One of my favorite times of the day is sharing a read aloud with my students. In today’s post, I want to share some reasons why upper elementary students should still be read to, what you can read to them, tips for managing read alouds, and how to use read alouds in upper elementary classrooms to help the students master the standards.
Why are read alouds in upper elementary beneficial for students?
These are just some of the ways that I have found that reading aloud to my students benefits them:
Read alouds expose students to higher level of text that they may not be able to read on their own.
Students are also exposed to a variety of genres, topics, and authors.
Read alouds are perfect to teach targeted, specific reading skills. The students can also learn how to apply that skill to their own reading.
Read alouds help increase listening comprehension.
The teacher can use read alouds to model thinking processes, fluency, and decoding strategies.
Read alouds are perfect for integrating science and social studies into literacy.
The students truly enjoy being read to.
If done right, read alouds can help build a sense of community among your students.
What types of text can you use for read alouds in upper elementary?
Picture Books – Picture books are by far my favorite choice for read alouds in upper elementary. I love these sense of community and love of reading that it evokes when I read a picture book.
Novels – Read about one of my favorite read alouds, Wonder, by clicking here. Novels are a bit trickier to use as read alouds because they are lengthy and don’t have pictures to share. When choosing a novel to read aloud with your students, I recommend choosing something very high interest that will hold their interest for the duration of the novel.
Books in a Series – I like to read the first of a book in a series to hook the students and have them dying to get their hands on the additional book in the series.
Informational Text – Informational text is not typically something that a lot of people choose as read aloud material. There are some great narrative nonfiction texts that lend themselves to read alouds. However, I also like to read a variety of other informational text. Sometimes I project an article or magazine via my smartboard and sometimes my students have a copy of the text as well.
Passages – When I read aloud a common passage, I read it just like a story. This helps the students realize that the format of passages itself isn’t difficult or boring. It helps them see that passages are just stories in a different format. I love blowing up passages on a poster maker and reading them that way as well.
Poetry – Read more about how I do shared reading of poetry by clicking here.
Tips for Read Aloud Management and Engagement
Have Read Aloud Expectations: I explicitly teach my students procedures for read alouds. I keep the chart hanging near the read aloud area all year and refer to it as needed.
Think about a Read Aloud Location: Decide where you will have your students sit during the read aloud. I have my students come to the carpet (yes, even my fifth graders!). If you don’t have the space of if this won’t work for your students (It did not work for my inner city students), try to at least move some of the students who sit in the back closer to you. Or try to place yourself in a central location where you can engage all of your students.
Assign Partners for Discussion: You can allow students to select partners, use elbow partners, or have assigned partners if the students move to the carpet for read alouds. Whatever you decide, make sure the students have someone to talk to and discuss the read aloud.
Provide a Focus for the Read Aloud: I provide a focus for my students for every read aloud. Sometimes it is just a quick statement like “In this picture book, there are two very different characters. While I am reading, I want you to think about these characters and how they are different.” Other times, the focus may be related to a specific skill or statement, such as “Think about the theme of this today’s reading. What lesson are you learning that applies to your life?”
Stop Regularly to Engage Students in Discussion and Reflection: When I plan my read alouds (blog post coming soon about planning for read alouds in upper elementary), I plan out my stopping points and what questions I will ask. Some of my questions are choral response questions and some are turn and talk partner questions.
Choose High-Interest Read Alouds: I do have my go-to read alouds that I use each year. However, I also let my students’ interests and backgrounds guide my read aloud choices as well. Choosing a book that your students can relate to and enjoy will increase your students’ engagement naturally. Want to learn more about your students interests? Grab a free set of reading interest survey task cards by clicking here.
Tips for Using the Read Alouds to Help Students Master Standards
As beneficial as read alouds are by themselves, they can also be used to help the students standards. Here’s how:
- When choosing a read aloud, have a specific standard in mind. Choose a book that clearly demonstrates or allows the students to practice that standard.
- Keep a running list of read alouds and refer to them often when teaching standards. For example, if you are reading a story about a theme of perseverance, you can refer to your chart of books you have shared and choose a book with a similar topic for the students to compare and contrast.
- When practicing a specific skill or strategy with a read aloud, have the students apply that same skill or strategy to their independent reading.
- Create anchor charts for the standard and use the read aloud to help teach the standard or practice the standard on the chart.
Now, I will say that I do keep a read aloud purely for fun at my read aloud area which I pull out on crazy days when I just want the students to listen and enjoy the book. My go-to books are the Wayside Stories series because they are easy to pick up and read a section whenever and the kids LOVE them. Sometimes it is nice just to read and enjoy a book with no standards or skills requirements. However, in the real world, those standards and skills are SO important so read aloud for pure enjoyment doesn’t happen as often as I would like. However, choosing high interest stories to read aloud is the best of both worlds because you and your students can enjoy the read aloud and practice/learn important skills.
Interested in reading more about how I teach reading? Click here to read a detailed breakdown of how I teach reading in 5th grade.
Want to see my recommended read alouds for 4th and 5th grade students? Click here to see all of my posts that share holiday/seasonal read alouds with freebies and my favorite picture books/mentor texts for teaching specific reading skills.
Do you do read alouds in your upper elementary classroom? What are your best tips for making them most effective? Let me know in the comments.
I absolutely agree with you. I am reading Catch You Later, Traitor to my fifth grade gifted class. It gives us a story we can all connect with. They don’t want me to stop reading.
Jennifer Findley says
I have been wanting to read that book. I really need to move it up on my “To Be Read” list now. Thanks, Mary!
Mark Thomas says
This year I am back in the4th grade classroom after several years as a digital coach. I have the goal to read a picture book each day and so far the kids have been totally enthralled with the selections I’ve made. I’ve got my own list of books and ideas for sharing them, but I don’t know every book out there and don’t want to recreate the wheel. Do you have lists of picture books you are willing to share? How about the list of books that matches the standards?
Jennifer Findley says
Hi Mark, I am working on compiling a list but it is taking a bit longer than I had expected with school started back. I hope to start posting about the ones I use for literature standards by the end of 2016. Thanks for asking!
I would be very interested in this! Have you started/ finished this yet? If so- can you please tell me where to find it? Thanks so much- I enjoy reading your blog so SO much!
I really like your idea of reading a book a day with your students. I have seen how much students enjoy being read to and I have seen that some students become more interested in reading when they are read to and shown how much fun reading can be.
Leslie Kramer says
Right now, I am reading Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty to my 5th grade class. They LOVE it! There is a book trailer on youtube and, after viewing, the children are hooked! I discovered the book last year and I did not pre-read it, but read it for the first time myself right along with my students. We couldn’t put it down! Mr. Beatty’s website has appropriate teaching tools that you can utilize, but I also found that learning opportunities, such as lessons on figurative language, inferring, predicting, character analyzation, to name a few, just presented themselves as we read. As luck would have it, book number 2 came out in July and book number 3 is in process.
I am new to your blog and am getting more ideas each time I read. I am wondering if you have a read aloud list compiled? I saw some people ask for it about a year ago. I am not sure if I missed your post about this.
Thanks for all your sharing.
I would also like to see a list of the books if there is one also.
Jennifer Findley says
Hi Lisa and Jill, I have started compiling my mentor texts/read alouds. You can see them all here: https://jenniferfindley.com//category/reading/read-alouds