The Benefits of Using Read-Alouds Plus Butterfly Book Ideas

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While many grapple with incorporating adequate and necessary independent reading time, many underestimate the amazing benefits of using read-alouds. Not everyone is sold on just how valuable reading aloud to kids can be and that makes it my job to sing its praises from the rooftop. 

Read-alouds are valuable tools for reading comprehension in the classroom. They provide the basis for essential lessons, help encourage reading, and enhance vocabulary. Itโ€™s a winner for sure. 

But after reading the book, Read Alouds for All Learners by Molly Ness, I realized that a more thorough explanation of why read-alouds are so important would be necessary so more educators could use them to help their students deepen comprehension.

Breaking Down the Roles in a Read-Aloud

0 The Little Butterfly That Could Picture Book

Before we break down the benefits of a read-aloud, let’s look at how a read-aloud is defined. The International Literacy Association’s glossary defines read-aloud as the practice of a teacher or designated reader orally reading a text with large or small groups. 

Pictures or text may be shared visually with the students whose primary role is to listen and view the illustrations. The intent is to model proficient reading and language, promote conversation, motivate, and extend comprehension and conceptual understanding.

Let’s break down the roles in a read-aloud:

Teacher’s Role:

  • Read the text aloud to students
  • Share the illustrations
  • Model proficient reading
  • Facilitate the conversation
  • Encourage students
  • Build comprehension skills

Student’s Role:

  • Listen to the read-aloud
  • View the illustrations
  • Discuss the story
  • Develop comprehension skills
  • Think critically about the text

There is a lot going on behind the scenes of a read-aloud that teachers automatically do without even realizing they are doing it! We are going to use the VERY entertaining picture book, The Little Butterfly That Could, to consider the benefits of a highly effective read-aloud in the classroom.

Read Alouds Build Upon Background Knowledge

Before reading the selected text to the class, consider how you can build upon studentsโ€™ background knowledge.

In The Little Butterfly That Could, the butterfly faces obstacles as he tries to find the other migrating butterflies. He overcomes a challenge through determination and with a little encouragement from a new friend. We can incorporate overcoming challenges into a pre-reading journal activity by having students consider what challenges they have faced in life. 

1 The Little Butterfly That Could Journal 1
Pre-reading journal activity from Butterfly Lifecycle and Reading Activities unit.

Provide a list of common challenges that children overcome such as: going to a new place, learning how to swim, conquering a fear, trying a new food, giving a speech, etc. Students can draw and write about a challenge that they have faced and how they overcame the challenge. 

This will help to build a connection to the butterfly throughout the story. It will also activate the background knowledge needed to understand how the butterfly responded to a major event.

Read Alouds Encourage Conversation

One way that we can model thinking aloud as well as consistently spiral comprehension skills is through asking and answering questions about the text. I like to do this through preselected book questions.

2 The Little Butterfly That Could Book Questions
Reading book question cards from Butterfly Lifecycle and Reading Activities unit.

Before reading aloud a text, I sit down with the picture book and ask myself:

  • What is the purpose of the text?
  • What components did the author or illustrator add that students may miss if they aren’t pointed out?
  • How can I help to improve the comprehension of the text?
  • Is there a lesson that can be learned through the text?

Having preselected book questions allows the teacher to make the most of the read-aloud. They are also great conversation starters that will deepen students’ understanding of the text.

Read Alouds Expose Students to New Vocabulary

Did you know that read-alouds are the perfect opportunity for vocabulary instruction because they offer a wealth of uncommon (vocabulary) words? 

3 The Little Butterfly That Could Vocabulary
Butterfly vocabulary activities from Butterfly Lifecycle and Reading Activities unit.

Research shows that there are more rare (vocabulary) words in children’s literature than in television shows, everyday conversation, and textbook instruction. This means we can get the most bang for our buck when targeting vocabulary instruction with a read-aloud. Here are some simple ways you can target vocabulary with a picture book:

  • Choose unknown words that the students need to know in order to understand the text.
  • Provide simple, student-friendly definitions for the unknown words.
  • Show students a visual of the vocabulary word.
  • When applicable, allow students to demonstrate understanding of the word by providing the meaning, an illustration, and using the word in context.

Read Alouds Invite Students to Interact

We’ve seen how both the teacher and the students have a role in the read-aloud process. One of those roles is to engage in conversation and deepen comprehension. An anchor chart can do both of those things during a read-aloud! 

4 The Little Butterfly That Could Anchor Chart
Character Traits and Event/Response anchor chart from Butterfly Lifecycle and Reading Activities unit.

Have you ever stopped to consider why these charts are called anchor charts? It’s because, like an anchor, they hold the learning, ideas, and instruction in place. They serve as a landing spot for the comprehension conversation. 

With this anchor chart, students brainstorm character traits for the two main characters in the story. You can take this a step further by having students explain WHERE that character trait is shown throughout the text. This engages students in a conversation while also targeting the skill of understanding and describing a character. 

Take this even further by discussing how characters respond to major events. Given a set of story events, students look back through the text to see how the butterfly responded to those challenges.

Read Alouds Provide Opportunities for Extension

Now that we’ve done the legwork for comprehension, it’s time for students to extend their learning. You’ve discussed the book. You’ve introduced and explained unfamiliar words. You’ve taught them about character traits and overcoming challenges. Now it’s time for the students to demonstrate that understanding. 

5 The Little Butterfly That Could Character Challenge
Digital poster and graphic organizer from Butterfly Lifecycle and Reading Activities unit.

This can be done through the use of a character analysis graphic organizer or a response sheet for how characters respond to major events. Not only will it hold the students accountable for their learning, but it will also give you a way to check for understanding. 

Questions to ask to check for understanding may be: Did they understand the story? Did they understand the comprehension skill? Can they apply the comprehension strategy on their own?

Read Alouds Create a Joyful Classroom Experience

I don’t know about you, but even as a middle-aged adult, I can still remember when my teachers read aloud to me. I have fond memories of my 4th grade teacher reading James and the Giant Peach. I remember crying through Old Yeller with my 5th-grade teacher. I can even remember sitting at my first-grade teacher’s feet as she read us countless stories. The read-aloud is a powerful thing! 

I often like to wrap up a read-aloud with a fun project that will leave an imprint on students. One of the ways I do this is through a directed drawing of the main character. 

6 The Little Butterfly That Could Reading Response
Butterfly drawing and writing activity from Butterfly Lifecycle and Reading Activities unit.

The butterfly in this book is a character that the students will absolutely love. He will make them laugh. He will make them think. He has a lot of personality! Students can show all of those characteristics through their drawings. 

Then, students demonstrate their understanding of the text by writing about how the butterfly was able to overcome challenges in the story. Now, you’ve got a beautiful art and writing project that demonstrates students’ understanding of the text.

Ensuring this joyful experience means being intentional with your read-alouds. For more tips on intentional reading, check out tips and strategies for using intentional read-alouds.

Extend Learning with More Butterfly Books

The Little Butterfly That Could is just one example of the power of a read-aloud, but once you’ve introduced butterflies with this story, your students are destined to want more and more! Here are some of my favorite butterfly books for the classroom.

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8 The Benefits of a Read Alouds

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Hey, yโ€™all! My name is Amy Lemons and I am passionate about providing students with both engaging and effective standards-based Math and ELA lessons.

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