Storytime! Reading Aloud to Secondary Students
By Robyn Kehoe Ramsey
Contrary to what you might think, secondary students are NOT too old to be read to. While there might be some teenage eye rolling or skeptical looks at first, students actually love this classroom activity. No matter the subject, teachers should definitely read aloud to their students.
Storytime isn’t just for ELA class. In science, math, social studies, the arts, and across the school building, teachers bring texts to students. Teachers can read aloud -- the speech, the scientific presentation, the mathematical proof, the interview, the explanation, even the directions! -- when they have a complex text of key importance.
Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) is sometimes used in middle and high schools as a way to encourage reading, and it’s not a bad idea. However, if students are struggling or unmotivated readers, this practice may not actually be producing any gains in reading skills. SSR may be a good place to go once you have built foundational skills in all your young readers. To build fluency, model what strong readers do, and ensure equity of access, reading aloud is a better place to begin.
Reading aloud to students offers every student -- regardless of learning challenges -- an entry point into the text. Hearing the text read by an expert helps build students’ sense of fluency and helps improve their vocabularies. Teachers can make reading a shared experience by reading to students themselves, rather than playing the audiobook or having students read aloud. Take breaks along the way to model thinking and show students how to interact with the text. Have a purpose for reading, and make that explicit to students. Require students to follow along with the reading; struggling readers may want to stare at something else and rely on their auditory processing, but this doesn’t give them the fluency practice they need.
Once teachers have read aloud, modeled their thinking, and shared the experience of reading together, they can begin to release students to read in pairs or small groups to each other. Wander the room and listen to readers. Remind them of the scaffolds and routines they have learned. This is a perfect time to unobtrusively gather informal assessment data about readers’ strengths and challenges. Teachers will very quickly get a sense of whether students are understanding the text independently or not.
When young readers have sufficient skills to tackle the texts they need, THEN it’s time for independent reading. If the results of independent reading aren’t great, teachers should reteach or review routines and skills modeled before.
Read aloud to students! Give them a positive experience with reading, a shared experience with their classroom community, and the tools they need to be successful in the content area and beyond.
Don’t believe me? Learn more for yourself!
Curriculum & Instruction