What a journey I’ve had with teaching reading! I started out with basal readers and felt guilty when I took time away from the basals to do class read-alouds. I progressed to teaching reading strategies using carefully planning units designed to teach, practice, and assess using the workshop method. I’m still there, but have taken a shaky step forward–designing the units, but feeling my way carefully and improvising as I respond to the needs of my class.
This happened recently as I realized that my ELL students were not engaged during read alouds. They behaved, but if you looked carefully their eyes were glazed over. Read alouds are such an important part of reading instruction–as a matter of fact, many of my mini-lessons take place in the context of read-alouds these days.
Benefits of using read alouds
One of the most important things adults can do in preparing children for success in school and in reading is to read aloud with them.
- Listeners build listening and comprehension skills through discussion during and after reading.
- Listeners increase their vocabulary foundation by hearing words in context.
- Listeners improve their memory and language skills as they hear a variety of writing styles and paraphrase their understanding.
- Listeners gain information about the world around them.
Listeners develop individual interests in a broad variety of subjects and they develop imagination and creativity: what better way to build skills which foster inquiry? Other suggestions and benefits are in this Education World article. (http://www.esiponline.org/classroom/foundations/reading/readalouds.html)
You can see why I would consider this a classroom emergency. So I decided to read Harry Potter. I needed a high interest book that was in their grasp. Step 1 in my emergency plan. It worked for the boys, but not for the girls.
So, Step 2 in my plan, constructed in the moment, was to make a character map for students to use to follow the story a bit better. Still no success with two of the girls. Two girls not learning is a major catastrophe for me and so I went for Step 3: the movie. I brought the movie in and we watched it up to the point in the movie where we had stopped reading. Fortunately, the movie is pretty true to the book. Constantly referring to the character chart as the movie played, the two girls finally had a mental picture (even if it was provided for them) of what was happening and could understand the book.
And so we continue. I read a few chapters and then we watch the movie. All of my students love it. All of my students are learning. And my ELL students are also engaged and working to follow the read alouds.