Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Reading Nonfiction Aloud: Encouraging Student Responses

I talk to lots of educators who are interested in sharing more nonfiction read alouds with their students, but they have some concerns. Here are the three main questions they ask: 

1.    How do I locate appropriate nonfiction titles?

2.    How do I read nonfiction aloud in a way that engages students?

3.    How do I encourage and facilitate student responses to a nonfiction read aloud?

I addressed the first two questions last week and the week before. You can scroll down to read my suggestions. Today, I’m going to focus on question number 3.

When someone asks me for advice on how to encourage and facilitate student responses to a nonfiction read aloud, I reassure them that this is the last thing they need to worry about. Here’s why:

During a fiction read aloud, students have no idea what to expect. The story could go in any direction at all. The only limit is the author’s imagination. As a result, during fiction read alouds, students often sit quietly, waiting to hear how the story will unfold.

But students come to nonfiction read alouds armed with a powerful tool—their prior knowledge. They’ll have a cornucopia ideas and opinions before you even open the book. In fact, one of your students may even be a mini-expert on the topic.

Instead of passively waiting to hear the story, children will be eager to contribute. All you have to do is let them. Encourage children to talk with one another about what they’re hearing and thinking and wondering. Every once in a while, stop reading and invite students to share their thoughts.

While organic student-led conversations are often sufficient, in some cases, you may want to document a nonfiction read-aloud experience. In his wonderful article “Nurturing Inquiring Minds with Nonfiction Read Alouds,” highly-regarded educator Tony Stead suggests recording student thinking before, during, and after the read aloud using a table with the following headings: “What We Think We Know,”  “Confirmed,” “We Don’t Think this Anymore,” “Exciting New Information,” and “Wonderings.”

This strategy works especially well when students come to the read aloud with misconceptions about a topic. It can also spark inquiry and guide students as they independently research and write about a topic.

So what do you think? Has this 3-part series made nonfiction read alouds seem more manageable? If you still have questions, please let me know. I’d like to help if I can.

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