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Eight Questions We Ask Ourselves When Selecting Read-Aloud Texts for a Program

Read-alouds are at the heart of several Developmental Studies Center (DSC) programs. Typically a text is read on the first day of a week of instruction, and lessons on subsequent days use the text as an exemplar or point of departure for instruction. Given the central role of read-alouds at DSC, we thought we’d share the considerations that go into selecting texts. Here are eight questions we ask ourselves when looking at a potential read-aloud:

  • Will it help us teach a particular language art? The texts in our comprehension program, Making Meaning, for example, allow us to teach comprehension strategies such as making inferences; the texts in our vocabulary program, Words in Action, feature rich language; the texts in our writing program, Being a Writer, demonstrate a variety of approaches to craft.
  • Is it the right length? We make sure the read-alouds we select can be read and discussed within a predetermined length of time that’s appropriate for a given subject (for example, the read-aloud lessons in Words in Action take 15–20 minutes on average).
  • Is it a well-written exemplar of its genre? Our programs include a mix of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry (including subgenres such as biographies, memoirs, essays, science, and historical fiction). We seek out high-quality literature that is worthy of close attention and that presents students with excellent examples of the writing craft.
  • Is it engaging? We want to provide books at every academic level that grab and hold the students’ attention. In addition to excellent writing, many of our read-alouds feature compelling visuals that pull students deeply into a text and help them comprehend the text’s language and concepts. A book showing trash floating in an otherwise lovely harbor can powerfully enhance a factual description of ways we pollute the environment.
  • Does it help us offer a range of subject matters? We intentionally select books that cover a wide range of subjects of interest to students—from a fact-filled book about mummies to a side-splittingly funny poem to a moving story about a homeless girl who is taken in by an older couple.
  • Is it sensitive to diversity? We want students of all backgrounds to see themselves mirrored in positive ways in the literature they encounter in our programs.
  • Does it reflect pro-social values in its theme or storyline? We keep an eye out for books that model pro-social values such as courage, honesty, kindness, compassion, and determination. We also include books that feature characters and real people who face moral conflicts and grapple with societal and global issues such as discrimination, injustice, and environmental degradation.

So those are our guideposts. Now it’s your turn. What do you consider key criteria when selecting a read-aloud?

Tracy Arrowsmith is the Manager of Social Media and Outreach at Center for the Collaborative Classroom. Follow Tracy on Twitter at @TArrowsmith.

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Comments (1)

Whenever I work with teachers

Whenever I work with teachers who use DSC in school programs, the comment "I love the read alouds!" is always one that resonates with me. Teachers' enthusiasm for the great literature selection permeates into the classroom; of course then, the fact that students love MM or BAW is not surprising.  Thank you, Tracy, for sharing so eloquently the 8 quesions that the developing team considers in the literature selection process. No wonder it's such high quality!