Day 7: A Read Aloud Checklist

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my day every day in chronological order,11454297503_e27946e4ff_h sequentially.The first part of instruction, most days, is Read Aloud.

The first part of instruction most days is Read Aloud.
Arguably,  it’s the best part.

My students have grown up with Read Aloud. Over the years, the books that have been read in their classrooms have become their favorites. Each Kindness, Because of Winn Dixie, How to Steal a Dog, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, Some Kind of Courage, and Ghost are my Fifth Grader’s reading history. They have these texts in their hearts. Because of them, they know Jaqueline Woodson and Kate DiCamillo and Barbara O’Connor and Dave Gemeinhart and Jason Reynolds. Because of these Read Alouds, anything by these authors is snapped up.

Read Aloud encapsulates all that is good in a reading classroom: community, the joy of reading, and modeling of what and how readers do.

As much as I count on Read Aloud, there are things that I need to guard for and against. Just doing Read Aloud isn’t enough. I need to be mindful that every page I read has a purpose.

Tonight I sit with Post-its and The Wild Robot. Some things will cry out for attention, but other things will need to be coaxed out. In every Read Aloud I reach for…

Just Right Great Text
There is so much to be read and so little time. Every Read Aloud choice should aim to be the best book possible for the kids in my classroom right now. That might not be the book I just read and loved. Or the book EVERYONE is talking about.  What it must be is what meets the needs and interests of my students. That makes it just right. What is good for my students, might not work for yours. Just Right Read Aloud texts should be something the students in front of me can access, with a little work, as a group. Bottom line: we need just right great text so we can do great work.

Mimickable modeling
One of the essential elements of Read Aloud is a proficient reader. Soup to nuts. The orchestration of how the mind works while reading and the art of making it visible must be a conscious part of every plan:  wonderings, mistakes, rereading, and rethinking should be woven throughout.

Thinking and problem-solving
There must be a purposeful beginning, middle, and end expectation of students doing. Passively sitting in a Read Aloud is not an option.  Accessing texts along a spectrum of difficulty sets up opportunities for success and allows for informal assessment. Setting out a problem for students to puzzle through makes for the ultimate student do: constructing their thinking about the story.

Balanced instruction and joy
I have been guilty of either instructing the heck out of a text or getting so swept up in the action of the story all we think about is what’s next.  Both of these extremes can happen. I have to keep in mind Read Aloud is about learning and loving reading.

When a book pulls at our emotions or makes us get those edge of your seat feelings we should feel them.  When it’s so quiet kids are barely breathing, when they are hanging on every word,  is not the time to ask a wondering question.

I need to keep a careful watch on what I do, what kids do, and when to let the book do.

Now, I’m off to plan tomorrow’s read aloud.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge. Read more slices here.