Practice in Action
Reading aloud is a group activity that models fluent reading.
It provides exposure to new concepts and literature; enhances students' listening, comprehension, and critical thinking skills; and builds on students' background knowledge.
With younger children, reading aloud entails an afterschool teacher reading to students. Older students can take turns reading. Whatever the grade level, choose books that are appropriate for your students, with engaging story lines that tap students' interests. Ask students for their ideas and talk to their school-day teachers to get suggestions.
Before you begin, ask questions about the cover and title of the book. What do the cover and title suggest? Pre-reading discussion helps activate prior knowledge. While reading aloud, read with expression to bring the story and characters to life. Pause to ask questions and check student engagement. When the story ends, ask students to share their opinions. What did they like most? Why? What, if anything, surprised them? Could they relate to the characters?
Research indicates that reading aloud is the single most important activity for reading success. It builds students' interest in reading, helps them develop understanding, and exposes all readers to great books. Reading aloud is an ideal activity for the afterschool setting because it can be done in a large group, small group, or one-on-one.
Students reading in their first language have already learned 5,000 to 7,000 words before they begin formal reading instruction. In contrast, English language learners whose parents are not fluent in English typically do not have large vocabularies in the second language. When introducing "new" vocabulary prior to a read-aloud, be aware that ELL students may be unfamiliar with words that their native English-speaking peers readily identify. Acting out words, using props, and adopting a "word wall" approach displaying a range of vocabulary words, definitions, synonyms, etc., will help all students broaden their vocabulary.
Lengthy instructional conversations between teacher and students are a powerful tool in aiding reading comprehension, an area in which English language learners often struggle. Struggling readers are often given remedial instruction instead of being exposed to authentic texts and challenged to think critically or inferentially about stories. When conducting a read-aloud, pausing frequently to model "think-alouds" and higher-order questioning strategies will increase engagement and help develop students' understandings of more complex concepts.
Planning Your Lesson
Great afterschool lessons start with having a clear intention about who your students
are, what they are learning or need to work on, and crafting activities that engage students while supporting their academic growth. Great afterschool lessons also require planning and preparation, as there is a lot of work involved in successfully managing kids, materials, and time.
Below are suggested questions to consider while preparing your afterschool lessons.
The questions are grouped into topics that correspond to the Lesson Planning
Template. You can print out the template and use it as a worksheet to plan and
refine your afterschool lessons, to share lesson ideas with colleagues, or to help in professional development sessions with staff.
Lesson Planning Template (PDF)
Lesson Planning Template (Word document)
What grade level(s) is this lesson geared to?
How long will it take to complete the lesson? One hour? One and a half hours? Will
it be divided into two or more parts, over a week, or over several weeks?
What do you want students to learn or be able to do after completing this activity? What skills do you want students to develop or hone? What tasks do they need to accomplish?
List all of the materials needed that will be needed to complete the activity.
Include materials that each student will need, as well as materials that students
may need to share (such as books or a computer). Also include any materials that students or instructors will need for record keeping or evaluation. Will you need to store materials for future sessions? If so, how will you do this?
What do you need to do to prepare for this activity? Will you need to gather
materials? Will the materials need to be sorted for students or will you assign students to be "materials managers"? Are there any books or instructions that you need to read in order to prepare? Do you need a refresher in a content area? Are there questions you need to develop to help students explore or discuss the activity? Are there props that you need to have assembled in advance of the activity? Do you need to enlist another adult to help run the activity?
Think about how you might divide up groups―who works well together? Which students could assist other peers? What roles will you assign to different members of the group so that each student participates?
Now, think about the Practice that you are basing your lesson on. Reread the
Practice. Are there ways in which you need to amend your lesson plan to better
address the key goal(s) of the Practice? If this is your first time doing the activity, consider doing a "run through" with friends or colleagues to see what works and what you may need to change. Alternatively, you could ask a colleague to read over your lesson plan and give you feedback and suggestions for revisions.
What to Do
Think about the progression of the activity from start to finish. One model that
might be useful—and which was originally developed for science
education—is the 5E's instructional model. Each phrase of the learning
sequence can be described using five words that begin with "E": engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate. For more information, see
the 5E's Instructional Model.
