Do you love elementary read alouds as much as I do? There are two moments I anticipate with excitement every year in my classroom: When Charlie Bucket finally gets his Golden Ticket and the class cheers wildly (because they always do) and when Charlotte dies and even my toughest little guys look sad. For many kids, those are the first times that a book evokes such emotion and I love being a part of that magic.
Children love to be read to. Whether it is on the laps of their parents or on a rug listening to their teacher, it is a special time when they can listen and enjoy literature that they may not be able to access independently. Read alouds are an incredibly valuable experience for all young learners.
Read below for the answers to these frequently asked questions about elementary read alouds:
- What are read alouds?
- What is an interactive read aloud?
- Can you tell me the difference between a read aloud and shared reading?
- Why are read alouds important?
- When should I use read alouds?
- How do I set up a space that is conducive to read alouds?
- Do you have any tips for selecting a read aloud?
- How do I do a read aloud?
- How do I keep my elementary students engaged during read alouds?
What are Read Alouds?
Read alouds are an instructional practice where a teacher (or other experienced reader) models reading fluency and expression, thinking strategies, reading strategies, a love of reading, and more while reading aloud a fiction or non-fiction text.
What is an Interactive Read Aloud?
An interactive read aloud is a type of read aloud where students actively listen and discuss the book being read aloud throughout the duration of the reading.
Shared Reading vs Read Aloud
Similar to a read aloud, shared reading is an instructional practice where a teacher (or other experienced readers) models reading with fluency and expression. Both experiences expose students to new vocabulary, concepts, text structures, and genres.
Shared reading is different than a read aloud because the text must have words that are presented in a way that students can read them. This could look like a big book or a text with large, clear print that is projected using a document camera. The books should have a predictable plot, a limited amount of text on each page, and repetitive text across pages (that could have some rhythm or rhyme). Bill Martin Jr.’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See is a great example of this. The purpose of these characteristics is so that the students can follow along and participate in the reading. This experience helps students see themselves as readers.
Why are Read Alouds Important?
Reading aloud books to children is one of the most valuable experiences parents and teachers can provide to young learners. Reading aloud children’s books has the following benefits:
- Builds important foundational reading and writing skills
- Models reading fluency and expression
- Builds a love of reading and learning
- Develops an interest in books
- Demonstrates that written words carry meaning
- Equips students with book handling skills
- Exposes them to rich vocabulary above their independent reading ability
- Makes challenging books accessible
- Motivates them to practice reading independently to improve reading skills
- Strengthens auditory processing skills
- Increases reading comprehension skills
- Models good thinking and problem-solving strategies
- Shows how to apply reading strategies to books
- Improves self-regulation
- Promotes critical thinking and higher level thinking skills
- Creates a sense of community in the classroom
- Provides opportunities to apply and build upon background knowledge
- Exposes them to a variety of genres
- Promotes curiosity and inquiry
- Provides a framework to teach important skills, information, and lessons
When to Use Elementary Read Alouds
I read books aloud to the class at various times throughout the day. Read alouds are great for modeling reading comprehension strategies and teaching literacy standards, but I use them across all content areas. For example, I sometimes begin Math Workshop with a text related to our current topic. There are tons of great math picture book read alouds out there! We use mentor texts in writing. We share non-fiction books during science and social studies. There are also times when I like to read aloud a story “just for fun” or to celebrate a holiday. It’s a great way to help students regulate after lunch or decompress at the end of the school day. I also like to leave a read aloud for a sub. There are some really great read alouds to leave for a sub. The opportunities are truly limitless!
If you find it challenging to find time for read alouds during the school day, then check out this post about how to find time for read alouds!
How to Prepare Your Classroom for Read Alouds
- Create a comfortable place in the classroom for read aloud. Your whole-group area is ideal.
- When setting up the space, choose an area that is free from distraction by avoiding having the children face into the hallway or out a window. Learning how to create an ideal space for read alouds is so important!
- Dedicate a regular time each day to read aloud. I like to have my students enter the classroom after recess and proceed directly to our group area for read aloud. I find this to be the perfect transition from the excitement of lunch and recess back into the academics of the classroom.
How to Select Read Alouds
Learn how to pick a good read aloud book using the tips below!
- Choose books with bold photographs or illustrations that capture their attention.
