5 Tips to Giving a GREAT Read Aloud

If you have been around a while here at my blog, then you know that I love picture books and using them as mentor texts! I have been using them for years in my classroom for all subjects, so I thought I’d take a quick minute to give you some tips to giving a great read aloud.

Giving a great read aloud is tantamount to helping kids enjoy reading. In this post I share five tips to giving a great read aloud, as well as three tips for choosing the right read aloud. There are a few important factors that go into making read aloud time fun and successful for kids!

I remember some time back I was reading the book Double Fudge by Judy Blume. I love her books, and so did my fourth graders. When I was reading it, I would always give Fudge a goofy little kid voice. I don’t know what made me do that the first day I read it, but I continued.

One day, when I picked up the book for our 10-minute read aloud, I didn’t read it like usual.

I just wasn’t feeling it that day. I don’t really remember why or what specifically was going on, but boy, do I remember the reaction of the kids. I don’t think I will ever forget it! In fact, I think if they had tomatoes, they would have thrown them at me.

I honestly didn’t think it made that much of a difference! I guess it did.

Five Tips to Giving a GREAT Read Aloud

1.)  Engage your audience. This means you will need to read softly or loudly, slow or fast when needed, use funny voices, add facial expressions, throw your arms into the air, or whatever other gestures you need to do to gain their attention. This is also fantastic modeling!

2.)  In order to really engage your audience, you are going to need to preview the book ahead of time. I always do this, not only to check to make sure there isn’t something that’s inappropriate but also to see if there are any points that I want to stop at or use to build suspense. I always have my own copy of the read aloud. For example, I have my own copy of Lunch Money that I read aloud and some in the reading bins (because there are always kids who will check out the same book and read it with you). Since it’s my copy, I always go through it ahead of time and highlight different characters for voices and place sticky notes in it for stopping points, suspense, and so on.

3.)  Make the read aloud interactive. I’m not saying that you need to stop every few minutes to the point where you are interrupting the flow, but since you read it ahead of time (see number two) and have picked out some really great spots, stop and get the students involved. Some ways that you can get students involved is through the use of sticky notes. Have students record their thoughts (much like they would with their own personal books) as you read, and then when you stop, have them share. Another idea is to stop and ask critical thinking questions, complete thinking activities, encourage discussion, or even predict what will happen next.

4.)  Bring the kiddos to you. Yes, seriously. I know that it may seem like a lower elementary thing to have students sit in a circle or even close to you around a rocking chair, but they love it! It makes them feel like it’s time to just relax and enjoy a good book! Of course, make sure you cover the expectations ahead of time, check that everyone can see, and watch for any page glares.

5.)  One thing that I have found over my years of teaching is that a great read aloud really depends most on the book you pick. I have had students put in requests for read alouds, and I have chosen them myself based on other teachers’ opinions (and I have ideas in my Mentor Text Monday section). What you pick and how you pick a good read aloud is up to you. There are all kinds of guidelines to picking a good read aloud, but I’m just going to share my ideas:

Picking a Read Aloud

Give a little variety. What I mean by this is make sure that you aren’t always reading the same types of genres. I remember one year over and over a child arguing with me that he did NOT like mysteries. I could not get him to try one (he informed me he never read one but knew no matter what he was NOT going to like them!). So, I chose a really good mystery for a read aloud – and he was instantly hooked. Stubborn children have to be “tricked.”

Look for books that are based on your students’ interests. Of course, you did the interests inventory at the beginning of the year, so you know just what they enjoy. The read aloud should be all about what they like.

Look for new books by familiar authors. (But again, read it ahead of time so you know what is in there. I remember one year I chose Patricia Polacco – love her – but was surprised by one of her books!). I say new books so you can avoid the ever-common, “I heard this before,” or “I already read this,” and I say familiar author because then you can try to “hook” a student on a particular writer for them to find more by that author.

These are my few tips for picking read alouds, other than making sure they are grade-appropriate.

Finally, I want to say do not ever be afraid to abandon a read aloud if it’s just not working for you and your class. I have had to do this on a few occasions. I have read a book and thought it’d be great, only to discover my class really wasn’t into it as much as I thought they would be. It’s a teachable moment.

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