Each year in February or March, I invite my eighth graders to evaluate reading workshop. "You never skip read-aloud, even if the schedule's been shortened," is a unanimous observation, and I wear it as a badge. Sharing poems and books with the class nurtures me as well as students; it sets the tone of our workshop and enables students to quietly prepare for work.

When I'm pressed for time, I'll read poetry, short myths, legends, folktales, a newspaper or magazine article, a picture book — selections that I can complete in five to eight minutes. I'll alternate these selections with short stories, which are perfect for introducing students to narrative structure and a variety of themes. In two or three days, I can complete a short story, giving students and me a common literary experience to discuss. Together, we can share our personal responses to the story and examine elements such as charatcer, plot development, setting, and climax.

The read-alouds I offer students introduce them to new genres and reinforce their experiences with literary language. It's an opportunity for me to extend a theme, build prior knowledge about a topic before students read, and model reading with expression and fluency. Through read-alouds, I can draw students into the world of story and communicate meaning and emotion through the beauty of language.

Some Read-Aloud Tips

  • Always read the book before you share it with your class to make sure it's appropriate for your students.
  • Reserve a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes for read-aloud. 8 to 10 is ideal for me.
  • Be dramatic, become a ham. Students enjoy hearing readers adopt the voices of different characters. Remember, you're modeling good read-aloud techniques.
  • Share books you love, and you'll transmit enthusiasm for reading to students.
  • Select a variety of literay genres and authors throughout the year.
  • After completing a read-aloud, make the book available to students. Many will want to reread sections, look at photographs or illustrations, or reread the entire book.