Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 7: Social Justice and Action - Alma Flor Ada, Pam Munoz, and Paul Yee
Authors and Literary Works
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Writing Letters for Social Action
Student Work
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.

Teaching Strategies


Teachers have always read aloud to young children, but recent research has shown that reading aloud can benefit middle and secondary students as well. Reading aloud to teenagers stimulates their imaginations and emotions; models good reading behavior; exposes them to a range of literature; enriches their vocabularies and understanding of sophisticated language patterns; makes difficult text understandable; models the fact that different genres are read differently; supports independent reading; and can encourage a lifelong enjoyment of reading.

Read-Alouds in Laura Alvarez's Classroom

Though this strategy may seem as basic as simply choosing a book and reading it aloud to the class, Laura Alvarez uses the technique strategically: she chooses books that address the reading level of her students; considers how to make points about the reading process; and fits the chosen reading into the overall curriculum. For example, Alvarez begins her class with a read-aloud of My Name Is María Isabel, by Alma Flor Ada, a book that her transitional bilingual students have already read in Spanish. Because some them are not yet able to read the book in English, Alvarez makes it accessible to the whole group by stopping to comment, ask questions, and help students make personal connections to the story. Teacher educator Sonia Nieto points out that this is also an excellent choice of read-aloud for Alvarez's classroom because second-language learners experience identity struggles, and using Ada's book encourages connection to their own stories. The story, in which injustices are immediately clear, also sets the stage for an entire unit on the problems immigrants face. Alvarez also uses the read-aloud strategy in another way: after her students have done their research, she reads aloud difficult materials they have found. This time, she asks her listeners to say "stop" if they hear something about the problem they are researching or its solution. Because their listening skills exceed their reading skills, this helps the students comprehend the material.

Tips and Variations for Read-Alouds

  • There are many ways to read aloud. Generally, teachers read and students listen without following along in the text. Some teachers simply read an ongoing fictional or nonfiction text at a set time each day, without explicitly connecting it to the curriculum or asking the students to answer questions about it. This kind of read-aloud underscores the pure pleasure of literary experience. But teachers can also read aloud to catalyze class discussions or small-group activities. In addition, read-alouds can stimulate writing, art, or drama activities.

  • In an "interactive" read-aloud, the teacher reads aloud but stops periodically to ask a question or give a prompt; the students can jot down a response, turn and talk to a partner or small group, or share thoughts with the whole class. Alvarez demonstrates this when she asks the students to stop her when she reads Internet information. The teacher can also prompt the students with traditional language arts questions ("What do you predict will happen next?") or more whimsical questions ("If you were the illustrator, what illustration might you draw for this part of the text?" or "What do you think María Isabel's mother is feeling right now? Write her internal monologue.")

  • The teacher should consider how a read-aloud selection will support a particular unit or enhance the students' independent reading. For example, if the class is studying character, the teacher might choose a book in which strong characters change significantly over the course of the book. The teacher might also choose texts that are generally more difficult than those the students could read on their own.

  • Teachers should also choose texts that reflect the culture and/or language of students or that facilitate a cross-cultural experience. When Alma Flor Ada, the author of My Name Is María Isabel, visits the class, she speaks in both Spanish and English, translating from one language to the other. Teachers might invite family or community members to read literature from their cultures.

  • Teachers should read aloud from various genres: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, informational text, and children's books. This shows the students how different genres sound. The class might also enjoy fiction and nonfiction texts on the same topic.

  • Teachers can let the students choose read-aloud selections.

  • Read-aloud sessions should be kept to 20 minutes or less.

  • The listening environment should be as comfortable as possible.

  • Many teachers mark their texts to remind themselves where they will pause and think aloud, or where they will prompt students to interact with the text.

  • When reading texts that contain unfamiliar names or words, readers should research and note their pronunciation.

Benefits of Read-Alouds

  • Read-alouds enable teachers to offer texts with more challenging concepts and/or language than students can read independently.

  • The read-aloud strategy helps English-language learners develop new vocabulary and syntactic awareness.

  • Reading aloud builds good reading habits. It stimulates imaginations and emotions; models good reading processes; exposes students to a range of literature; enriches vocabularies and rhetorical sensitivity; elucidates difficult texts; helps to distinguish different genres; supports independent reading; and encourages a lifelong enjoyment of reading.

  • Read-alouds show students how to question, visualize, and make predictions while they read.

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