5 Strategies for Active Engagement During a Read Aloud


I'm a big believer in beginning with the end in mind, and when we think about what we want our students to be able to do at the end of the year - and at the end of their education, really - independently reading really complex text is key to that. So, we want our instruction to include lots of opportunities for students to independently read and grapple with complex texts, and I've written in another blog post about ways to release the reading to the students.

At the same time, a part of our job as teachers is to be the expert in the room with them, to guide them through knowing how to make sense of the text and analyzing it to the depth that's called for by the standards. And we should be asking kids to regularly work with texts that are too complex for them to make sense of independently right now. That means that there are times when we put a really tough text in front of our students and it is most appropriate to read it - or portions of it - aloud to them.

The problem that we encounter a lot is: How do we keep kids engaged, even when the text is being read aloud? How do we make sure they are truly "minds on," so they can get what they need from the read aloud and then take it into their own, second reading of the text?

If that sounds familiar, here are some ideas you can try that can help press for strong student engagement during a read aloud:

1. Read it all the way through without stopping. This is especially true of a first, gist read. The purpose here is not to teach vocabulary, ask questions, or make note of connections or things you're thinking. The purpose is for readers to begin to get a picture of the whole piece - to get the lay of the land, so to speak - so that they are better able to deeply parse chunks of the text on a second read.

2. Read with appropriate fluency. Read alouds are incidental fluency instruction, so don't miss this opportunity! Be sure you are altering your pace, chunking phrases together, using volume as appropriate, attending to punctuation, read with good (though not overdone) expression, and the like. A boring, rote reading will lose them every time.

3. Circulate. Project the text on the board if you need to, but also have a copy in hand that you can use as you walk the room. One strategy I love for circulating is Teach Like a Champion's "Break the Plane," and you can read more about circulating a classroom here.

4. Give them a purpose or question for reading. Either establish a purpose ("We're reading this article so we can learn more about this type of frog and add it to our notes for our book") or pose a question ("Who were the Loyalists and what did they believe?"). Every time. It's easy to skip, but it becomes glaringly obvious how important this is when I'm in professional learning, am asked to read something, and I have no idea why.

5. Establish a "student do." Should they track the text with a finger or a pencil? Should they whisper read the text with you? Should they underline text that supports the purpose or question they're answering? There is a time and place for simply listening to a read aloud for pleasure, with no ask of the student other than enjoyment. I would argue that instructional time isn't it; make sure there is a clear "student do" during the read aloud, that students know what it is and how to do it, and that you're circulating (see above) for accountability.

It can be hard - especially if you're early in your career - to juggle teaching content and monitoring engagement at the same time. (Or maybe it was just me.) Try inviting your coach in to observe and note student engagement, or record a lesson and watch it to see what your students do during a read aloud. If engagement could use a boost, try the above and see how they work!

Here's to simply teaching well,

No comments

Post a Comment