Outcomes to Look For
How will you know that students learned what you intended them to learn through this
activity? What will be your signs or benchmarks of learning? What questions might you ask to assess their understanding? What, if any, product will they produce?
After you conduct the activity, take a few minutes to reflect on what took place.
How do you think the lesson went? Are there things that you wish you had done differently? What will you change next time? Would you do this activity again?
Who Am I Without Him? ((6-8) (girls))
Students select a text they want to read and then explore it more deeply through ongoing group discussions, writing, and other activities.
60 to 90 minutes (once a week on an ongoing basis)
- Practice reading fluently and expressively
- Make connections among literature, students' lives, and the world around them
- Apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, and appreciate texts
- Use spoken and written language to communicate effectively
Who Am I Without Him?: Short Stories About Girls and the Boys in Their Lives by Sharon Flake (1 copy per student)
- Journal and pen/pencil (1 each per student)
- Ask your students to choose a book they want to read. A group of girls might choose Who Am I Without Him?: Short Stories About Girls and the Boys in Their Lives by Sharon Flake. This is a good choice for middle school girls, but you and your students may choose any book that everyone agrees to read.
- Read the book yourself, taking note of key themes, any new vocabulary, and possible discussion questions for each chapter.
- Each week, ask students to read a chapter, write notes on a notecard about the narrator and characters, and include any questions and thoughts the chapter raises.
- After students have read the assigned chapter, read the chapter aloud, or let students take turns reading aloud. During the read-aloud, the reader should pause to ask questions, invite predictions, or introduce new vocabulary. Questions may include: What is Erika's dilemma? Why is it a dilemma? What do Erika's fellow students think of her? How do you know?
- Ask students to pause and jot answers in a journal to share later with the group. Or, they can "pair and share" in which they discuss their responses to the questions with a partner.
- After reading and discussing the chapter, give students a choice between two writing prompts, and ask them to write in their journals for approximately 15 minutes. Writing prompts may include: What would you do if you were Erika? What do you think about Erika's feelings?
- When students finish, collect the journals in order to read and respond in writing to each students' work.
- Student engagement and participation
- Comments, questions, and answers that reflect an understanding of the stories, key themes, and new word meanings
- Comments, questions, and answers that reflect students' ability to connect the stories to their own lives and the world around them
Using follow-up activities to a read-aloud prompts students to extend what they know, apply it in writing or drawing, and make connections to their lives and the world.
- Read for a variety of purposes
- Read different kinds of literature
- Use different strategies to comprehend, interpret, and appreciate texts
- Use language, writing, and art to show understanding
Painted Words/Spoken Memories by Aliki
Going Home by Eve Bunting
- Crayons, markers, and paper
- These books allow children to explore the experience of being new to a place or situation, and to share their own stories about being newcomers. As you plan the read-aloud, think about your own experience as a newcomer to share with children.
- Review each story, noting key themes and new vocabulary.
- Jot down questions to generate discussion and prepare for the activity.
- Review the title and cover of Painted Words/Spoken Memories, inviting students' predictions.
- Read Painted Words/Spoken Memories aloud, pausing to ask questions and introduce any new vocabulary.
- Share an experience or story of being a newcomer and invite children to share theirs.
- Review the title and cover of Going Home, inviting students' predictions.
- Read Going Home aloud, pausing to ask questions and introduce any new vocabulary.
- Reread these lines from Painted Words/Spoken Memories: People were leaving our poor village. They were going to a new land, hoping for a better life. This will emphasize the connection between the two books.
- Ask students to find other connections and similarities between the two stories.
- In Spoken Memories/Painted Words, Mari, the main character, shares her life story through art. Invite students to create drawings depicting their experiences as newcomers. Students can share and explain their pictures to the group.
- Student engagement and participation
- Comments, questions, and answers that reflect an understanding of the stories, key themes, and new word meanings
- Comments, questions, answers, and drawings that reflect students' ability to connect the stories to their own lives and the world around them
The Eighty-Yard Run (9-12)
This dynamic story by Irwin Shaw provides excellent material for an adolescent read-aloud, addressing key components of high school culture - football and first love.
