Do you remember when you were in school and your teacher said it was time for read aloud? I don't know about you, but for me, that was a joyous time. It was a time for my imagination to soar. I could take the words that were flowing so eloquently from her mouth and create a movie in my mind. I love it.
As a classroom teacher, reading aloud to my own students became my favorite thing to do (maybe because it was magical for me as a child). I wanted to share that experience with them. But I also wanted to lift the level of learning a notch. Rather than this time being only for input, I was hoping to create some opportunities for output as well.
ENTER Interactive Read Alouds!
In a traditional read aloud, the experience is a one way street. The teacher reads and the students listen. There is no interaction, discussion, or time for students to express themselves during the read aloud. It's probably what I disliked most about read aloud when I was a kid. No one was allowed to talk while the teacher read.
On the contrary, during an Interactive Read Aloud, the teacher provides ample opportunities for students to interact with the text. Students talk with a partner, act out parts of the book, draw a picture related to the reading, or respond in writing. The best Interactive Read Alouds are carefully pre-planned by the teacher. The teacher can stop to ask questions or have students respond at critical parts of the book when the planning is done ahead of time.
The term interactive refers to the active learning that occurs while reading aloud high-quality literature. It characterizes the teacher and students having a conversation as they process the text together. It provides students an opportunity to extend their understandings through talk. This talk provides evidence of their thinking. (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001, 2011)
In both cases, whether traditional read aloud or interactive, the teacher models proficient reading so students can hear what an expert reader sounds like and how a reader engages with text. The teacher also models thinking about the text. What is happening? What is the character doing and why? What am thinking now? Basically, students get to hear what happens in the reader's head. They are also able to experience a text that is at a higher level than they are capable of reading on their own.
Steps to creating your own Interactive Read Aloud:
•Select a book and a focus
•Preread the book and think about your thinking
•Select 3-7 vocabulary words or phrases to highlight
•Make purposeful stopping points and note them in your book with a sticky note
•Use gestures, eye contact, visuals and expression to support ELLs
In this video, Linda Hoyt explicitly demonstrates with students how to talk to your Thinking Partner while she shares an Interactive Read Aloud on a nonfiction book. (5 minute clip)
The value of a read aloud, whether it be interactive or not, cannot be underestimated. Children of all ages benefit from being read to regularly. I'm an advocate for daily! This TED Talk by Rebecca Bellingham speaks volumes about the benefit of reading aloud. If you have 9 1/2 minutes to spare, watch it and then share it with teachers and parents! We all need a reminder every now and then.
Research has demonstrated that the most effective read-alouds are those in which children are actively involved asking and answering questions and making predictions rather than passively listening (Dickinson, 2001).
Calkins, L. (2015). Units of study for teaching reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Hoyt, L. (2007). Interactive read-alouds. linking standards, fluency, and comprehension. Portsmouth, NH: First Hand Heinemann.
I get it and I've been there myself. You have a lot of reading material to cover so you think Round Robin Reading (or Popcorn Reading) will do the trick. You want to make sure everyone reads it and stays on track. It seems really logical.
Round Robin Reading (RRR), for those that may need a definition, is when students read orally one at a time from the same text. Some say that this is the best way to get students to really despise reading. A variation of RRR is Popcorn Reading. It sounds like more fun--but don't be fooled. It's not. It's the same type of reading activity with the same negatives and benefits. In Popcorn Reading, the only difference is that students randomly and spontaneously call out a new student's name to be the next reader.
Why you should DUMP Round Robin Reading...
Reason 1: Well first, think about what students are going through during this activity. Most are sitting in class with the text in front of them, nervously waiting for their turn. If the selection is random, they may be filled with anxiety about when they will be called on. If the selection is in a certain predetermined order, then they are just waiting for their turn and probably trying to estimate what portion they will need to read. Either way, when their turn is finished, they probably are relieved and zone out. So RRR is a waste of time. We may think we are covering the content, but the simple act of covering it does not mean that students will gain anything from it.
Reason 2: The small chunks that students are reading don't do them any good. They aren't sufficient enough to help students comprehend well. Nor are they large enough to promote fluency building. The amount each student reads does not help them make progress in reading ability or in comprehension. So just the act of getting through the text with the class doesn't mean the students got anything out of it. It was mostly a waste of time.
Reason 3: For English Language Learners, this type of activity can raise the affective filter (Krashen, 1982). The affective filter is a like a wall that goes up when fear or anxiety is high. When the wall goes up, learning goes down. If a child is worried about being embarrassed or filled with fear in the classroom, the chances that they will make gains in learning content are very low. Struggling readers (who may not be ELLs) are similarly affected by RRR. Think of something you don't do well...do you do it daily? Do you like to do it in front of your peers? Probably NOT! Well, our ELLs and struggling readers are brave enough to show up every day and keep working at reading. The least we can do is help to build their confidence and make them feel successful and safe to learn.
What to do instead...
1. Read aloud
Students gain more from hearing their teacher read aloud than from reading a small portion of text. Listening to a proficient reader gives our students an example of what good readers do when they tackle texts. It's a great opportunity to share with the class how to read a challenging word or what to do when you finish a paragraph but you don't know what you've read. Reading aloud allows students to hear correct fluency and prosody. Students need to listen to the way English sounds. One way to lift read aloud up a notch is to include some student interaction. Stopping every now and then to ask key questions allows students to think about what they have heard and interact with the reading. But instead of calling on only a student at a time, ask students to share with their partners (Partner A, Partner B or Talking Heads).
