Informazing Read Alouds
By Linda Hoyt
Informational read alouds ignite imagination, strengthen academic vocabulary, and build strong foundations for inquiry. They’re easy. They’re interesting. But I am concerned because…they aren’t happening enough!
Unfortunately, evidence continues to suggest that teachers are still leaning heavily toward fiction during read alouds. (Layne, 2015; Scholastic & YouGov, 2014; Duke, 2014) I would argue that it is time for us to take active steps toward ensuring that every learner experiences the power of an informational read aloud, every day. With help from masters of nonfiction such as Seymour Simon, Nicola Davies, Gail Gibbons, Melvin Berger, Doreen Rappaport and so many more, students will erupt with questions and ignite a sense of wonder that will electrify learning.
Here are a few tips to ensure success with informational read alouds:
Protect a time. Time is always a challenge, but many teachers find it helpful to shorten the fiction read aloud a bit and then use the saved minutes to slip in an informational read aloud. Let nothing stand in the way!
Become a commercial for informational reading! Read the book in advance so you know it well enough to bring it to the students as a joyful celebration. Bring passion! Show it in your eyes and in your voice.
Model the behaviors of an informational reader. Occasionally, pause and model how you might jot a note or a question on a chart. Or, show students how to place key words on individual sticky notes that can later be rearranged for a summary. These questions, jotted words, and notes can then become a rich cache of possibility for modeled writing to show learners how you gather facts and then slip them into writing.
Read the whole selection… or part of it! Sometimes an informational read aloud is best when it is used to generate excitement for a topic. I have had wonderful success reading a particularly interesting portion of a nonfiction selection and then stopping. Questions erupt, and I can ask who might enjoy adding the book to their independent reading collection to enjoy later.
Read from a wide range of sources. The range of text types labeled as informational or nonfiction is enormous! Field guides, magazines, newspapers, informational poetry, narrative nonfiction, descriptive and explanatory pieces, persuasions and so on are examples of the enormous diversity of text types.
Broaden schema through informational read alouds. Informational read alouds are an exciting way to introduce a new inquiry or to broaden general knowledge. Listening to informational selections allows students to have access to content that may be outside of their reading range but within their comprehension zone.
Reread informational selections. We know how young children beg to hear their favorite stories again and again. The same can be true for informational selections. Each rereading provides an opportunity to lean into the text–noticing details, appreciating the language, or viewing the selection as a mentor for writing.
Celebrate visual literacy. One of the most exciting elements of a great informational selection is the visual presentation. Showcase visuals with a document camera or digital projection and invite learners to find facts and details in the images, notice page layout, and actively search for connections between the visuals and the print.
Let questions ring! If children are deeply engaged and just want to listen on a first reading, that is wonderful. Let the language of the text enfold them. However, if the content is complex and questions begin to bubble up, then by all means slow down. Let them look, think together, and generate wonderings about the content. When children’s voices lift in concert with a great informational read aloud, comprehension is lifted and learning becomes more vigorous.
Be picky about the books you select for read aloud. This is the gold star tip! Become the ultimate picky shopper when selecting books for an informational read aloud. Pick the most exciting and “info-mazing” books you can find. Select those with fantastic visuals and enticing page layout. Reach for the books with the richest, most eloquently phrased language that you know will stimulate visualization and imagery. When you are picky, the paybacks are amazing.
“I’m a teacher. That will always be the heart of my professional work.” Though Linda Hoyt spent many years as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, curriculum developer, staff developer, and Title I District Coordinator, her passion comes from the engaging classrooms where teachers and children learn together. Linda is the author of twenty-four professional books and video programs, plus numerous instructional resources for children. A few titles from her multidimensional list of Heinemann publications include Revisit, Reflect, Retell; Make It Real; Interactive Read-Alouds; Solutions for Reading Comprehension; and Explorations in Nonfiction Writing and Crafting Nonfiction. Linda is a full-time author, consultant, and highly requested speaker at conferences throughout the United States, in Canada, and in Australia. Look for her at NCTE 2018 this November!
I think what you said about a teacher bringing passion to an activity is valid across the board, no matter what the activity is. When students see that a teacher has a genuine interest and appreciation for a topic, I believe that gives them motivation to investigate why the teacher has so much interest in it. Bringing literacy to visual representations is also very important, the world is changing rapidly and that is a sure way to stay up beat with students and their technology literacy can strengthen attention to the presentation. While it can also be distracting, when used right I think it can be a really beneficial tool. I enjoyed your article and found it inspiring. I am always looking for tools for my toolbox to bring into the classroom one day.
Linda- great post on read alouds for informative writing! From previous experience in my own school, I sometimes have a slight hesitation towards reading aloud new texts in classes because of student anxiety or lack of excitement behind the activity. However, your tips to make them transformative and exciting are truly refreshing! I believe your tip on being picky on which texts to introduce for reading aloud is especially thoughtful and important for educators. Thanks for your article!
Linda, I really enjoyed reading your post. I believe all of the tips for are very informative and I plan to use them in the classroom. I particularly found the tip on modeling informational reading very useful as students sometimes struggle with gathering facts and implementing them into their writing.
I am teaching an undergraduate ELA methods course and I will be sure to share your post. Your focus on informational texts, questions, and inquiry is an essential trio when it comes to engaging and empowering our young readers and writers!
Many thanks for your contribution!
Linda, thank you for this ‘informazing’ post! Your points would make a great foundation for a teacher study group or action research project. I will be sharing this with my grad classes!