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.