The value of reading aloud with upper elementary students is often overshadowed by curriculum work and standards, but these 7 benefits may have you rethinking the role of reading aloud in your classroom.
Reading aloud to upper elementary students is a vital component of any good reading program. Some people think that read-aloud time is only for primary school students. I wholeheartedly disagree. Read-aloud time is equally important for students in the upper elementary grades.
After more than two decades of teaching, I often stumble upon my former students as young adults within my local community. My favorite question to ask these former students is, “What do you remember about third grade?” The response I get in return is almost always the same.
Time and time again, they reply, “I remember read-aloud time.” This is usually followed by memories of my pink rocking chair and even some very specific memories of the novels I read aloud to them from that chair.
Once, I had a former student (now in her 30s) tell me that she ordered two of our read-aloud novels from Amazon, just to experience them again as an adult.
Another former student told me that he could still (12 years later) remember the voice I used for “Aunt Vootch” in The Magic Hat of Mortimer Wintergreen (by Myron Levoy). Of course, I knew the EXACT voice and was able to recite a few lines from memory right there in the middle of Walmart.
My point is that read-aloud time is memorable, AND…it’s extremely important for many reasons.
Today we are going to explore the value of reading aloud with elementary students by highlighting 7 key benefits.
7 Benefits of Read-Aloud Time in the Upper Elementary Classroom:
#1 | Reading aloud quality literature (for pleasure) makes students truly love to read.
Let’s face it. Much of what we ask our students to do in reading class is boring. The reading anthologies are filled with lackluster stories. We ask students to read and reread and define and answer and retell and show text evidence until reading feels like a chore. When we read aloud exciting and inspirational stories to children, they become lifelong readers.
#2 | During read-aloud time, the teacher models fluency and expression.
The value of reading aloud with elementary students is in the modeling. During this time, teachers get to model the way the text is supposed to sound. Students get to hear a master reader model fluency and expression. They get to hear the voices and listen to the dialogue and drama in the way it was intended. This brings the story to life for kids.
In addition to modeling fluency and expression, this is also a good time for the teacher to model good learner behavior. We have talked before about the significance of explicitly teaching what we call the 6 qualities of a good learner, but you can learn more about that and see some of our resources on this topic by reading this blog post.
#3 | Reading aloud improves listening skills and comprehension.
While listening to the story, students begin to question and consider why the story is told in a certain way. They hear details they may have missed if they read alone because they may have overlooked the description or glazed over a specific detail that the teacher emphasizes. Students also have to listen intently to catch details. Providing a list of questions to students in advance could key them into details they may have missed otherwise. To specifically work on listening, consider posing a series of questions to students before reading that day, and ask them to raise their hands when they’re able to answer one.
#4 | Reading aloud exposes students to complex vocabulary and language.
Often, if students read alone, they skip over complex vocabulary words or assume the meaning of difficult words. It is also possible that students don’t have the context or experiences to make sense of certain language uses or vocabulary. For example, if a student isn’t familiar with sports, they may not understand the role of an umpire in baseball. Reading aloud as a group gives the teacher a chance to question students and provide information and context that they may not have known if they were reading independently.
#5 | Listening to great examples of literature establishes a sense of story that improves writing skills.
The books we choose to read aloud are often popular examples of great literature, and listening to those stories in contrast to reading passages from a textbook exposes students to a different type of storytelling. Textbook reading passages and stories are often created for educational means, the books the teacher chooses for a read-aloud are meant for entertainment and sending messages about the world. By listening to these different types of stories and books, our students will have more exposure to good writing, which they can then implement in their own writing practices.
#6 | Read-aloud time is an opportunity to expose students to a variety of genres.
When given time to read alone, students often sway toward content they are already familiar with. This may mean that they spend their whole year reading books from the same series. When a teacher reads aloud, they have the ability to choose books from a variety of genres. This exposure may plant a seed of interest in a student who otherwise would never have picked up that kind of book.
#7 | Read-aloud time is a bonding experience that creates a classroom community.
Another great value of reading aloud with elementary students is the community building that takes place when the whole class experiences a text together.
It is like the whole class is going on an adventure together, and they get to share the sights and sounds with others who understand. Just like in the Magic School Bus, the school bus takes the whole class on adventures, a good read-aloud can help an entire class have a similar bonding experience.
In this day and age, as teachers, we feel a major time crunch to fit in all the things. Some teachers even feel pressure to do away with read-aloud time. In my opinion, reading aloud to students is worth the daily time investment. In fact, it really should be at the heart of your day.
Making Time for Read Aloud:
Reading aloud doesn’t have to fill your day, and the goal is not to finish a book every week. Instead, try to find just 10-15 minutes each day to read together.
For example, when possible, I love to schedule 15 minutes of read-aloud time right after the students return from recess. It is the perfect transition that helps the students wind down and get focused.
It can also be an exciting way to end the day.
Sometimes a good book is a great incentive to get students to work efficiently and even clean up faster. If your students are really enjoying the book and find it exciting, you can use adding minutes to read-aloud time as an incentive throughout the day.
Another easy way to make time for reading is right at the beginning of the day- before any morning meetings or lessons. Just a little time to get the whole class on the same ‘page’ before moving into your day.
The value of reading aloud with elementary students is really understated in many schools, and it is time to bring back that special time. To get going, plan to start just one book with your students this month. If you need suggestions, I have a bunch of book studies below that may help you get started. After that first book, see how it goes. If you are really happy with the experience, try another one next month!
Novel studies to consider:
- The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (by Julie Andrews Edwards)
- Tuck Everlasting (by Natalie Babbitt)
- The Castle in the Attic (by Elizabeth Winthrop)
- Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (by Dusti Bowling)
- The Wild Robot (by Peter Brown)
- The Wild Robot Escapes (by Peter Brown)
If reading novels aloud becomes a regular thing in your classroom, I’d love to hear which books are your students’ favorites!
Reply in the comments to tell me about your favorites!