Four to five 30-40 minute sessions
- Practice expressive reading of descriptive passages and dialogue to develop fluency
- Make connections between students' lives and events of past generations
- Identify similarities and differences in American culture and other cultures, past and present
- Comprehend and interpret the effects of events and personal choices on a marriage
- Use spoken and written language to communicate about important or well-known works in literature
- Divide students into small groups. Ask each group to review a different historical picture book about the Depression and list key observations on a flip chart.
- Ask each group to review a different short biography of Irwin Shaw and list key events on a flip chart.
- Post biography lists on one side of the room and Depression observations on the other to fuel a whole-group discussion about the writer's life and times.
- Identify teams of readers among staff and students who will commit to preparing and reading specific sections of the story with expression (you will need three voices: narration and husband/wife dialogues).
- Over four sessions, read the The Eighty-Yard Run aloud.
- At the end of each section, ask students to share observations about "that was then/this is now" and predict what might happen next in the story.
- At the end of the reading, work with the whole group to generate ideas for a contemporary story following a similar plot line: Fifteen years after great success as a youth, a person revisits the scene of that success and reflects on how later events challenged his or her career and relationships.
- Allow small groups or individuals to create their own stories (if interest is high).
- Compare contemporary student versions of these plots with The Eighty-Yard Run.
A follow-up survey/reflection sheet can ask questions that will determine:
- Student engagement in the story, as both listeners and readers
- Ability to make connections between student lives and culture with a story from a different generation, and perhaps a different culture
- Increased student interest in and knowledge of American history during the Depression
- Insight into the impacts of economic pressure and work choices on marriage over time
In this read-aloud activity, explore how to engage students in a story, model fluent reading, discuss the themes of the story, and ask students to illustrate their ideas in drawings and dioramas.
- Learn to recognize fluent, expressive reading
- Review and read a new book
- Learn new vocabulary words from the story and understand their meanings
- Use words and ideas from the text in other activities
Summertime: From Porgy and Bess by Dubose Heyward, illustrated by Mike Wimmer
- Chart paper and markers for new vocabulary words and song lyrics
- Tape or CD player, and tape or CD of the song, Summertime, performed by Billie Holiday
- Paper and pencils
- Art supplies for diorama including colored paper, shoe boxes, markers, colors, yarn and glue
- Review the story and the song.
- Identify new vocabulary words to review.
- Write song lyrics on the chart paper and post it on a wall.
- Review the title and book cover, asking students to predict what it's about.
- Read the text, Summertime, aloud to the group, pausing to ask questions about particular words and their meanings.
- After reading the story, ask students questions, including what they liked best, what surprised them, and what kinds of summertime experiences they have had.
- List new vocabulary words on the wall.
- Next, play the song, Summertime, following along with the lyrics on the chart paper.
- Engage students in a discussion about how the story relates to the song and how the music makes them feel.
- Divide students into small groups, based on grade level and ability.
- Have younger students create dioramas illustrating word meanings and summertime activities from their own experiences.
- Have older students work together to write their own song about summertime, based on the story and their own experiences.
- Ask students to share their dioramas and songs with the group.
- Student engagement in reading, listening to the song, and questions
- Comments, questions, and answers that reflect an understanding of the story, song, themes, and word meanings
- Comments, questions, and answers that reflect students' ability to connect the text to their own lives and the world around them
- Collaborative group work
- Final presentations that reflect an understanding of the text, the theme, and new word meanings
Explore elements of a read-aloud through this lesson by reading a story that engages students, and then checking for understanding, inviting predictions, and discussing the key elements of the story.
- Identify and recognize fluent, expressive reading
- Engage with literature through reading aloud
- Learn new words and understand key events in the story
- Work collaboratively
- Two ghost-themed texts: Ben and Becky in the Haunted House and The Ghost in the Classroom
- Tambourines or other noisemakers
- Large cards for writing key vocabulary words and names of characters
- Review stories.
- Identify new vocabulary and write the words and character names on the cards.
- Introduce the two books, briefly reviewing the titles and covers.
- Ask students to predict what they think each book is about.
- Read the first book aloud, pausing to check for understanding and to invite predictions.
- After reading, review who the main characters are.
- Activate children's prior knowledge about the next book by asking, Do we have any ghosts in this school?
- Read the second story, once again stopping to question and clarify.
- After reading, ask students to review questions about the main events of the story.
