In my experience, people have very polarizing opinions when it comes to identifying attributes of a quality read aloud.
I will never remove read aloud from the schedule vs. Read aloud? No way! There is never any time!
Students can sit, lay, stand, post however they want vs. All students in desks all the time
100% attention focused on the text vs. Students can multi-task: draw, color, work on homework, finish classwork
Opportunity for feedback vs. Read for enjoyment purposes only
I have my own opinions about what attributes constitute an effective read aloud setting but the last set of attributes is something I feel strongly about. Read aloud IS for enjoyment. It is also for shared experiences, common understandings, meaningful discussion and opportunity to learn together as a community - through feedback. Many times I read texts that some of my students would struggle through independently, but when listening to these texts I get the unique opportunity to hear them grapple with ideas, infer and make connections across texts. As a community we develop common language that we reference throughout the year. For example, after reading Wonder last year we frequently described behaviors and connected characters to Julian.
There are different ways to use read aloud as a very informative formative feedback tool and I don't stick with the same method for each text. I'll share a few examples below:
First read aloud of the year (usually Wonder and yes, even if they have read it before): I borrowed a read aloud checklist from Lucy Calkins. I am very transparent with the students, I tell them what I am looking for (thinking connected to the standards we are aiming for in Reading or Writing Workshop) and why (so I get to know them as thinkers). In an effort to keep things authentic (I don't want students participating just to get their name on my checklist) I gather a lot of information through listening in on turn and talks. And when students share whole group I don't always write it down. We go over this non-evaluative information during a reading conference, just so that students can begin to think about the way they think and participate during read aloud. I should be very clear that I don't use this information for any assessment or evaluation at all - it is something I do to get to know my students - I don't do this everyday.
Second read aloud of the year (usually The One and Only Ivan). This read aloud usually sparks a deeper interest in close reading) We tend to read through a word choice lens during this one and about halfway through the text (or whenever they show me they are ready) students can track the words Katherine Applegate uses using an app like Popplet. Her language is so nuanced and beautiful. We track descriptive words to decipher relationships (Ivan and humans, for example) and we identify figurative language that helps us visualize. I check in on the Popplets to see what students are writing and it always gives me information about how they are thinking, their proficiency in identifying meaning in figurative language and starts discussions. Students still turn and talk, I still model think alouds and we reinforce high digital expectations at this time.
Third read aloud of the year (Rump). This read aloud is our entre into the blogging world. For this read aloud we blog about the lines that we lift. Lines that make us think about the world and life. We make connections across texts and across content areas. We analyze the nuanced language and we share these thoughts with others via our blog. We practice our idea, evidence, unpacking format here as well. Students infer something about the text, share the text evidence and unpack it (tell us why it is important - the so what) for the reader. We start blogging as a whole group, and then move to partners, then scheduled individuals and when students lift lines that truly evokes an image or feeling or idea.
Sidenote: We often tweet questions to the authors of our texts. Most of them are incredibly generous with their time and tweet us back. Try it!
Fourth read aloud of the year (Esperanza Rising) In this text we focus on symbolism. Each chapter is titled after the fruit or vegetable harvested in that chapter of Esperanza's life. We discuss the symbolism that each fruit holds and create a chart keeping track of this. Students get to illustrate the fruit and write down the descriptors as we read each day. This text allows us to focus on both Literature and Reading Informational standards as we dig deep into the historical and geographical implications. Students tend to branch out during this text - some love researching the history, some make connections with science and weather and climate, some love immersing themselves in the Spanish words in the text and some work on their artistry. Sometimes I read Watson's Go to Birmingham instead - I usually pull in non-fiction picture books and articles and we practice reading across texts.
Read aloud + Feedback Formula
Step 1: Identify which standards you would like to address during read aloud.
Step 2: What do the students need to practice and what should they be able to do? (turn and talk, integrating technology, blogging, discussion techniques, identifying text evidence, etc)
Step 3: Choose a text (a really well-written, meaningful text) that will allow students to practice these standards.
Step 4: Pre-read and note places to stop and think aloud, facilitate turn and talks, model standard practice, etc.
Step 5: Make sure you really, really love the text. This is so important. In order for students to have an authentic experience in this, you need to be authentic in your enthusiasm and love for the words and the story.
Step 6: Plan how you are going to introduce this and scaffold this for ALL of your students.
Step 7: Try it, tweak it and try it again. This is the step where you give yourself feedback - when do you get the most authentic responses from your students? Are they connecting to the standard? When are they the most engaged? How are you recording your observations and how are you using that information?
I would love to know how you do read aloud in your classroom? What are your favorite texts? I also love Watson's go to Birmingham, City of Ember and reading from Stories with Holes (one of my childhood favorites - along with Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle).