articles, newspaper articles, biographies, or autobiographies for a change.

And if you think it’s not worth your time to fit reading aloud into the day, consider this. When teachers read aloud to their students they’re helping them achieve the following:

  • Learn what fluid and expressive reading sounds like.
  • Learn how to think aloud.
  • Make connections to real life experiences or other pieces of literature.

All the above is essential in constructing knowledge.

Read Aloud Strategies for Pre Reading, During Reading, and Post Reading

The anticipation guide is one effective pre reading strategy that really gets the students thinking.  Anticipation guides contain statements that relate to the story or text.  They are more inferential in nature so the students have to listen closely and think about what they hear.   After the story, the students either agree or disagree with each statement.

During reading and after reading strategies include graphic organizers and story maps.

Points to Help With Read Alouds

Recall that when teachers and parents read aloud to students they are preparing their young brains to connect reading with a pleasurable experience. As they do so, they’re building a strong foundation of background knowledge that students can bring with them to the classroom. And perhaps most importantly, they are providing students with a reading role model.

Here are some more points to help with reading aloud to students.

  • Make sure you preview the book before reading it aloud to the students. It helps if you can relate to the book so you can share with the students personal connections you have.
  • Obviously, the teachers should select books that are engaging and will spark student’s interests.
  • Students shouldn’t be just passive listeners — they should be involved throughout the process.
  • Make sure students understand your expectations for behavior during reading time.
  • Invite parents or the principal to come read to your students as a special treat.