Children As Teachers- Students Leading Read Aloud

Where do great ideas come from?  

We are always on the lookout for good ideas.  One came from our dear friend, Dr. Erica Pecorale.  Erica is both generous and brilliant, she is the kind of teacher who is open to collaboration and is a source of inspiration for all who know her.  Follow her on @twitter @epecorale .  She co-moderates a  weekly chat called #simplestarts with Kari Yates @Kari_Yates and Dani Burtsfield @girlworld4 .  Erica suggested having student led read alouds where students prepare a read aloud that involves active engagement from their classmates.  They are not merely reading aloud a story but they have a plan on what they will do with the children; turn and talk, stop and jot, and follow up activities involving talking and writing around reading.

Why take the time to do this work?

This suggestion really resonated with us because our work together is focused on promoting agency in the classroom.  If we value independence, then it just makes sense to plan for it throughout the school day. Read aloud is typically the teacher’s turf, but when we share this time we are opening up potential for student learning in a multitude of ways. We are flexing our standards in ways that are both relevant and engaging.  Here are some examples of students at work:

    • As a scaffold for kids who need it, there is conferencing beforehand to focus on word solving.
    • Students are practicing read aloud as a performance piece, making fluency viable.
    • Students are reading with purpose and understanding because they are directing the reading.
    • Students are planning and executing the lessons and this makes reading for meaning vital to the process.
    • Students are planning active engagement for their peers through a multitude of  listening and speaking activities around the book.
    • Students are planning and executing writing about reading just as we would have done.
    • Students are making choices from a wide variety of genres with a rationale..

How did it roll out?

It was state testing time and we wanted an activity that would bring joy to the classroom during a difficult time of the year.  This was the perfect fit.  We began this on a volunteer basis where students chose to pick a book to read aloud and plan a lesson.  Quickly, students began to sign up and discuss their ideas with us.  When they felt ready and had sufficient practice, our students became teachers.  

What did we learn?

  • Child selected groupings: it was interesting to see how children prepared this aspect of the learning.  Some students were intuitive and pragmatic with how students should be grouped to maximize the learning.
  • Child’s perspective: this was revealing to learn how children conceptualize the teacher’s role.  Some students circulated the room and conferred with students, while other students wanted to give a grade.  Some students replied to their classmates’ answers with positive messages.
  • Focused learning: students who are prone towards distraction were completely engaged in this process.This experience afforded them insights that would otherwise have been inaccessible, would students understand what had to be done? Would they be bored? Would they like the book? These are all ways to reflect on one’s own learning as they planned for each other.  
  • Importance of play: on Thursday April 14, 2016 #G2Great had @MrazKristine @cheryltyler11 @AlisonPorcelli join the conversation and it was an inspired chat.  We were struck by how the power of play was revealed through this work. This was purposeful play where children assumed the role of the teacher to stretch and grow their thinking and actions.   

Don’t take our word for it, listen to what students had to say…

Natalie- “I had to practice a lot to make sure I did a good job.  It was hard because it is a rhyming book so I had to work hard.  I was thinking about how I was going to say things and what to ask the kids.  My head felt a little crazy with so much going on.  Before school that day, I was excited but nervous.  When I got in the reading chair, I felt very excited.  The children were noisy at first so I had to stop and wait.  I was hoping they would like their groups when they were going to act out a scene from the book.  I thought it went really good and I was proud of myself.

Tessa- “It was really fun because I got to be in charge.  I wrote down what I was going to make the kids do and I picked a book I thought was right- a funny book to entertain the kids so they weren’t bored.  I practiced the stories I was going to read.  I felt nervous but I think it went really good.  The children did a good job with my activity because they wrote a lot and really persuaded me to read this book.  They had really good reasons.  I learned it is really hard to be a teacher and go around and help everyone.”

Vinny- “When I did the read aloud  I was a little embarrassed and I didn’t know if they would like an informational book.  When I read it, I felt good.  The activity went well and the children were really writing a lot and working hard.  I could tell they learned a lot about ants.  When it was over I felt really happy that I did that read aloud.  The class was really interested, looked at the book and wanted to use the book to read the parts I skipped.  It was hard practicing reading it- I even practiced with my sister at home.  It was all worth it because it was a good time for all of us.”

Nolan- “I thought this was really fun because I was able to think about how Mrs. DeRosa taught and it helped me to teach.  When Mrs. DeRosa asks us questions and tell us to think about what we would do if we were in the story, I did the same thing.  I was talking with a lot of groups as they were working and they were working really hard.  They were connecting their work and making their thinking bigger.  I think they had a lot of fun.  I loved being the teacher!”

Rileigh- “I love reading to the class because I get to show them my favorite book and it is fun to share your ideas with everybody.  When I was little, I used to love to read to classes and I was never scared.  I like to do activities about reading all the time so I thought I would do one with the children.  I let them free style a little and I could tell when I saw the happy faces on them that they liked it.  I went around and gave children ideas as they were working and they did a great job.”  

One thought on “Children As Teachers- Students Leading Read Aloud

  1. Inspirational! I recently witnessed a 4th grade teacher trying this with so much success! I’m wondering about trying it some 2nd graders…

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