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Classroom Read Aloud Strategies That Get (And Keep) Students Engaged

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Photo of Victoria (Teach Starter)
Updated | 4 min read

Reading books out loud to your class is a cornerstone of elementary literacy building. Students who listen to their teachers read a book out loud get to take part in a bonding experience with their classmates, develop important comprehension and listening skills, and a whole lot more.

But if you’re not being thoughtful about how you read books out loud in the classroom, you might as well save your voice for other lessons! Kids and teachers both love the experience of a good read aloud, so let’s look at some ways to make your reading really shine!

What Is a Read Aloud in the Classroom?

We know. We know. This seems pretty obvious. But it’s important to stop and think about your classroom read alouds not just as storytelling but as a part of your teacher toolkit.

A read aloud is an important instructional tool for your students’ language development, fluency, and more. Just look at all your students get out of you reading a simple book out loud:

  • Language Development: Reading aloud to children introduces new vocabulary and assists with foundation literacy skills and language development. Children are able to hear new exciting words and learn synonyms and antonyms for the words they already know. By developing their vocabulary from listening to a read aloud, children will be encouraged to use a greater variety of language when speaking, as well as in their own writing.
  • Fluency and Expression: A read aloud provides the opportunity for teachers and parents to model how to read with fluency and expression. Children are able to listen to how a story should flow when it is being read, as well as when and how to change their voice for different characters and events that take place in the text. Modeling expressive language will also make the story more exciting for children to listen to.
  • Listening Skills and Comprehension: A good read aloud will create a higher level of engagement from the children and will improve their listening skills. During a read aloud, children will be more attentive listeners, creating the perfect teaching tool for building comprehension strategies and skills. Comprehension questions can be asked before, during and after a read aloud, or a particular strategy might be used as a focus for the read aloud where students have to listen for key information. At the end of the read aloud, provide children with an opportunity to share information from or about the text.
  • Text Structure: By listening to a variety of fictional and non-fictional texts during a read aloud, children are given the opportunity to understand the themes in stories and the structure of different texts. Teachers can use a read-aloud session in the classroom, in conjunction with a writing lesson, to model how a particular text should be structured. When listening to the text, encourage children to identify the common themes, language and structure.
  • A Love of Reading: The greatest benefit of a read aloud is the love of reading that it promotes. By listening to a variety of texts being read aloud with fluency and expression, children become motivated to read themselves and start reading for pleasure, developing a love of reading. After reading a book they love, encourage children to share their thoughts and feelings of the book so that others can also enjoy it.

Strategies for a Good Read Aloud

For a powerful and memorable read-aloud experience in your classroom, incorporate the following tips:

  • Choose a book that will connect to the lives and experiences of your students.
  • Familiarize yourself with the book before reading it to the class. This will ensure you don’t stumble over words, can decode the text and define more advanced or non-English words, and you can start off with the right tone.
  • Be animated and expressive. Ensure that you change your voice for different characters.
  • Keep it simple. Allowing students to listen to the read aloud, rather than taking notes or doing other tasks, will ensure their attention is on the words and make it more FUN.
    For longer texts, do a story walk of the book instead of reading every word.
  • Invite a special guest to read to the class, such as the principal, a parent or grandparent, or even a local author.
  • Find a copy of the book online for students to watch and listen to.
  • Create a comfortable space in the classroom for your read aloud sessions where students can relax and enjoy the story.
  • Follow-up your read aloud with engagement activities that help them connect to the text you read to the class, making the read-aloud process more interactive.

Looking for resources to supplement your read aloud strategy? Look no further!

Image of 3-2-1 Text Reflection Template

teaching resource

3-2-1 Text Reflection Template

A reflection template for students to use after reading a fictional text.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: 2 - 6
Image of Literary Element Task Cards - Upper Elementary

teaching resource

Literary Element Task Cards - Upper Elementary

A set of 14 task cards for upper elementary students to use after reading a fiction text.

Teach Starter Publishing7 pagesGrades: 3 - 5
Image of Past, Present, and Future Simple Tense Verbs Worksheet

teaching resource

Past, Present, and Future Simple Tense Verbs Worksheet

An ad-lib style worksheet where students can add their own simple past, present, and future tense verbs.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: 2 - 5
Image of Character Emotions Worksheet

teaching resource

Character Emotions Worksheet

A worksheet to use when teaching students about characters and how to make inferences.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: 1 - 3
Image of Monitoring Comprehension Symbols Flashcards

teaching resource

Monitoring Comprehension Symbols Flashcards

A set of flashcards displaying symbols students can use to monitor their understanding of a text.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: 3 - 6

See some of our favorite reads for reluctant readers!


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