Tag Archives: Read Aloud

Reading Aloud to students is the Swiss Army Knife of Effective Literacy?

In his book, In Defense of Read-Aloud, Dr. Steven Layne quotes another professor, Brian Cambourne, who, in a position statement, explores the notion that reading aloud to students is the “Swiss Army Knife of Effective Reading and Writing Pedagogy”. Cambourne discovered in his research some of the following benefits of reading aloud to students (p. 17, In Defense of Read-Aloud, Steven Layne — Quoting Position Statement by Brian Cambourne):

  • Demonstrates power of stories
  • Provides insights into how reading works
  • Shows how to search for meaning
  • Demonstrates how to make connections and inferences
  • Develops new vocabulary and syntactic awareness
  • Stimulates imagination
  • Exposes students to a range of literature
  • Helps distinguish different genres
  • Encourages a lifelong enjoyment of reading
  • Helps learner-writers identify and transfer the literary devices authors use in their writing

It is interesting for me to read this because, in my experience, reading aloud to students is typically seen by both high school teachers and students as an activity that is the purview of elementary schools. Indeed, parents and administrators might further echo what Layne himself has encountered, that they see reading aloud as not “real teaching”.

Furthermore, I have had conversations with teachers who feel that they have been “reduced to” reading aloud to their high school students, due to perceived disengagement and laziness.

Layne, a university professor in Illinois, explains that he reads aloud to students wherever he is teaching: from kindergarten classrooms all they way up to graduate courses.  And as my mind began to question whether this book is just someone’s personal theory, I discovered that Layne’s excellent book is, as Regie Routman states in the introduction, “grounded in solid extensive research that definitively shows the positive effect of reading aloud on student engagement, thinking, and reading achievement” and, in addition to quoting research, is filled with testimonials of educators from all levels of the education system — K to PhD. —  who explain how they use read- alouds in their classrooms.

This gives me pause.

My question for my teaching practice is now: it time for me as a high school teacher to explore, as Regie Routman suggests, making “reading aloud a cornerstone of every teaching day regardless of the age level, subject matter, or discipline we teach”? Is it time to weave this Swiss Army Knife into my practice, possibly on a day-to-day basis?

If so, I now have so many questions…


Building Background Knowledge with Oobleck? Part 3

From my last post about Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss, I left off with a qFrom amazon.cauestion:  if I am reading this book to my daughters (or any other book), I wondered about how much I point out certain ideas or concepts so as to deliberately build their background knowledge.

While on Twitter, I discovered Mem Fox’s Ten Read-Aloud Commandments for parents. Although the ‘commandments’ are geared towards parents of young children, elements of the list are applicable to reading aloud to teenage students, I should imagine

For reading to my girls at home, Fox’s Commandment #9 states:

“Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books.”

From this commandment, I think I take that it is my job to simply to expos664px-In_the_evening_they_were_read_aloud_to_Cornelia_(The_Works_of_J._W._von_Goethe,_Volume_5)e them to a lot of ideas and words and characters and stories with animation and enthusiasm and positivity, and if they ask for clarification about something organically, then I can explain or elucidate.

But if they don’t ask, I infer that Fox is saying don’t make the reading aloud about learning; instead make it about enjoying reading for the sake of enjoying reading.

So, then, if my girls just listen to stories for the sake of listening to stories, how is their background knowledge being built indirectly?

In a different article (Building and activating students’ background knowledge: It’s what they already know that counts), Fisher and Frey go on to suggest how wide reading indirectly builds background knowledge:

“Reading is an excellent, indirect way to build background knowledge. Through books, readers meet people they otherwise would never have met, visit places and times that they would not have otherwise been able to visit, and interact with ideas that shape their understanding of the world.”

In Deeper Reading, Kelly Gallagher quotes David Sousa:

“…much like a tree growing new branches, tree-576847_640everything we remember becomes another set of branches to which memories can be attached. The more we learn, the more we can learn and retain.” (34)

Gallagher continues:

“The more branches I grow, the easier it will be to add new ones.” (34)

Gallagher also notes:

“…reading comprehension is tied closely to what the reader brings to the page — to what the reader knows before reading.” (26)

If this is true, then hopefully, when faced with challenging reading, my daughters may have the story of Bartholomew and the Oobleck bubble to the surface.

Building Background Knowledge with Oobleck? Part 2

In my last post, I explored how reading Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck

From amazon.ca

From amazon.ca

to my two older girls (ages 7 and 9) might help them indirectly build background knowledge, as explained in Fisher and Frey’s article  Building and Activating Background KnowledgeIn that article, the authors state:

“…reading a wide range of texts on a given topic builds background knowledge. When students read texts at their reading level, their understanding of the topic improves.”

So, I wondered what background knowledge is being indirectly built by reading this text.

Some possible topics and messages could be:

  • The world of royal hierarchy: Kings have people who work and live under them
  • The nature of being a ruler vs. being a leader.
  • What power can do to a person / The desire for power can blind a person to what is going on around them: the ‘riches’ they already enjoy as well as the suffering of the people around you.
  • Be careful what you wish for.
  • The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
  • A hero can be anyone, including the smallest person with the least amount of power.
  • Bravery means standing up for what is right in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
  • Taking responsibility for one’s actions, particularly mistakes.
  • The power of saying “Sorry”.
  • Change is not always for the better.

The question I now have is: will my girls get all of that from hearing this book read to them? How much should I guide them to a particular understanding of this text?

How to Eat Spaghetti Like a Lady: Life Magazine

Via @HuffingtonPost 

This might be an interesting text to use in a classroom for a possible read aloud or discussion provoker. Thematically, perhaps this article along with its images could be jumping off point for a discussion on men’s and women’s roles, manners, conformity, authority, or evolving social more, to name a few.

Indeed, wouldn’t it be interesting to use this article as an entry point into books about a dystopian future, such as Hunger Games, Uglies, or even 1984 or Brave New World, from that angle of conformity.

What might a Jeffrey Wilhelm-esque Essential Question look like? For example, he suggests “What makes good relationships and what screws up relationships?” as an essential question to frame Romeo and Juliet. So, perhaps, “Why do humans choose to conform to rules of behaviour? Can conformity go too far? How does forced conformity feel?” I wonder if the last part is too limiting…

How To Eat Spaghetti Like A Lady, According To A Vintage Issue Of Life Magazine