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.





19 thoughts on “Day 7: A Read Aloud Checklist

  1. I want to share this with every teacher in my school! As a literacy coach, this is my dream for each and every classroom. Don’t be surprised if this post gets an unusual amount of volume soon. Thank you for capturing read aloud so perfectly!

  2. Read aloud does encapsulate all that is good in a reading classroom! It is our favorite time of day too. I like to use this time to expose my students to a book they might not normally choose on their own. It has helped open up a world of possibility for us. Thank you for sharing your planning process with read aloud too! Happy reading!

  3. You have written what I try to convey to teachers. I’m going to let you do the talking for me next time. I am printing this out to share with the next round of teachers. You are so intentional in every moment, you are a master!

  4. I enjoyed “your” ideas about read aloud, especially “we need just right great text so we can do great work.” It’s something that would be good for all new teachers to read. I loved choosing the books I read aloud, and you’re right about different ones for different classes. You’d think they would all fit, but they don’t. Thanks, Julieanne, great post!

  5. I agree with Elsie that you are a master at what you do. As a retiree I am reading your posts and revisiting, through your insights and powerful description, the work that every intentional teacher does, every minute of every day. This series is so good I hope you will consider submitting it for publication somewhere that will make it available to parents as well. The public needs to be better informed about the dedication and work that is involved in being a good teacher and is often overlooked and taken for granted. I’m looking forward to the next day, and the next day, and…..

  6. I too, love read aloud and I love the way you have captured all of the best parts of it here in your post! Sadly, since I am asked to teach my way through a certain boxed reading program it often seems like I don’t have time to do a read aloud as often as I would like. How long do you spend on your read aloud? Do you immediately start when students start arriving to your class?

    Thanks for sharing!

    -Amanda at

    • The amount of time and time of day varies based on the day. That said, it’s placement is always near reading time. Sometimes it is the precursor to-reading workshop. Time spent can vary. Probably an average of 15 minutes. It depends on the time available and the students in front of me. But it’s always worth doing. Thanks for asking!

  7. Read aloud–forever my favorite time. Good words of planning advice, Julieanne. I love the community a good book builds as experiences and acquaintances vicariously became common to everyone in the classroom.

  8. You’ve shared -with subheadings what teachers and students should do to have successful read aloud in their classes. This is a essential professional development. Thanks Julieanne.

  9. Read aloud is absolutely the best part of the day! You make so many important points here, Julieanne. For me, this is an important reminder: “Every Read Aloud choice should aim to be the best book possible for the kids in my classroom right now.” It’s so tempting to choose a read aloud just because we loved it. Finding that book that’s just right for the work you’re doing is critical. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Love this thoughtful post about read aloud in the classroom and your wisdom. “I need to keep a careful watch on what I do, what kids do, and when to let the book do.”

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