- Divide students into small groups and explain the rules and objectives of the game:
- Each group receives a noisemaker and 10 cards with key vocabulary and character names from the two stories.
- The instructor gives clues about the stories and/or the characters, the answers to which are on the cards. The student groups must work as a team to find the best answer card. Students take turns with the noisemaker to indicate that they have the correct answer.
- The first team with the correct answer receives a point. The team with the most points at the end is the winner.
- Student engagement in reading aloud, questions, and discussions
- Comments and answers that reflect an understanding of the story, key events, characters, and new word meanings
- Ability to listen, follow instructions, and work collaboratively as a team
Use online graphic organizers to engage students in discussions about what they're reading. Connect a projector to your desktop computer so that you can work with groups of students using interactive graphic organizers such as story maps, timelines, Venn and plot diagrams. For more information, visit International Reading Association's Read, Write, Think site.
Read, Write, Think http://www.readwritethink.org/student_mat/index.asp
Kidspiration and Inspiration are commercial software programs that allow a 30-day free download and provide a multitude of pictures and symbols that students can use to create diagrams to organize or map their thoughts.
Kidspiration (K-5) http://www.inspiration.com/productinfo/kidspiration/index.cfm
Inspiration (6-12) http://www.inspiration.com/productinfo/inspiration/index.cfm
Software is also available for handheld computers, which may be an answer to your afterschool program's need for each student to have personal access to technology. Check out Kathy Schrock's Power in the Palm of our Hand site for resources on teaching and learning with handheld technology.
- Reading Aloud to Build Comprehension: Using a think-aloud technique to build understanding (http://legacy.nationalserviceresources.org/learns/tutor/spr2001/spr2001.html.) This article praises the power of reading aloud and goes a step further to praise the power of thinking out loud while reading to children as a way to highlight the strategies used by thoughtful readers.
- Family Literacy Foundation Read Aloud Resources (http://www.read2kids.org/readaloud.htm)
Links to the research and rationale for reading aloud, recommended books, reference guides, and a wealth of other information to make the most of reading aloud.
- Literacy Connections: Reading Aloud (http://www.literacyconnections.com/ReadingAloud.php.) This is a collection of articles on the benefits or reading aloud as well as helpful hints, guidelines, and recommended books.
The International Reading Association's Read, Write, Think Web site provides interactive graphic organizers to help students map their thoughts and ideas as they read.
Anderson, R.C., Hiebert, E.H., Scott, and J.A., Wilkinson, I. (1985). Becoming a nation of readers: The report of the Commission on Reading. Champaign, IL: Center for the Study of Reading.
Calkins, L. (1997). Raising lifelong learners. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Fountas, I. & Pinnell, G. (1996). Guided reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Neuman, Copple & Bredekamp (2000). Learning to read and write: Developmentally appropriate practices for young children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Trelease, J. (1995). The read-aloud handbook (4th Ed). New York, NY: Penguin.
- Fountas, I. & Pinnell, G. (1996). Guided reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. A comprehensive resource for implementation of guided reading activities
- National Research Council. (2000). Starting out right: A guide to promoting reading success. Washington DC: National Academy Press.
- Braunger, J. & Lewis, J.P. (1997). Building a knowledge base in reading. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. This synthesis of research on how children learn how to read provides a baseline for educators and policymakers to consider in helping all children to meet higher standards.
- Novick, R. (2002). Many paths to literacy: Language learning and literacy in the primary classroom. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. This resource provides guidance on selecting children's books, and specific strategies to build comprehension from emergent literacy to independent reading.
- Curtis, M. & Longo, A. (1990). When adolescents can't read: Methods and materials that work. Cambridge, MA, Brookline Books.
- RMC Research Corp. (2001). Put reading first: Helping your child learn to read. A parent guide. Preschool through grade 3. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.
Describes the kinds of early literacy activities that should take place at school and at home to help children learn to read successfully. Designed for parents, based on the findings of the National Reading Panel.
- Armbruster, B.B., Lehr, F., & Osborn, J. (2001). Put reading first: The research building blocks for teaching children to read, kindergarten through grade 3. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy. Summarizes what researchers have discovered about how to teach children to read successfully. It describes the findings of the National Reading Panel Report and provides analysis and discussion in five areas of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension.