As our schedules become more cramped, finding the time to provide an interactive read aloud experience daily becomes more difficult. With so many options in the Language and Word Study component of the balanced literacy framework, it is hard to balance the choices. However, remember the importance of reading aloud to upper level children is just as imperative as those in primary grades.
Reading aloud provides you with an incredible opportunity to build your literacy and classroom culture and community. The common experience of a story that was discussed and thought about together cannot be understated in importance. In addition to picture books, novels are an important option.
Intermediate students can sustain the attention to a common novel that can be part of an interactive experience. As you read aloud, you continue to expose your students to a variety of genres, authors, and titles. Choosing wisely is key. Your students need to work with the best in children's literature, both classic and contemporary options. They need to hear the beautiful language of books, to "visit" new places, understand and identify with characters, and get lost in the stories. Through novels, we can develop the desire to pick-up a book, sustain interest, reread to clarify understanding, or just enjoy the beauty of the words. Students learn how to finish a book. Thus, they begin to digest the writers craft of a longer piece.
Non-fiction interactive read alouds can also pull children in to reading longer text, not only for information, but for wonder and enjoyment.
By hearing an adult read aloud and interacting with a text, your students not only hear fluent oral reading, but they have the opportunity to think with guidance and support. The risk is reduced, and we can support readers at all levels of ability. By including them in conversations about books, we encourage dialogue that is a lifeskill, and put them "in the club" as readers.
As role-models, we also have the opportunity to share our reading habits and values. Students need to know how reading is part of our lives, how we make time for that which we value. Students hearing our reasons for choosing a book begin to think about why they pick a "just right" book. We can demonstrate the strategic reading thinking that we do, and share how we deliberately stop as adult readers to think about what we have read and what it means to us.
It is key to have read the text you choose and plan carefully what you intend to teach. The temptation is to spend a great deal of time dissecting the book chapter-by-chapter, and to use it for every possible teaching opportunity while reading it. However, well-planned interaction that hits key strategies and skills that book highlights well, is more beneficial. You can always revisit the book later by reading a key part. (The children will already know the piece and with a brief recap, a section can be used for new learning, much like we do with picture books). There are many text options to teach the myriad of skills and strategies. Don't "burn out" the book you started so enthusiastically by dragging it on too long. You want them sad it is ending, not relieved!
Reading these novels offers options for use of quality graphic organizers to aid thinking, and vocabulary building activities. Don't basalize your interactive read aloud by handing out packets/workpages full of activities. However, it is appropriate to do some formative and summative assessment of your teaching. Remember, we are teaching children how to live the lives that we do as adult readers.
Celebrating a great story that has been shared is a wonderful experience. Be careful though. Once again, the temptation is to take important instruction/reading time to do things that don't further children as readers. (I have never celebrated a story I loved as part of my book club by making a diorama). There are other ways to have that celebration without taking unnecessary time from instruction and reading time. Feel free to contact me if you need some ideas.
For ideas see: www.kidsbookclubbook.com
This summer enjoy this part of planning for next year. Reading and planning to share what we love is part of the way we refresh ourselves and come back ready to build another classroom community that is excited about literacy.