Do you ever feel like you spend SO much time prepping for your class read-alouds, but when it begins, your kids seem checked out? You’ve done ALL the things this school year to build them up, but then your students come to the carpet and don’t seem nearly as engaged as you thought they would be…
Too often our young readers quickly lose interest and abandon books left and right. As we show the importance of staying in a text, we want to make sure we take this modeling opportunity to teach our students to walk alongside our characters and be a part of their stories. Here are a few strategies for keeping students attentive, actively participating, and curious about what is coming next. This post will be key to helping you have a successful read-aloud experience with your students.
If you missed my post about how to ramp up your read-aloud BEFORE you begin reading, check it out here first before you read any further.
Ramp Up Read-Alouds With the Act of Reading
First up, a quick reality check: the teacher’s physical act of reading the text aloud to the class HAS to mirror the passion they feel for it. Remember how we talked about how the teacher has to be 100% bought into the story? It’s time to show that. Model feeling what the characters feel. Change voices up as characters change and go through different challenges within the story.
Be real about sharing your thoughts, questions, and predictions as the plot moves along. If the novel has the opportunity to stop and act out a scene, feeling, or behavior, allow your students the opportunity to do it. By doing this, you are improving reading comprehension and language development all while students are simply active participants in the read-aloud.
I have read “The Tiger Rising” by Kate DiCamillo to my fourth graders many times, and a favorite part that we would always stop and act out is when one of the main and memorable characters, the sassy and heroic Sistine Bailey, always put her hands on her hips when she speaks. I loved asking my students to stand up and put their hands on their hips too, so they can truly feel Sistine and her attitude. This is a different way to toss in the practice of character analysis while keeping your students INVOLVED in the story.
Another scene I always remembered to use as a teaching point in that same text is when it talks about rain dropping on a roof and how it sounds like fingers drumming on a surface. So what did we do? You guessed it. My students would stop, close their eyes, and drum their fingers on a surface so that we could truly visualize the scene. Hearing the sound alone can be powerful.
Having your students be in the character’s shoes, almost literally, is a game-changer and plays a vital role in students’ literacy and engagement levels. It promotes deep thinking that is critical for their read-aloud journey. Remember, we are creating a read-aloud experience for them that is to be cherished.
Ramp Up Read-Alouds with Interactive Thinking
Remember how we set up the story mat in the last blog post? Here is where that mat and your intentionally planned lesson design for reading strategies practice come into play. As your class progresses through the text, regularly add sticky notes to your story mat to capture thoughts, questions, and feelings. Point out the different story elements and key vocabulary as you move through the plot.
Reinforce these practices by having students maintain their own story mats in notebooks, fostering independent thinking while they create a tool that they can refer back to for guidance. This constant act of stopping and jotting is such a simple and realistic approach, and not only keeps students’ engagement high in the text we are reading but is also a great example of how they should use this skill on their own.
My favorite thing about the story mat is that it shows our thinking, in real-time, and invites students to be free to change their thoughts or feelings on a character or part of the book, fostering the importance of a growth mindset. It allows for questions and predictions to change while showing the growth we have made together as we have read and learned more information. As students stop and discuss the text as a class, they are simultaneously strengthening those comprehension and language skills, too. Sit back and watch your reluctant readers become invested in the storyline, make predictions repeatedly throughout the text, and beg for you to keep reading.
Not only do I love for this age group to use their story mats, but I also love intentionally planning for them to use a graphic organizer as we read. As mentioned before, the specific skill is pre-planned and the page is printed and ready for students to use. I highly recommend using this type of tool because the different mats can pair with any type of book: fiction and nonfiction.
Having students complete a graphic organizer during our read-aloud time is such a great way to sustain attention, and reinforce content knowledge, classroom instruction, and comprehension strategies. It also incorporates sentence writing or general note-taking which is a win. You can EASILY extend the learning by taking the same graphic organizer that was completed during the whole group class read-aloud, and have students complete it with a different text in small groups or independently with the current book they are reading.
Ramp Up Read-Alouds By Showing the Text
A final trick for keeping your students involved in the text is to project the book under your document camera or display it in a way for them to see as you read. For added engagement, encourage your students to “complete your sentence” by anticipating the last word of a sentence. This simple yet effective strategy instills accountability and affirms that students are actively participating in the class read-aloud.
This is also a wonderful opportunity for your students to be exposed to complex texts that they maybe wouldn’t normally read while pointing out new vocabulary as you make your way through the story. Having your text displayed immediately makes it more of an interactive reading experience and fosters more instructional conversations as students can read along with you.
The power of class read-alouds is priceless. By modeling how to become one with the story and characters, making students’ thinking interactive throughout the text, and showing the book for students to read along with you, you are instantly achieving a ramped-up read-aloud in your classroom. Whether picture, nonfiction, or fantasy books, any genre you select can be made an interactive read-aloud that is a top-notch experience for students to remember for years to come.
Your read-aloud game is about to change. Drastically. You no longer need to worry whether they will still be hooked in the story because they won’t be able to contain how invested they are about to become during your instruction! And guess what? You are achieving your goal of getting your students to grow in their literacy development while their love of reading skyrockets. Win-win.