Beyond Storytime: Whole Class Interactive Reading Aloud in Kindergarten

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Christenson, Lea Ann
Chambliss, Marilyn J
Existing research has established the value of reading aloud to young children and suggested a lens with three elements to describe when a teacher reads aloud to an entire kindergarten class during a planned period of instruction (CIRA): teacher practice, student activity, and text. Over four months, I observed and interviewed four experienced kindergarten teachers in the naturalistic setting of their public school classrooms. To analyze the data, I created bounded collective and individual case studies that answer my central questions: What patterns characterize teacher practice, student activity, and text during kindergarten CIRA sessions taught by experienced kindergarten teachers? How do these patterns relate to one another within or across teachers? Across the four classrooms, teachers read with inflection; employed a transparent proactive style of classroom management; purposefully selected texts to read; embedded instruction of concepts of print, vocabulary, and comprehension while they read; and differentiated for their students, especially English Language Learners (ELL). Students demonstrated nearly exclusive on task behavior including spontaneous responses. Texts were primarily narrative, chosen to support the literacy skills or content to be taught, but often did not reflect the cultural or linguistic backgrounds of the students. CIRA also differed within the four classrooms. At one end of a continuum, CIRA sessions were characterized by little apparent planning on the part of the teacher (similar to the features of parent/child read aloud sessions), impulsive student responses, and complex texts. At the other end of the continuum, the teacher planned highly controlled CIRA sessions (with many of the characteristics of a scripted lesson), students' answers were constrained by the teacher's questions, and the texts were simplistic. No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (2002) appeared to directly influence state and local policy that impacted the practice of all four teachers. Differences within classrooms paralleled the continuum: the teacher with the less structured sessions had the highest SES students and was least impacted by NCLB, and the teacher with the most highly-controlled sessions had the lowest SES students and was most impacted by NCLB. Results from the study inform both future research and teacher education.