The Power of Teaching with Read-Alouds

books teaching Jun 06, 2019

It all started with this question. "How have you seen students respond to and learn from read alouds, Lisa?"

Hmmm. Well, since you asked...

When I first started teaching I thought read alouds should be treated as an “extra” with “time permitting." Obviously, I had a LOT to learn. With time and experience, I've learned differently. Read alouds are actually a golden opportunity to teach a good majority of reading and writing skills and strategies in meaningful and memorable ways. Not to mention, if you plan carefully, you can add in non-fiction and historical fiction texts to pair with your stories and/or poetry and get some mileage in Science and Social Studies. That's a huge bonus.

So, here's an example of read aloud ideas I might plan for a week in a first grade classroom and in a fifth grade classroom

First Grade


The Egyptian Cinderella by Jewell Reinhart Coburn

The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin

Adelita by Tomie DePaolo

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo

What to Teach:

Point of View, Voice, Setting, Compare/Contrast, Making Predictions, Making Connections like which character/book do you identify with or like most? Why?, Reading skills - demonstrate fix up strategies as you read aloud, think aloud about the story as you read - I wonder.. What if...What do you think about..What does that mean..Parts of a story..

Writing Ideas: 

Rewrite one of the stories from a different point of view (together). Retell the story you liked the best in 3 sentences (beginning, middle and end). Draw the setting or character from the words alone (reread that part aloud as they draw) and then write about it in your own words. Read one story halfway and let your students write the ending. Then, finish reading aloud. Write a letter of warning to Cinderella in one of the stories. Would your warning change the story? Talk about leads and how each story starts. What if you changed that? Try out some ideas together. Grab these [free] K-3 Sequencing Templates and have your students sequence one of the stories in 3 pictures and 3 sentences [or 3 words].

Tie-in Ideas:

Geography- mark the country on a map for each story you read, Discuss  what you know about each country or choose one to learn more about, talk about cultures and traditions, 

Fifth Grade 


A Single Shard by Linda Sue Parks

Find an article on the Tree-ear Mushroom to learn about the symbolism in the story.

Books on orphans ( Mowgli in Jungle Book, Harry Potter, Cinderella, Sophie in the BFG...)

What to Teach: 

Point of view, characterization, theme vs. main idea, setting, character, perseverance, hero's journey, voice, how the author moves the story along or helps us "see" the characters, compare/contrast - rich vs poor, culture, Think aloud as you read - I wonder... Using the context, what does that word mean... Based on what I know so far (and how stories usually go), what do I think is going to happen next...Talk about Crane-man's disability and how he compensates...Talk about what friendship looks like in the story...Elements of a plot...Chart the story's plot structure as you read through the book.

Writing Ideas:

Write a two sentence story for the first 3 or 4 chapters. Change something about Tree-ear's character and tell what that does to the story so far. Write a poem (couplet, haiku...) about that day's chapter (can do this each day or once). Change the point of view of the first chapter and rewrite one scene from the new point of view. Draw a character or the setting from a chapter's description. Tell about a chapter or a section of the book in a 6 word sentence.  You get to be pen pals with one of the characters. What do you write to them and what will they answer? Try out one technique this author uses in their writing in something of your own in your writer's notebook. If Tree-ear sent post cards to Crane-man along his journey, what would he send? 

Tie-in Ideas:

Geography, read more about Korea, economics of rice as a currency and barter systems, chemical reaction in pottery making, talk about energy, momentum and motion of making pottery on a pottery wheel, art of pottery, compare the culture and traditions in the book to your students...

Students of all ages love a read aloud.

Teaching with a book opens up conversations on all kinds of topics from authors to skills to writers craft. It’s nearly impossible to share in a book and NOT have a conversation and connect with students.

Truly, one of the brilliant things about a read aloud is it levels the reading playing field in your classroom. A read aloud makes it possible to teach from one text to a classroom filled with various reading levels. Students can then take a piece they've learned and be asked to apply it t reading or writing work or ponder it in something they're reading on their own. This can be done orally when you confer with students or with a partner, as an exit ticket or in a reader's notebook. That's a win.

Happy reading,


P.S. Don't forget to grab your freebie!



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