Making Time in the Classroom for Read-alouds

Reading aloud to my students is my favorite part of our daily routine.  I like to think it is also my students’ favorite part of the day. When I pull out our latest book, a silence descends upon our classroom.  They are on the edge of their seats, ready to begin!  Throughout the year, our read-alouds bring us closer as a class.  We laugh together and sometimes we even cry together.  (Reading Marley: A Dog Like No Other as a class was an experience like no other!)

When I mention read-alouds to most other middle grade teachers, I am usually met with a look of amazement.  “How do you have time?” they ask.   It’s not always easy- I’m the first to admit it.  In this day and age of shortened class periods and little wiggle room, it can be difficult finding time to share books.  But it is worth it.  The time I spend with my class during read-alouds fosters a strong sense of community along with modeling my own love of reading while sharing various genres with my students.  Reading aloud to my students is the #1 way that I encourage my students to read!  

Read-alouds are usually an integral part of the day for elementary school students, but the practice dwindles as students enter the intermediate and middle grades.  However, this is also the time when students begin to set aside books for video games, computer time, and various social activities.  While these are also important parts of growing up, modeling our own love of reading can foster the joy of reading in our middle school students.  So how can classroom teachers make time for read-alouds?  

1) Establish a regular routine- I share our read-aloud each day at the end of reading or writing workshop.  Our schedule is different each day, because of specials and assemblies.  But my students know that read-aloud will happen each day and they know it will be our wrap-up.  My read-aloud time is written into my lesson plans each week- nothing complicated, just a simple box with the title of our current book.  But this ensures that I include it each day.  Are there times when I don’t fit it in?  Of course.  But I make the effort each day.  And I am successful 90% of the time.

2) Choose books that you enjoy- This is so, so, so important!  Your students will be able to tell immediately if you aren’t enjoying the time you spend reading aloud.  And if you aren’t enjoying it, neither will they.  Share classics that you enjoyed as a child.  Or new favorites!  What you read isn’t nearly as important as the enthusiasm you share with your class.  Your passion will be contagious!  And when you are passionate about the book your are reading together, making time to share it will come naturally.  It won’t seem like a chore.  And your students will be begging you to read more.

3) Make connections to your read-aloud throughout the day and the course of the year-  In my classroom, we have a bulletin board where we hang up copies of the covers of books we read as a class.  Throughout the year, we refer to our past read-alouds whenever possible.  As a class, we have a group of common texts that helps bring us together.  I try to read a variety of genres, so that the students can draw on these books during various units of study throughout the year.  It’s a great way for the kids to come together and share a common pool of knowledge!  In this day and age of less time and stricter curriculums, making connections ties your read-aloud into your day and year.  It becomes an integral part of your classroom routine.

4) Read aloud books that connect with various parts of curriculum- In middle school, teachers are usually specialists in their subject area.  Because of this, we sometimes forget about the other content areas.  A class read-aloud can be an opportunity to bring content area reading into the language arts classroom, or language arts into the content areas.  Science teachers can read novels with scientific or environmental plot threads- Carl Hiaasen’s books are a great example.  Social studies and history teachers can choose from a plethora of historical fiction!  

These are just a few of the ways that I make time for reading aloud in my classroom.  Reading aloud with my students is honestly my favorite part of the day.  In fact, I am signing off now to go through my pile of possible read-alouds to begin this week.  We just finished our current book, Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie. Choosing our next book is always extremely difficult because there are so many great books to choose from!  It will take me a few days to narrow it down, but in the meantime I will share picture books and short stories with my students.  No matter what, we always share read-aloud time together!


*Be sure to check out the rest of today’s posts on the Share a Story – Shape a Future blog tour, hosted by Terry Doherty at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, the Reading Tub blog.

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21 Responses

  1. Great list! I agree that our own enjoyment of a book is key when choosing a book to read aloud to our students. This is a good test; a book I enjoy is more likely to respect and inspire my third grade listeners.

  2. Thanks for sharing how you make “reading aloud” work in the classroom. I believe that reading aloud gives teachers the opportunity to teach more standards and skills than any one single activity simulteneously. I encourage all teachers reading this to try it. If your child is in a classroom where read aloud doesn’t happen, ask if you can be a weekly “read aloud” guest in the classroom.

    The Literacy Ambassador

  3. One of my most vivid memories of the 6th grade is Ms. Abramson reading Lorna Doone to us; we – the soon to be sophisticated junior high students – were enthralled, both girls and boys. I know part of it was the fact the teacher clearly had a passion for the story. I always read to the sixth graders I taught, it was a treasured part of the day for us and never ceased to amaze me in its uniform acceptance by the students as a time of enjoyment and value.

