Reading Aloud at the Secondary Level

About a month ago I had the honor of writing a guest post for the Nerdy Book Club blog. The title was Top Ten Tips for Reading Aloud. It was just one of many topics that are posted on this excellent literacy site. In the comments I had a great question from another educator: What recommendations do you have for secondary administrators? Below is his question and my response.

How would you add to this conversation? Please share in the comments.

David E. October 6, 2012 at 6:54 am

It’s encouraging to hear that an administrator GETS it and can be seen as a literacy leader–not just a disciplinarian– in his building. Great ideas in this post. Do you have any recommendations foe middle school principals?

renwickme October 6, 2012 at 9:05 am

David, I have given some thought in the past about that, being a former middle school AP.
  • One idea is to share a relevant and engaging news article about a two-sided issue with a classroom. Then, after reading the article, open up a debate by doing a value line up and have the students pick a position and verbally support it (Checking for Understanding, Fisher and Frey). As we know, adolescents love to argue, and this formative assessment technique gives them the perfect forum to do that in a constructive way.
  • Another suggestion would be to pick an excellent piece of student writing and read it aloud to a classroom. It can be anonymous, or you could get permission from the author. After reading it aloud on a document camera, instead for giving your initial opinion and praise, have the students assess it on their own using a writing rubric. Then have each student get together with another student and share their results with each other to try to reach consensus. If the discussion is strong, have pairs pair up and follow the same process. At the end, groups share with the class how they assessed it and why. This is the “Think-Pair-Share” formative assessment, also from Checking for Understanding.
  • One final thought is just get into a classroom and read aloud a great novel. There is a misconception out there that just because older kids can now read means they don’t like or benefit from listening to a story read aloud. If you need a recommendation, I suggest Avi’s Wolf Rider. It’s a murder mystery/thriller, and it starts with the perpetrator calling the main character to tell him he killed someone. You will have the kids’ attention immediately and they will be asking when you are coming back next.

Did I just write a whole new post? Just as well, as your question is a very good one. Take care, -Matt

David E. October 7, 2012 at 11:37 am

Thank you for taking the time to write a “whole new post.” I am constantly reading aloud to my 6th grade students. (Every teacher knows that the best praise he can get is, “The book was boring when the sub read it yesterday. You do it so much better!”) I know my principal has TONS on his plate and that making time to push in to a classroom is a challenge. Still, I feel that it is worthwhile and would help establish him as a literacy leader in the building, give a chance for the students to connect with him and vice-versa, and influence the culture of the school.

I guess me offering an invitation would be a good start.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

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