Revising Read Aloud Time

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Picture this: a fourth grade teacher sitting on a high chair in the middle of her classroom of  twenty-five students, her eyes glued downward in a book she was reading aloud to…no one!  Nope, the students had left for the afternoon; oh they were still seated at their desks but their eyes were on the spring sky out the classroom window and their ears appeared to be deaf to Read Aloud Time.

I saw this picture with my own eyes last April when I was serving as a writer in residence in a regional school. I was scheduled in that classroom after lunch and when I first saw the teacher reading aloud I thought, “What a perfect introduction to story writing time.” I always suggest to students that the more they read the better they write.

Then I looked around the classroom and noticed that no one was paying attention! Worse still, the teacher didn’t even know that the children were not engaged; she never looked up from the book. After a minute or two when it was “officially” my time to teach, I announced my presence with a “Good afternoon” greeting and the teacher stopped reading aloud and glanced around the room.

This experience got me thinking about ways to revise Read Aloud Time to ensure that everyone participates. I’ve come up with a few ideas:

Create a Chorus to Repeat the Story Theme – Reading aloud from a picture book or chapter book doesn’t have to be strictly verbatim. When you’re preparing for Read Aloud Time you can write a new phrase to share with your class that captures the main idea of the story.  For example, you might write, “Joey knew that moving to California would be a challenge but he was ready, at least he thought he was ready.” Before you begin to read the book you’ve selected, write the phrase on the board and explain to students that you’d like them to join in when you begin to say it aloud. Kids will listen for your prompt and in doing so, pay closer attention to your reading. You’ll need to decide ahead where to insert the phrase during your Read Aloud Time.

Offer Students Supporting Roles – Every story has a main character and most stories have characters who play a supporting role. If you’re planning to read a picture book aloud to students in the early grades and you have a student whose attention tends to wander, you might invite him or her to be the voice of a supporting character during Read Aloud Time. You may need to have that student stand by you and you may also want to prompt your co-reader with a few words of introduction like, “and then, the youngest rabbit said…”

Add Sound Effects – Every story has a setting. As you begin Read Aloud Time ask the class to listen for the sounds of the story. For example, when you’re reading a story about two kids who come upon an old run-down shack at the edge of a forest and dare each other to open the door, make a creaking sound as you read.  Stop and invite the class to repeat how the creaking door sounded. Add other sound effects as you continue the story.

Read Aloud Time is special at school and at home. In a recent story I read about Beverly Cleary, who is now 94 years old, the beloved author noted that she wished more parents would read aloud today. Describing the pleasure of hearing her mother read aloud in the evening when she was a child, Cleary recalled an era when some people, like her, didn’t even have a radio. No distractions in that home, I thought to myself. Parents and teachers today sip from another cup of tea!

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
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Situation: Students are acting sluggish in class.

Solution: Show "The BIG E," for ENERGY, an enlarged letter E (or other first letter for the word energy in your alphabet), available in craft stores. Remind the class that energy is a must-have item to get good work done. Tell the class to show you "The BIG E!"

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