  4. Your enthusiasm for reading and your students jumps from your post. I love your idea of using different lengths of text (short stories, picture books, novels). I agree that reading isn’t “just” about language arts … it connects us across disciplines.

    Thanks for helping us kick off Share a Story – Shape a Future. I’m already excited about everything you’ve got planned tomorrow!

  5. During grade school, I couldn’t wait for the time when the teacher would read aloud to us. It was a moment to relax, use your imagination, and enjoy a good book. I still enjoy listening to books. Thank you to everyone who reads aloud!

  6. It’s scary how radical the notion of reading aloud to secondary-school children is. I recently completed a stint at a local school and felt rather conspicuous,reading a novel aloud at least once a week – when my time to leave approached, we made sure we finished it – it was a great, unifying experience for the group – from the established book-worms to those who need active encouragement to pick up a book…

  7. [...] the Reading Tub blog. Finding Time at Home – Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect Making Time in the Classroom – Sarah Mulhern at The Reading Zone Helping a Reader in Need (remedial readers) – Sandra Stiles at [...]

  8. Clap-clap, whoops and cheers! I’m not a teacher, but I totally agree about the value of read-aloud time. Too many teachers — and far too many parents — give up that read-aloud experience once kids become confident, independent readers.

    Which totally misses the point. More and more, I see classroom books as starting points for valuable conversations. First you build that community with a shared experience, then you take it to the next level.

    Lastly, I just wanted to compliment you on this post in general. Very well-written and organized. You even use numbers! Wow, that’s like Hall-of-Fame Blogger stuff right there.

  9. I have been privileged to be allowed by several middle grade teachers to read to their students from one of my books. It is so much fun, and gives the teacher a little break. I only stay 30 minutes, and let the kids ask me questions about being a writer.

    Marcia Calhoun Forecki
    Better Than Magic
    http://www.eloquentbooks.com/BetterThanMagic.html

  10. What an eloquent appeal! A captive audience and a wonderful book – can’t beat that combination.

  11. Thanks, these are all great ideas. My son’s teacher (Kindergarten) has a read aloud time built into everyday after lunch. I think it’s his favorite part of school.

  12. Excellent post, Sarah! (I’m with James on the hall of fame blog post stuff). I especially liked: “Reading aloud to my students is the #1 way that I encourage my students to read! ” And the fact that you choose books that you like, of course. Your enthusiasm is such an important component to the whole thing.

  13. My daughter’s 4th grade teacher still reads aloud daily; I hope she’s lucky enough to have someone like you as she moves on to middle school!

  14. What a great reminder of how powerful the daily read aloud can be. I was in the classroom for 26 years and read each and every day. I learned very fast as a beginning teacher that if I wanted my students to listen, I would read! As a reading specialist in a middle school I try to encourage all of our teachers to read aloud to their classes in every content area each day. I am so happy to share your enthusiasm about the most important thing that can help inspire our students to be lifelong readers!

  15. Love your passion for read aloud, one which I share with you! I actually start with it each day, and it sets the tone for the community for the rest of the day!
    Kudos to you for continuing this into 6th grade.

  16. I am so happy to hear that you make READING ALOUD a priority for your MIDDLE grade students!!! This is refreshing to read! Thank you for ALL you are doing to promote reading aloud, especially to older children!

  17. You are such an ambassador for literacy, Sarah!

  18. Yes, yes, yes! Read aloud to your students at all grades. Picture books are not just for elementary classes and chapter books are not just for upper grades. Keep up the good word.

  19. I cherish reading aloud with my classes. I begin each class with the read aloud because hearing beautiful language is the meat and potatoes of reading and writing, not the dessert. From time to time I hear words and phrases and figurative language in my own students’ writing as a result of the read alouds. I teach fifth grade language arts.

  20. My read aloud time is the basis of my Language Arts classes in 7th grade. Poems, articles, novels, picture books, songs, etc, are incorporated. Besides the valuable community building time, how else is a second language learner going to hear good examples fluent English? How will a struggling reader learn that stories are interesting? How can a teacher model how to fix a problem? The read aloud alone can inspire a bored or frustrated reader to build up their toolbox of strategies to read those stories alone.

  21. [...] Time at Home – Tricia Stohr-Hunt @ The Miss Rumphius Effect Making Time in the Classroom for Read Alouds – Sarah Mulhern @ The Reading Zone Look for the Clues: Tips and Tricks to Help a Remedial [...]

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