Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Engaging Read-Alouds with Accountability

Read alouds are one of my favorite parts of teaching! Unfortunately, in this test driven system, 3rd graders are expected more and more to be doing passages instead of listening to read alouds; especially as testing season nears at the end of the year. Obviously, any teacher with a degree in their field took some class somewhere on reading and knows that read alouds are extremely beneficial for students not only learning to read, but "reading to learn".

As my team knows, I can be very stubborn when I feel like I am championing a cause. Typically, my cause is fighting against teaching to the test. This year, I continued my read alouds multiple times a week right through testing season to the end of the year. I refused to switch to only passages during testing season, even though that was the push. If I went more than 2-3 days without a read aloud, my kids would get super dramatic and say, "Can we please read something....you haven't read to us in forever!" I know my students appreciated not being rundown with test prep and this actually ended up being the highest scoring year I've ever had for state tests. They rocked it!

Sometimes, my read aloud are just read alouds.
We enjoy a good book, I model fluency, we turn and talk, and we enjoy sharing our thoughts and predictions.

However, this year I decided to step my read alouds up a notch by having the students bring their white boards to the carpet as an added piece of accountability. Using my document camera to project the book on my SmartBoard, I would stop throughout and ask them to use the text and record the answers to skill/strategy questions I asked on their board. The added step of independently recording their thoughts/answers on their white boards before turning, talking, and sharing, really boosted engagement. Not only could I monitor which kids weren't getting the "big ideas", but I noticed that the turn and talk times were more balanced because both students had extra time to think about their opinions before sharing.

Here are the basics of how I run white board read alouds in my classroom:

-The students get the benefit of a read aloud PLUS skill/strategy
-Students are practicing skills in context (which I noticed actually boosted their results on reading passages)
-Total Engagement: Everyone is participating because everyone is writing a response on their whiteboard.
-This is an amazing way to informally assess your students.
-I have done this with a picture book and a chapter book, it works both ways!
-The students love it! They feel more involved in the read aloud process, even if they aren't called on to share.

First, select a skill to focus on and a book that can provide practice with that -or- select a book to read and flag the multiple different skills you can use the book with.
1. Read the book
2. Find a good place in the story to stop
3. Ask a question about the text
4. Give the students time to jot their thoughts/answers independently
5. Give the students time to turn and talk with one buddy
6. Call on a couple students to share out
7. Continue Reading

-Don't stop at every page, read enough at one time so that students can get into the story.
-Have rules for the white boards so they don't become a distraction. My rule is that there is no drawing, doodling, or erasing while I'm reading. I remind them to uncap their markers when I ask a question and to cap their markers before I start reading again. They actually get really good at this and will remind a neighbor if they are off-task.
-Give them time to write independently before sharing, this is their extended think time. You will definitely get better results from the process.
-Pair up students for turn and talk before starting, this will make the process go a lot smoother.
-Pre-select the book to fit the specific skill you are covering. For example, when we were working on homophones, I looked for a book that had a couple pages with more than one homophone.
-Use a document camera so students can see the text.
*Tip* Give students a sentence frame that they must use in their response.
This will help them practice sentence formation and it will boost
academic language use for your ESOL students!

Examples of Questions You Could Ask:
-Write down all the compound words you see on the page.
-Find a four-syllable word on the page, write it on your board, and divide it into syllables.
-Put all the names on this page in ABC order.
-Which two words on this page are homophones?
-The author said the character is clever, write a synonym for the word clever.
-What is the setting for this page?
-What is the problem that --- has on this page? How do you predict the problem will be solved?
-Write two character traits that describe ---.
-What caused --- to happen? What was the effect of ---?
-The text says the character walked very slowly and the picture shows that he looks concerned. What can you infer about where he is headed?
-What would be a good title for this chapter (or heading for this section)?

Hopefully, at least one teacher reading this will give it a try in the fall. Let me know what you think or if you already do something similar in your classroom.

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