One of the first steps in acquiring language is hearing new words in context. Reading aloud to students has the potential to broaden individual student vocabularies, which can lead to more accurate forms of written and verbal expression. Taking students beyond their current reading levels using read alouds will expose them to words they may not be exposed to when reading independently. This will give students a chance to learn new words in context that they can then incorporate into their background knowledge for use during future reading.
Metacognition is the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes, and it’s one of the key components of reading comprehension. When listening to a text being read aloud, students can focus on metacognition without the added stress of grappling with words they don’t understand. Additionally, students can construct meaning, connect ideas, apply background knowledge, and discover new words in a low stakes environment.
Read alouds can be used as a tool for formative assessments. Perform comprehension quick checks by posing text-based questions during and after the readings. Formulating questions that require critical thinking about the text will give you valuable insights into the abilities of your students. Four example questions are listed below.
- What do you think will happen after _______?
- What can you infer from ________?
- Why do you think the author included ________?
- What clues help you understand the meaning of the word _______?
Listening to a story or article being read out loud will allow students to practice visualization, using prior knowledge and background experiences to connect the author’s writing to a personal picture. Mental imagery will help students understand, remember, and take away meaning from the text. You can encourage visualization by having students draw pictures as they listen to the text being read aloud. The goal is for students to use visualization techniques when reading independently.
Background knowledge is essential for reading comprehension. Regularly reading aloud to your students will increase their knowledge on a variety of topics, allowing them to tap into new information they can pull from when reading independently. Also, delivering new information within the context of a story or article will aid in comprehension, making it easier for students to infer meaning when necessary.
Technology has made it possible for many different types of read alouds to occur in the classroom. Audiobooks, YouTube videos, and podcasts are examples of the different ways a read aloud in your classroom might take shape. Additionally, read alouds don’t always have to be storybooks or picture books. I read chapter books (without pictures- gasp!) to my seventh graders every day after lunch, and they loved it!