Read Aloud in the Upper Elementary Classroom

How does read aloud look in an upper elementary class?One of the nonnegotiables in my classroom is read aloud time.  I build it into my schedule so that every day, rain or shine, I read aloud to my students.  I get quite a few questions about how I actually do read aloud and what it looks like in my classroom, so I thought I would write about it here to give you a clearer picture of what read aloud looks like in my room.

At the end of every school day, about 20 minutes before the bell rings for dismissal,  I have my students clean up our classroom using the 60 second clean up, they write their homework in their planners, we pass out papers (homework, flyers from the office, etc...) and then they pack up their stuff to go home.  When the kids are done packing up, I have them join me on the rug.  Since this is an individual process (some kids take longer than others) I head to the rug at this time and sit in my chair.  Kids join me as they finish up and we usually start talking about the books we are reading.  This is super informal and becomes a time when I can just chat casually with a few students about books.  I write nothing down.  I don't have a script.  We just chat while we wait for the rest of the kids.    This little chat I have is very enticing to the kids too.  They like to talk with me about books so they generally tend to get packed up quickly so they can converse.

Once *most* of the kids are on the rug, I begin reading aloud.  Most of the time, I am reading from a chapter book so I just continue on from where I left off.  Other times, say if we just finished a chapter book, I will read aloud a picture book (though I generally tend to read those during lessons throughout the day to be honest.)  

Here is what I get asked the most when I talk about read aloud: What are your students doing when you read aloud?

The answer is simple.  They listen. 

That is it.  

My kids listen as I read aloud to them.  They don't take notes.  They don't do a comprehension activity.  They don't respond to the text orally or otherwise.  They just listen as I share the written words with them.  

Why do I do this?  There are lots of reasons but the biggest one is that it helps me to create readers.  You see, the kids listen to me fluently reading, enjoying the book, and can visualize the story.  They get taken away into a world that they may not have been to before.  They see the joy of reading first hand.  I KNOW that I have introduced books that the kids would have never picked up on their own and they become hooked on the entire series.  I KNOW that I have shown kids that books are a doorway to a new land of imagination and fun.  I KNOW that I have opened up channels of discussion for the kids to talk about books with me and each other.  I KNOW that I have created readers in my class.  All because of the read aloud. 

So what books do I read aloud?  Well, I tend to choose different types of novels.  In the beginning of the year,  usually find books that I know will engage the kids and are a part of series.  The reason I do this is so that the kids then have the option to read the rest of the books in that series.  If they like the book, there is something else to read that continues the story.  As the year goes on, I choose books that are of all different genres.  Below are a few of my tried and true favorites that are almost always a hit with my students.   (the links are affiliate links that will take you to Amazon to purchase the books.)


A perennial favorite with my fifth graders.  This is one that helps to set the tone for the rest of the year. It talks about bullying, empathy, and how people can change.  It is a great one to begin the year.

Another book that is great for the beginning of the year.  This is one cliffhanger after the other.  There are giant bugs, wars between humans and human-sized rats, an underground society, a quest, and a whole lot of action.  This story has all the basic elements of storytelling as well (plot, character, setting, conflict, theme) that it is a must have to get your kids just thinking about these ideas.  This is the first in a series an my students are always checking out the others after we read this one.

This book is the first in a series.   The story takes place in a dystopian society where it is illegal to be a third child.  The main character is a third child who must hide his entire life.  It is one that has a long beginning and takes a while to get into.  It is one that I KNOW the kids would put down if they read it on their own.  But once you get to page 41....magic.  It is utter and complete magic. 

An endearing story about a robot stranded on an island.  The robot learns the ways of the animals and how to survive in this unknown land.  It is the first of two books that my students begged me for.  I think it helped that I read aloud to them using the robot voice the entire time the robot talked ;)  
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I am always recommending books that I find valuable for my classroom.  You can scroll down through my feed for dozens of recommendations that have resonated with my students over the years.  (Follow me here if you aren't yet ;) )

So what about you?  Do you read aloud to your students?  How often?  When?  What are your favorites to read aloud?

9 comments

  1. Thank you, Stephanie, for your continued inspiration. I love that you still read aloud to our older students and will forever maintain that they are all still kids, just in bigger bodies. My 5th graders still love the puppets and gasp as they come around the corner to my room as they see which one we're using to help problem solve in our Leadership Lab. I'm so proud of you and your work!

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    1. Thank you Barbara. :) I love that you use the puppets too. You are right. The 5th graders are still just kids and they love all of these types of things! Never too old for read aloud (or puppets ;) )

      Stephanie

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  2. I absolutely love your blog, Stephanie, and have found so many great ideas to use with my students. We have similar taste in read alouds, too. The Wild Robot was a book I kept hearing/reading about, so it's on my TBR pile for the summer.
    Just a heads up, under There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom I think you want the word "perennial" instead of "perineal". Perineal means something VERY different! ;)

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    1. Oh my goodness! Thank you for finding that! Seriously, I type these so fast that I rely on spell check too much sometimes ;)

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  3. Love this piece because recently I've been thinking about good books for novel studies and read alouds. Last year I started almost every day with a read aloud and it was amazing!!

    Next session,I plan to do some faves like Seedfolks, A Long Walk to Water and one from Chronicles of Narnia but I also would add Tuck Everlasting, one or two Andrew Clements, a Percy Jackson, a Harry Potter and Shiloh. My goal is to stick with it every morning. I'm hoping to read the Wild Robot too this summer break. It's so popular!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your ideas, Stephanie. As a veteran teacher, I have always believed strongly in the power of read aloud. As a special ed co-teacher, I have not always been able to see it implemented in the classroom! My favorite book of all time is A Wrinkle in Time. My 6th grade teacher read it to MY class and I've read it myself many times over the years. When I see former students, they often mention it. With themes of love and individuality, it's a great choice for middle schoolers. Several of last years students were SO excited to see me and share that it had been made into a movie.

    I totally agree with you about not making kids do something when the teacher reads. They should be engaged and drawn into a whole new world, not given another task! We also have enjoyed The Westing Game, Tuck Everlasting, The Whipping Boy and The Landry News by Andrew Clements to name a few. Thanks for strengthening my resolve to see this happen in our classroom this coming year!

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    1. What a great moment when the kids come back and connect with you about a book! It makes everything just seem right. Tuck is one of my favorites too!

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