In Brooklyn, an elementary school called P.S. 249, the Caton School, has a 15-to-20-minute block of daily read-aloud time in every classroom, kindergarten through fifth grade. Teachers select a book that’s just above their students’ reading level—and related to the current unit of study in social studies or English language arts—and read it to their class. But this is no typical read aloud. All along the way, the teachers model good reading skills, as well as how to think critically and analyze text.
Every three days, when a new book is introduced, the class reads the back cover, looks at the artwork, and makes predictions. Over the next few days, teachers read small sections of text to the group, stopping every few minutes to pose questions and encourage the students to consider the setting (or characters, or plot elements). Questions start out asking for basic information about what the students heard and build toward higher-level analytical questions about what might happen in the story or the characters’ motivations. During turn and talks, the students discuss particular passages in pairs while the teacher roams around observing, and each lesson ends with a stop and jot where students answer a prompt using printed copies of the text to find evidence.
As the days progress, teachers model less and have students do more of the thinking and analyzing themselves—which empowers students to become more critical and capable readers when they go to read on their own.