- I like to read books that are part of a series or by a favorite author as it then encourages students to explore other titles on their own.
- While you will have some tried and true favorites year after year be sure to pick new titles during the year that are selected based on the interest of the class.
How to Do a Read Aloud
- Set aside 10-20 minutes in your school day to do the read aloud. The amount of time should depend on the age of your students.
- Identify a reading comprehension strategy or standard to be your teaching point.
- Choose a book that teaches or aligns with your teaching point and reflects student interests.
- Jot down a 1-2 sentence summary of the book that you will share with students.
- Plan out questions you want to ask during and after reading. I like to put these questions on a sticky note and put them directly on the page that I will be asking them. Another option is to paperclip a piece of paper onto the page.
- Identify and define new or challenging vocabulary
- Practice reading the book ahead of time using appropriate expression so that you can model how to read fluently.
- Introduce the book by identifying the title, author, and illustrator.
- Give a brief 1-2 sentence summary of the book.
- Name the teaching point.
- Invite students to make predictions and connections. Invite students to make observations and gather information from the illustration on the cover. An option is to do a picture walk through the story.
- Take your time, say the words clearly, and use expression while you are reading.
- Ask the questions you prepared ahead of time.
- Clarify the meaning of the words you identified ahead of time.
- Ask the 3-5 higher-order thinking questions at the end of the story.
- Thank your students for being good listeners.
- An option is to do a follow-up activity related to the teaching point and story. This will require more time to be added to the experience.
8 Management Tips for Read Alouds
Promoting student engagement during read alouds is so important! Read the management tips below for more ideas on how to make your elementary read alouds go smoothly and become your favorite part of the school day.
1. Set clear expectations around bathroom use.
There are a few times during the day when I request that nobody asks to get a drink or use the bathroom. Read Aloud is one of those times (in case you were wondering the other two are when I am directly instructing the whole class and when they are part of a small group lesson). Children have learned that if they say, “It’s an emergency” then they are free to go. You’ll notice that it is ALWAYS an emergency. I have found that taking a few minutes at the start of the year to define what a true emergency is (i.e. You will actually have an accident if you don’t run to the bathroom immediately) gets a few giggles, but it puts an end to it and they are really good about using the restroom at a better time.
2. Keep a box of tissues in your whole group area.
Having a box of tissues in your read aloud area will prevent students from having to crawl over each other to get one which in turns eliminates another distraction.
3. Have students use hand signals.
This is one of my top management tips in general, but I especially find the signals for tissue, question, comment and answer to be very helpful for managing Read Aloud.
4. Establish an attention getter.
Establish attention getting signals. Never read until you have their attention. Wait time can feel like forever, but is worth the time investment.
5. Assign seats for read aloud.
Having a designated spot for each child will prevent students from putting themselves in situations where they are tempted to be off task. This will also make transitioning to read aloud much quicker.
6. Assign partners.
Designate a “talking partner” for each student. Build in times for them to share thoughts or comments or respond to a question about the text. This will help minimize disruptions from students who are eager to make a connection…verbally…five times on each page. 😉
7. Explicitly teach how to listen to a read aloud.
Keep in mind that not all children are read to at home consistently. Also, our kids have all grown up in a digital world where everything flashes, blings and beeps. You may need to teach them how to listen to a story. Explain and model your expectations. Talk about what read aloud should look like and sound like. Create a T-Chart together. Include these expectations in your procedures and routines binder so that a student can revisit them if needed.
8. Plan ahead and be prepared.
Don’t be the interruption. It is so tempting to stop mid-paragraph to point out a strong word choice or reflect on a thought, but that can be what actually takes kids off task from listening. Preread the text and mark those words you want to point out as well as the questions you may want to use for discussion, but share them with the class just before or just after reading the text.
My Favorite Chapter Book Read Alouds for 3rd Grade
- Judy Moody
- Charlotte’s Web
- The BFG
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- The Wizard of Oz
Grab the Free Reading Resources
We hope you found this information about elementary read alouds helpful! We are so passionate about read alouds and are so excited to share tips and ideas with you about them! If you want to get more reading instruction support, grab these read aloud books lists, reading logs, and reading challenges for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classroom teachers. It will have you covered for the entire school year, as well as the summer months! Grab this free elementary reading packet now!