Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Value of Read Aloud in the Classroom

Every once in a while, I have to defend the time I spend daily on classroom read-aloud.  The most recent person to question that investment of time was an over-zealous literacy coach who thought the time was better used in "direction instruction".  The one thing I will never give up in my classroom is the daily read aloud.  It is, without a doubt, the best part of our day.  It is especially beneficial in third grade.  For many of these kids, it's the first time they've listened a chapter book--spreading the completion of a novel over several days or even weeks, and the first time that there's not pictures to take precedence over text.  We read from many different genres, and many different authors.  My personal favorite is historical fiction and we read a lot of that during the year.  I sometimes worry that kids today are too immersed in fantasy.  Some want to read nothing else.  I've had many students experience historical fiction for the first time during our read alouds, and they've discovered that they like it.  I have favorite read alouds that I repeat year after year, sometimes adding in new ones.  Since I am a "vintage teacher", many of the books are read are not necessarily new or popular, but all are beloved by students who've been introduced to them.  The fantasy books I read each year are Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville and The Unicorn's Quest by Jonathan Soule.  A few years ago I discovered a version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that had been adapted for Scholastic by Joanne Mattern.  It is part of the 101 Words to Know series.  It is now our favorite October read.  During November I always try to read a biographical story of Pocahantas. I'm really saddened by what Disney did to her story.  I think children deserve to know her true story.  I also try to fit in a biographical story of Squanto.  In the spring, we spend a lot of time on the history of our community and county.  The mountain men, the Shoshone tribe, and pioneers are part of our local legacy, so I always read aloud the Mr. Tucket series by Gary Paulsen and The Legend of Jimmy Spoon by Kristianna Gregory.

I found the following paragraphs on the website of the National Reading Panel.  This is great support for any classroom teacher being pressured to give up read aloud:
You can encourage indirect learning of vocabulary in two main ways. First, read aloud to your students, no matter what grade you teach. Students of all ages can learn words from hearing texts of various kinds read to them. Reading aloud works best when you discuss the selection before, during, and after you read. Talk with students about new vocabulary and concepts and help them relate the words to their prior knowledge and experiences.
The second way to promote indirect learning of vocabulary is to encourage students to read extensively on their own. Rather than allocating instructional time for independent reading in the classroom, however, encourage your students to read more outside of school. Of course, your students also can read on their own during independent work time in the classroom-for example, while you teach another small group or after students have completed one activity and are waiting for a new activity to begin.

What are your favorite read alouds?  Please comment and share those most loved by your students.


  1. I love this post! One of my favorite read alouds is Patrick Smith's A LAND REMEMBERED (the student edition). We study Florida history in fourth grade and this book is always a hit.

  2. Hi Jan:

    I LOVE The Legend of Jimmy Spoon. I rarely see it mentioned, and I think it's a great book--and perfect for a Read Aloud.

    MY OWN favorite memories of elementary school include Read Aloud time! It's been almost 50 years, and I can STILL remember my fifth grade teacher reading Island of the Blue Dolphin.

    Thanks for the insightful post!

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  3. I love reading "The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles" by Julie Andrews Edwards. It is a great fantasy story that very few children have read. It was well before Harry Potter, but I truly believe that JK Rowling read the book and got some ideas from it!

  4. I agree with you 100%. I taught kindergarten for many years and of course there were many read-alouds every day. I taught 6th grade for five years and I read aloud to them. They loved it!! I always read "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. When I wanted to calm down those rowdy, hormonal 6th graders all I had to do was pull out a really good book. A few other favorites were "Hatchet" by Gary Paulson and "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" by CS Lewis. I now teach 3rd grade and just finished "Poppy" by Avi. That was an instant favorite. Keep reading to those kids, it is good for them no matter what anyone says!