At the Vulnerable Readers Summit held in Seattle on May 1st and 2nd, a keynote speaker was Dr. Richard Allington, researcher and author of hundreds of articles and many books on effective
classroom instruction and reading. Among several, “calls to action,” Dr. Allington recommended READING ALOUD as key to addressing glaring comprehension deficits in North American schools. In fact, he suggested that students K-12 would benefit if 20% of their reading instructional time utilized effective read-aloud strategies. Emphasis on the importance of teacher read-alouds in every genre and content area was echoed by several speakers at the Summit.
This is, of course, not new thinking. Decades of research validate the impact of reading aloud on student’s skill at reading and comprehending. In “Making the Very Most of Classroom Read-Alouds to Promote Comprehension and Vocabulary,” The Reading Teacher, 61(5) pp. 396-408 2008, authors, Santoro, Chard, Howard and Baker, reference significant research linking read-aloud strategies to improved comprehension. Evidence identifies three read aloud focus areas resulting in positive outcomes: text structure; text focused discussions; vocabulary.
Text Structure: Via Read-aloud, a teacher can share frameworks that build familiarity with narrative text structures, helping students to talk about and retell stories. Likewise, teachers can point out and build student understanding of complex organizational patterns often found in informational text.
Text Focused Discussions: A read-aloud can be a catalyst for interactive student and teacher discussion about a text. This is as true for 4-year-olds as it is for 11th graders. It includes employing higher level questioning strategies, probing students to engage in the text and reflect on what is being read. (In his address, Dr. Allington emphasized the necessity for teachers to develop skills that regularly engage students in “literate conversations.”)
Vocabulary: Read-aloud provides opportunity to expose students to more complex text and richer academic vocabulary than their independent reading skill may allow. Through a combination of student-friendly explanations for unknown words, general discussion of vocabulary, think-alouds about related words, context clues, as well as explicit vocabulary instruction, teachers can support vocabulary learning while reading aloud with their students.
While few educators are likely to disagree with this research, Dr. Allington painted a pessimistic picture of how often intentional, interactive read-alouds actually take place in most classrooms. He (and others) challenged the 750 participants to consider reading aloud as a vital component to effective instruction, particularly in meeting needs of the most vulnerable students.
Possible PLC discussion, “How is reading aloud impacting learning in our classrooms?”
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