Using Your Read Aloud to Teach Writing
The read aloud has been getting a lot of attention lately, and rightfully so.
In the time-crunched school day, it would be easy to dismiss the read aloud as unnecessary and unproductive. However, the benefits of reading to your students far outweigh the drawbacks.
A good read aloud can help students improve their reading comprehension, build community, increase their vocabulary, learn speaking and listening skills, develop questioning and inference skills, and expose students to literature that they might not read on their own. All of this in addition to the telling of a good story!
But what about using the read aloud to teach writing?
When students “think like a writer” as they are listening to the read aloud, they learn some new craft moves to add to their own writing toolkits.
Teaching writing during the read aloud is not as difficult as you may think. It just takes some practice and guidance from you, the teacher.
Here are some writing moves to notice and point out when reading aloud:
First lines: Draw attention to how the author hooks the reader with their opening lines. Have students share ways they could do this in their own writing.
Figurative Language: How does metaphor, alliteration, or personification help bring the story to life? How can students do this in their own writing?
Power of Three: Three is a magic number! The mind likes things that come in groups of three. It is comforting and provides completeness. (Think about it…The Three Pigs; Morning, noon & night; Stop, drop & roll; Goldilocks and the Three Bears; Three Blind Mice; The three sentences I began this section with; etc.) As you read, notice details that are mentioned in groups of three. Talk about how the effect that it has on the reader and how students can work the Power of Three into their writing.
Show, Don’t Tell: This is a really difficult concept to teach unless students can see it in action. When you come across a part that paints a picture in your mind with vivid details, be sure to point it out to students and talk about how the author made it happen.
Characterization: How does the author create a picture of a character in the reader’s mind? What details are disclosed? Which ones do you fill in on your own? How does writing this way make it more interesting than simply laying down the facts about a character?
Golden Lines: Sometimes when I am reading aloud, I will come across a line that is just so beautiful and perfect that I must stop and add it to my Golden Lines notebook. Here are a few of my favorites:
“The thunder rumbled louder. But I didn’t want to leave Florentine. She told stories in such a way that I swear my heart heard them before my ears did.”
— A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
“ Can someone’s lungs spontaneously stop working? Mine felt like they had shriveled up inside my chest. I sucked in another breath; it was like breathing Jell-O through a straw.”
- How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied by Jess Keating
“You can’t be brave without scared.”
- Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
Students can use Golden Lines as springboards for their own writing style.
Dialogue: One thing my students always struggled with was writing dialogue that went beyond “Hi, how are you?” and actually moved the story forward. By analyzing the dialogue in your read aloud, students can see how important it is to the development of the story. Dialogue should say something.
These are just a few ways you can teach your students to think like a writer through your read aloud. You don’t have to do them all at once. Just pick one and focus on that for awhile. Pretty soon, you will see your students start to transfer these skills into their own writing.