For my mentor Kelly Young…

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”  Rainer Maria Rilke

This quote formed me as an educator. I have used it in classrooms and in countless learning sessions with adults. It has inspired great writing and powerful dialogue in meaningful and very different ways.   Using short pieces of text like this above as Read Alouds are a cornerstone of good curriculum and instruction.   They engage students in deep reading, writing, speaking, and listening through rich, powerful, and versatile ways.

Read alouds are short portions of text or information.  They are connected to the units of study students are exploring and scaffold towards the larger understandings in the unit.  Read alouds are used in a variety of contexts to drive understanding.  Pebble Creek Labs provides a great explanation of the read alouds  as well as examples of its use.

They allow students to wrestle with complex texts.                                                         

Giving students multiple pages of Rainer Maria Wilke and the like can be very daunting for readers, especially struggling readers. Read alouds allow students to encounter complex text in doable segments  and process new thinking in manageable ways. Teachers scaffold students into complex reading without overwhelming them.   Students learn to reread, question, synthesize, evaluate, connect, and understand text through productive struggle facilitated by the teacher.

They invite students to write.                                                                                              

Writing about understanding of text helps students sort through thoughts and make sense of their interpretations.  It creates a visual copy of their thinking and allows them to manipulate their thoughts to form more connected ideas.  Read alouds invite students to clarify their thinking through writing and give teachers evidence of learning. Types of strategies that encourage  writing are quick writes, on demand prompts, reflections, exit slips, etc. Students become thinkers who can show their learning through writing.

They encourage authentic discourse

Read Alouds spur intentional conversation and are a springboard for students to find connections and interpretations in text verbally. By talking about understanding, students wrestle with how to articulate thoughts clearly and  allows teachers to gauge understanding on the spot. Student discourse can be deepened through the use of read alouds.  Using methods such as Socratic seminar, text based protocols, debates,  accountable talk, and think pair shares are ways to utilize dialogue in the classroom.

Read Alouds promote intent listening

By engaging students in discussion, students are provided opportunities to listen intently to other perspectives. It creates environments for students to be challenged, contradicted, confirmed and validated in positive ways.  Students get good at honing in on what a speaker is trying to say before speaking themselves.  By creating the conditions for students listening, teachers expand the ideas that students encounter.  Listening is encouraged through the use of accountable talk and dialogue.

The skills that students must utilize to meet the expectations of the Common Core are embedded deeply in the read aloud strategy.  They are a cornerstone strategy.