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Use of read aloud strategies in secondary classrooms

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Most of us have memories of sitting in a circle around a friendly librarian or kindergarten teacher as he or she held a colorful picture book up and read a wonderful story. We were engaged by new ideas, entranced by artwork and ready to talk about the story to anyone who would listen. Then, when we entered grade school, read aloud times were a thing of the past. However there is a growing number of educators who advocate use of read aloud strategies in middle school, high school and even college classes.

Choosing a read aloud

When choosing something to read out loud to secondary students a wide variety of materials should be considered. In the science classroom for example teachers have used sources such as biographies, popular science magazines, excerpts from non-fiction books and even science fiction novels. The piece should be short and must relate to the topic being studied in class. A good use of reading aloud is often to connect a new topic to the 'real world'. One science teacher opened a unit on viruses by reading an excerpt from Richard Preston's "The Hot Zone." Another teacher used read aloud examples to model appropriate choices for research materials. It is often highly effective to discuss with students why you chose a text to share and invite them to bring in appropriate materials themselves. Choice is part of literate behavior.

Benefits of reading to secondary students

It should be kept in mind that students can listen at a higher language level than many of them can read. Selections read by a fluent, expressive reader allow students to process complex concepts that might otherwise be lost in the effort of decoding if they were read silently. Intonation and pronunciation of new words happens naturally when text is read out loud. Vocabulary is introduced in context rather than by rote memorization. Choosing and sharing materials that interest both the instructor and the students can establish a classroom rapport that continues into other instruction.

Implementing a read aloud strategy

1. Model appropriate selection and delivery of the material. The instructor should always pre-read the selection thoroughly. Practice and timing. Even experienced speakers may inadvertently speed up or slur words when reading instead of speaking extemporaneously.

2. Choose an assessment strategy. It is often effective to prepare a list of open ended questions about the material and distribute them to students before the reading. The best read aloud sessions are followed by classroom discussion.

3. Provide an extension by inviting students to provide new read aloud materials. Student choice and presentation of read aloud materials can be directly linked to common core objectives in many content areas. Choosing appropriate materials and defending their choices are skills needed by most adults.

Student comments

"It was kind of cool when she read part of Jurassic Park in class and then we talked about whether that could really happen."

"Hearing the article from Scientific American made me think about what we are learning about genetics really matters in more than just science class"

"I liked it that we got to choose stuff for the teacher to read."

Reading aloud really isn't just for kindergarten anymore!

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