This week’s blog is written by Silvana Oderisi. This is Silvana’s seventh year teaching kindergarten and her third year with the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center where she is the reading teacher. Prior to joining SEEC, she spent two years as a Corps Member of Teacher for American in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well as teaching in the District of Columbia. She is passionate about reading, learning languages, and being active.
Read-alouds are my absolute favorite part of the day in my kindergarten classroom! You can often find me animatedly reading my favorite stories to my captivated students. Beyond simply reading the text, I am actively asking and answering questions to help my students infer meaning from the text. Not only do I love reading aloud to my students, I make sure to intentionally plan each and every lesson to teach the necessary skills my kindergartners need to develop their literacy and comprehension.
It is well known that reading aloud to children is great for developing early literacy skills like print awareness, one to one correspondence, and letter and sound recognition, but did you know that reading aloud to children could be the most important way to build comprehension skills? It helps young children understand what they are reading by allowing them to make connections, infer meaning, and develop higher-order thinking skills. Reading aloud is an important activity to do at home too, as research shows that children’s brain activity increases when parents or caregivers read to them.
At school, a read-aloud is a planned part of reading instruction where a teacher reads aloud to their students. It is an opportunity for a child to witness the ways a confident, expert reader approaches reading a story. It gives children the chance to hear how a fluent reader reads text with expression and excitement while allowing them to think through the various elements of a story. Most importantly, it is through read-alouds that children are able to experience the way reading can take them places through their imagination.
Here are five ways that I make my read-aloud lessons as meaningful as possible for the children in my kindergarten class.
Modeling Thinking Routines
I always remember that when I am reading aloud to children, they are experiencing the many ways a fluent reader approaches text. One thing that I try to do is model my way of thinking, decoding, and making connections to a story. One great way to do this is to use thinking routines when reading aloud. Some of my favorites are, “This reminds me of the time…” and “Have you ever…?” Although these types of thinking routines may be second nature for fluent readers, this foundational skill helps children make connections to the real world.
Checking for Understanding
I have to make sure that the skills that I am teaching in my read-aloud are understood by all the children in my group. For example, a student might not be able to make inferences to a certain situation because they have no background schema to connect them to the events in the story. When I ask detailed questions, I can begin to pinpoint where the breakdown in understanding is occurring. It also helps me to glean an individual’s comprehension and understanding. Asking comprehension questions while reading aloud also engages children to think critically about the content instead of simply relying on the adult to break down everything for easy understanding. That being said, it is also important to gradually release responsibility to the child by asking questions throughout reading the text that allow them to build on skills and knowledge they have already acquired.
Who doesn’t love to see an adult dress up and get silly? This shows that adults are never too old to enjoy a good book and nurtures a lifelong love of reading. It also helps relieve tension for some children who find reading difficult by making it more fun! In my classroom, we love to incorporate dramatic play to encourage children to participate and be involved in reading.
Children are more likely to remember the content when some type of visual is presented such as an anchor chart. Anchor charts are a great way to make thinking visible. I record strategies, processes, cues, guidelines, and other content on a chart during the learning process. Whether it is an anchor chart with pictures to help them identify the setting of a story or steps that show the moral of a story, these visuals help them to build comprehension and make further connections to the story that is being read. I also use these visual charts as a reference to help the children think about what is being read to them and formulate their answers to questions about the text.
The Right Book
The single most important part of a read-aloud is making sure that I have chosen the right book! I try to choose books that are not only connected to the skills that we are working on, but that are also engaging and exciting. Whenever possible, I try to connect the book to the interests of my students. For example, my students really enjoy books written by Mo Willems, so I incorporate his books into as many of our units as possible. When we were learning about how to identify the setting of a story, we read Knuffle Bunny which takes place in Brooklyn, New York, a place that some of the students had even visited before!
Stay tuned for my list of the Top 10 Books for Kindergarten Read-Alouds!