2. Choral Reading
Choral reading is a way to get the class involved while reading the same text. This is where the class reads the same text together at the same time-hence the name choral. The nice thing about choral reading, is that since everyone is reading at the same time so no one feels on the spot. The affective filter is lowered while all students have access to the same text. Choral reading can be done whole group, in small groups, or in pairs. When students practice Choral reading, they are flexing their listening, speaking, and reading skills.
3. Free Voluntary Reading
Another way to get kids reading and build fluency is free voluntary reading (Krashen). In FVR, students have choice in what they read. We know that choice is a huge factor in engaging and motivating our students, so FVR helps to get students reading more and gaining a love for reading. This research based reading approach has been proven to increase reading in students. Research has also proven that the more students read, the higher their achievement soars.
4. Ear to Ear Reading
Ear to Ear reading is an excellent, low pressure Guided Language Acquisition Design strategy that allows students to reread a familiar text with a partner. With this approach readers work in a small setting which lowers the affective filter while practicing reading for fluency and comprehension. For detailed information about Ear to Ear Reading, click here.
5. Echo Reading
Echo Reading is very similar to Choral Reading. In Echo Reading, the group or class is reading the same text but the teacher reads a phrase or sentence and the students repeat after. (It kind of reminds me of saying vows at a wedding.) What I really like about Echo Reading is that students hear the teacher first and then they imitate the fluency and prosody. Echo Reading helps students (especially ELLs) learn how English sounds. I'm a fan of Echo Reading in particular for Newcomer and Beginner ELLs since this reading strategy offers opportunities for both listening and speaking as well. Again, this one lowers the affective filter too!
There are so many other ways to engage students in reading, build their love of reading, and deliver content. Please feel free to comment on the ones I wrote about as well as add your favorites.
Why should we dump RRR? Our kids deserve better!
Ear to Ear Reading...Building Reading Fluency & Expression
One of my favorite ways to let students practice reading for automaticity, fluency and expression is with Ear to Ear Reading. There are so many benefits to this easy to implement strategy! Because it is done in pairs (or triplets in rare cases) it lowers the affective filter for students and helps to build interdependence among students.
Ear to Ear Reading was initially presented by Jim Rogers as way for partners to practice reading in pairs. When implementing this strategy, explicit instruction on how it looks and sounds is important. The teacher should model it in front of the class. This can be done either with a coteacher or with a student volunteer.
Here’s how it is implemented:
This is what it may sound like using the poem My Brother’s Bug by Jack Prelutsky:
Partner A: "My brother’s bug was green and plump,"
Partner B: "It did not run, it could not jump,"
Partner A: "It had no fur for it to shed,"
Partner B: "It slept all night beneath his bed."
And the partners continue to read this way until they finished the poem. If they still have time, they reread the poem again and again practicing their expression, automaticity and fluency until the time is up.
Ear to Ear Reading provides a safe, fun way for students to practice reading, gain fluency, automaticity, and expression while working with a partner. I first learned about it as a Tier III GLAD Trainer and have since used it successfully with my own students and with students in classrooms where I cotaught. It fits neatly into the reading workshop during partner reading. When implemented with fidelity and consistent routine, it can make a huge impact! Give it a try and let me know how you and your students enjoy it!
Brechtel, M. (2001). Bringing it all together: Language and Literacy in the multilingual classroom. San Diega, CA: Dominie Press.
A workshop setting is very conducive to differentiation. But how are we ensuring that our ELLs are not being forgotten? How are we making sure that the workshop setting is meeting the needs of our ELLs and pushing them forward in language AND literacy?
First and foremost, as teachers we have to remember that when we work with students who are learning English as a second language, we are not only teaching them to read and write, we are simultaneously teaching them the English language, language proficiency. It is important to keep a pulse of the students' levels in listening, speaking, reading and writing in English.
Being aware that some students come from countries where letters and symbols are different from ours is important too. Teaching ELLs how to decode letters will help empower them to read. Being explicit about letter sounds, capitals and lower case letter, and punctuation can be taught in small groups or during individual reading conferences with ELLs. Nevertheless, these are important lessons that our ELLs might have misssed depending on when they came to the US.
Often we ask our students to "sound it out...does it sound like it makes sense or sound correct?" Well, for an English language learner that type of question is difficult to answer. Some haven't heard enough examples of the English language to know if it sounds correct. For many, the classroom is the only place where they experience the English language. With ELLs, explicit instruction and modeling goes a long way.
If we want our students be excel in academics, we have to help them excel in language at the same time. Our ELLs need multiple opportunities to listen, speak, read and write during the day and this includes the workshop time. Recently while at an assessment training, the presenter discussed accommodations. I loved how she phrased it. She said that accommodations do not give ELLs an advantage. Accommodations level the playing field. I look at it this way...if a little girl can't reach the water fountain, what would we do? Would we let the child go without water until she grows tall enough to reach it herself even though she needs the water? Would we go get the maintaince crew to LOWER the fountain? NO! Of course not! The child deserves and needs the water and we will not lower the standards for her to reach it. We will give her a scaffold and little by little pull it back. The scaffold might be a stepping stool or some other type of device to allow her equal access to the water. She will get the same water that everyone else gets. Level the playing field.
See the document below for ideas on how to level the playing field for ELLs during workshop. Feel free to email me or reach out to me on Twitter and I will send you more information on this document.