Welcome back to our Balanced to Structured Literacy series!
Today we’re tackling a topic that many people think isn’t even part of the science of reading: comprehension.
It feels like phonics get talked about the most – which is probably true. After all, kids must have strong phonics (and phonemic awareness) skills to lay the foundation for reading.
After they get more automatic with those skills, they start to become fluent … which paves the way for comprehension.
But we don’t have to wait until our students are fluent to work on comprehension.
In fact, we build comprehension even before they can read … through whole-class read-alouds.
As a classroom teacher, I had many days where I just grabbed a book and started reading.
(Okay, I admit it, that was most of the time.)
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a book to fill a few minutes.
But the interactive whole-class read-aloud is different. It’s planned and purposeful.
And it should be a consistent part of your reading block. It’s the ideal time to build vocabulary and comprehension!
Let’s take a look at some sample schedules and see how that whole class read-aloud fits in.
Remember … the “Whole Class Read Aloud” is when your main focus is vocabulary and comprehension.
As you think about what book to read aloud, consider …
- What content do you want your students to learn?
- Instead of choosing a book based on what reading comprehension strategy you want your students to learn, choose a book based on the content you want your students to understand. You can then choose a reading comprehension strategy in service of the content.
(Not gonna lie … I had this backward for a while. I started with a list of all the reading comprehension strategies – predicting, visualizing, you name it – and I tried to find a book that would help me teach a particular strategy. I had it backward!)
Spend time with the book beforehand, making note of anything that applies:
- What themes or concepts are most important for your students to learn?
- What vocabulary words will you teach in-depth?
- What vocabulary words will you teach as they come up in the text?
- How will you build background knowledge before reading the book aloud?
- Where will you stop to analyze text structure, address difficult sentences, prompt students to make inferences, or ask questions?
- What guided or independent work might students do after the reading?
Before you read, don’t forget to …
- Introduce the book by reading the title and illustrator.
- Build background as appropriate.
- Pre-teach any Tier-2 vocabulary words that students need to know to comprehend the text.
As you read …
- Stop to briefly address vocabulary words.
- Ask questions and occasionally pause for students to “turn and talk” to a partner.
- Think aloud as you apply reading comprehension strategies.
After reading ..
- Discuss the story through both low and high level questions.
- Include a follow-up drawing and/or writing activity. Research tells us that writing about reading helps us comprehend the text better!
Most of all, just get started! You will get better and better at interactive read-alouds the more you do them.
Grab our free planning template!
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our Balanced to Structured Literacy series!