5 + 1 Ideas for Doing Better Read Alouds in the Middle School Years

I knew moving to 7th grade from 5th that our read aloud was something I had to preserve.  I knew that having a shared experience was something we needed as we built community, I knew we needed a read aloud so we could be a part of the Global Read Aloud and be a part of a global reading community, and I knew that no matter how old my students may feel like they are, a great read aloud has no age limit. What I didn’t know was just how hard it would be!

Between 45 minute class periods, students who groan at the slightest hint of silliness, and a broad curriculum that seems to never slow down; our read aloud was getting squeezed out almost every day.  In fact, in one class, our very first read aloud took us nearly 5 months to finish.  Talk about stretching out a story.  So in this year of trial and error, I have discovered a few things that is bound to restore the read aloud as one of our main tenets next year.

  1. Pick different books for each class.  As much as I hate having to keep track of five different books, I made the mistake of reading the same amazing book aloud to three of my classes.  My own apprehension and disdain for reading the same thing aloud thus created another barrier; I simply did not want to read aloud to my later classes because I had already read it aloud before.  Now I honor the individuality of my students by having different texts for them all.  We discover the books together and I want to see what happens next just as much as they do.
  2. If you do read the same book; record your read aloud.  If you can find an audio version of a book, find it and use that with the students.  If you cannot, then make your own for example by reading it aloud to Voxer and then emailing the sound file to yourself.  I plan on doing this for our Global Read Aloud books next year so that I won’t get sick of  reading it aloud again and again.
  3. Make your read aloud your mentor text.  I did this in 5th grade and got away from it in 7th, but now I am going right back to it.  This way, when we go through the strategies from Notice and Note we can search for them right in the text we are using, thus double-dipping into the time we have.
  4. Read books in verse aloud.  This year certainly has been the year of the verse book and these make for incredible read alouds.  The story moves along at a fast pace, the students hear great poetry and like it, and it allows us to cover more books.  I just finished The Crossover with two classes who loved the story.
  5. Never underestimate a great picture book.  If you know you will be hard-pressed for time one quarter or over a span of time, opt for reading aloud amazing picture books.  We have read many Elephant & Piggie books, plus any of the other incredible picture books we have in here.  What matters about the read aloud is that we have a shared text experience that we can grown from on many levels.  That does not just have to come from a chapter book.
  6. Even if just for a minute; read aloud.  I used to think I should only read aloud when I coud afford to spend 10 minutes or more on it in class.  The constraint of the 45 minutes that I teach in did not allow me the luxury of that often so we got further and further away from our stories.  Now I know that even if I finish class with just a few minutes of read aloud at the end of class, it is better than not reading, because even a few minutes keep a story fresh and the action moving.

What ideas do you have?  Please share.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

S

3 thoughts on “5 + 1 Ideas for Doing Better Read Alouds in the Middle School Years

  1. My year 5 kids and I also love ‘ story time’ as they call it. We have also ‘stretched out’ books due to time constraints. Not the best way! Story loses its thread. Agree Pernille, there are some great picture books with excellent morals. I choose ones that quietly reinforce a social issue that might have arisen. These act as a wonderful springboard for whole class discussions. Also pick cultural or historical narratives to read depending on the current topic of our unit of inquiry. Different books for different purposes. If we are ‘naming and noticing’ a specific literacy focus, students take photos of parts of the books that they then pair share. Realising how much this group enjoy the luxury of read alouds, I filled a tub of narrative picture books, paired the kids and asked them to choose one and pair share. Their task was to be book critics – to name and notice the author’s purpose and intentions. We created questions to critic the books. Eg. Did the author engage the reader? What makes you say that? Looking at adjectives, similes, metaphors etc… Claim; support; evidence – stake your claim; support your claim with evidence from the text. Students presented their observations. Purpose of this review was for students to observe how good writers write and hopefully include these skills in their own writing.

  2. I also think it’s important to read aloud books that are brand-new to me! That way my read aloud looks and feels completely authentic. My think aloud and emotions are raw. Students and I have a shared experience together!

  3. So agree that reading the same read aloud, to multiple sections, was a challenge for me to be as excited by the fourth go around as the first. I did use an audio recording for one, recorded myself for parts of one, and found that I better really pick books I loved! It was a way for the entire grade level to bond.

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