Do you have fond childhood memories of sitting with a special adult and listening to them read one of your favorite stories? I vividly remember my dad reading The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling to me and how we laughed together at the funny voices he used. As an educator, you know how important those moments are for building warm connections, enjoying time together, and learning about many things. So, even if you missed out on those moments as a child, you want to create those moments for the children in your classroom. With careful planning, you can be confident that your read-alouds will be exciting, effective learning opportunities.
Intentional planning is key to an engaging and fun read-aloud. Always begin by reading the story yourself to be sure how it supports your learning objectives—what your focus will be as you share it with the children. As you plan, jotting your ideas on sticky notes and placing them in the book is a helpful way to keep all of your ideas at the ready. It is important to consider how you will:
When doing a virtual read-aloud, you also need to have the technology prepared so the children will be able to see the pictures and hear you clearly. Doing a “tech check” is always a great idea.
Set the Stage
Set Clear Expectations
Before you begin reading, help the children focus and prepare to listen. Being proactive prevents problems from developing. Remind the children of any classroom expectations that will help them get the most out of the experience.
Let’s find a place where you’re comfortable and can see. While we read this book, we’re going to wiggle and make noises. Let’s remember to keep in our personal spaces so we keep each other safe.
Just like when you’re reading a book in the classroom, set clear expectations for how to participate in a virtual read-aloud. Rules can include watching an entire recorded reading, raising hands to ask questions, looking at the pictures, muting microphones, and so on.
We are going to listen to a story. When we’re listening to a story, our eyes are on the pictures, our ears are listening, and our computers are on mute.
Create a Connection before Reading
Set the tone for your time together by smiling and using a warm, enthusiastic voice. Explain why you chose the book and what you’ll be focusing on as you read. Invite the children to make a personal connection as well.
I’m excited to read this story with you today about a lion who is trying to make friends. Tell me what you know about lions. How do you think this lion is feeling? When have you felt that way? What is a friend?
Even if your read-aloud is a recording and your students can’t engage with you live, you can still take a moment before reading to build a connection. Smile and greet the children using a warm voice. Share how you’re feeling and ask how the children are feeling.
How are you today? [pause] I’m doing well but I miss you! I’m excited to read this book with you because it reminds me of my own dog, Molly [show picture of dog]. Do you have any pets?
Maximize Student Interest and Engagement
Now, it’s time to see your planning come to life as you invite children to participate during the read-aloud. They can chant a rhyme with you or mimic the movements or sounds in the story. There might even be a way to involve hands-on participation with materials related to the story. Involving as many modalities as possible helps to boost children’s engagement so they can get the most out of your read-aloud.
Show me how you jump like a bunny! And let’s say it together: “Hopping, hopping, never stopping!”
In a virtual story time, it’s harder to have hands-on opportunities. However, you can still maximize children’s engagement as you would in person. Try using a variety of voices and inviting children to participate verbally and with movements. If the read-aloud is prerecorded so students can’t interact with it live, remember to pause during your recording, leaving time for children to respond.
The dinosaurs marched up the hill. ROAR! [pause] Can you roar? Let’s hear your loudest roar! [pause] Let’s see your biggest stomping feet!
Make Connections and Ask Questions
As you read, consult your sticky note ideas for the questions, connections, and vocabulary plans you made. You may have more ideas than you need. That’s okay—you can use them when the children ask you to read it again! Effective facilitation involves a balance of following the children’s lead as they show their interest and also keeping the focus of your plans. Most of all, enjoy the story and allow it to flow without too many interruptions.
As you read, look for opportunities to invite children to share their ideas and talk about how the story relates to their lives. Promote children’s higher-order thinking skills by pausing and inviting children to predict, compare, and discuss.
Whether your read-aloud is in person, virtual, or recorded, ask questions such as:
Your classroom is a busy place. But before moving from a read-aloud to the next part of your day, take a moment to summarize the discussion and ideas from the book. Whether you’re reading in person or in a virtual setting, provide an opportunity for the children to connect and reflect by asking questions such as:
With thoughtful planning, enthusiastic reading, and engaging opportunities to participate, your read-alouds will create special memories for the children in your classroom—and a love for learning that can last a lifetime.
From coast to coast and around the globe, there’s a common thread that unites teachers: wanting to be better for their students.
Even when things are tough in education, educators are striving to be their best. Their dedication to equitable, ongoing development is what inspires Teachstone’s work. It will take a systematic, data-driven approach to reach the day when all children are afforded excellent education and care. And, we are enthusiastic partners in getting to that goal.
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? Everyone in my sample group spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly, but in my random group, the jelly always comes second.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make me think about Behavior Guidance, a dimension in the CLASS® toddler observation tool. Especially the first two indicators of behavior guidance: proactive and supporting positive behavior. Proactive is the peanut butter! It goes first. That layer of peanut butter is the base for the jelly, which promotes positive behavior.
“What I think I’m most proud of as a professional in the field is our ability to show up, our ability to still do it, to still roll with the changes… We have to adjust. That is what educators did the entire year. We show up. We have a strong why. We love what we do.” This is a quote from Colleen Schmit from our recent webinar, Celebrating Great Teaching. She’s talking about how hard the last couple of school years have been for teachers. Teachers faced a similar difficulty 20 years ago when the United States faced a national tragedy.
I was a kindergarten teacher for eight years at a public school. I loved my job, but somewhere along the road I started to become crotchety. I was often annoyed with my colleagues and frustrated with the demands of the district, and I was sure I knew better than any training or professional development session I would ever be forced to attend.