Tips for Reading Aloud with Middle Schoolers

Tips for Reading Aloud with Middle Schoolers

by Christopher Lehman, Founding Director

Christopher Lehman is the Founding Director of The Educator Collaborative. He provides onsite literacy consulting to schools across the US and around the world. He will also be leading several online sessions in our yearlong “Study Series” and a “Virtual Think Tank” with Kate Roberts on K-5 Close Reading. 

If you have ever read aloud an engaging text with Middle Schoolers, then I do not need to sell you on its merits. The whole feeling of the room changes, hormone-charged brains settle and focus, you all go somewhere new and amazing together.

Here are some quick tips from me and our TheEdCollab family for making the most of your Read Alouds with this awesome age group.


  • Make time for at least 1-2 Read Alouds per week
  • 15-20 minutes each, again, at least
  • Students can go straight to independent reading (or writing or whatever else you’re squeezing into your packed schedule) right after
  • Short texts give you more time for thinking/talking/teaching/learning. Whereas longer novels, within our tight schedule, tend to lead to a lot more “plot cramming” instead of valuable deep thinking and talking. Don’t let beautiful books die this sad, sad death.


Our adolescents are awesome and also hardly focused on us at all. Ha. So, make lots of time to engage students in thinking about the text you are reading.

  • Stop often to talk in pairs, groups, or whole class…
  • …HOWEVER, vary this as not all students like to share and you never know who is not getting along with whom today. Include time for quiet writing, sketchnoting, digital note-taking or other private responses, too.

MODEL JOTTING (or else it’s all left in the talk)

Read Aloud conversations are varied, full of voices and energetic… and then they have to go back to their independent reading and somehow translate all of those voices into all-by-myself jots. Yikes.

  • Take notes on the Read Aloud conversation, publicly and similarly to how your students will write on their own
  • I like to make a grid of blank boxes, then fill them out almost like sticky notes. It’s very easy and adaptable.
  • If you have devices, then consider sharing a digital space to record notes together. At TheEdCollab, we really like to use some of these in our teaching:
    • Padlet
    • Trello
    • Google Sheets (spreadsheet in Drive)
    • Corkulous is cool but note that you have to pay for Pro to have multiple boards

*special note: by law, if you teach students under the age of 13 (which basically all of us 5-8 do) review your district policies on COPPA and FERPA compliance. Take child privacy seriously.


Compared to elementary school students, middle schoolers are even more engaged in the world around them. So, treat read aloud texts critically. Do not just teach comprehension skills, also model the act of closely reading, questioning intent and bias, looking for gaps in stories or ideas. This does not mean be cynical (though adolescents naturally can be… and it’s kind of fun), just model how intellectually curious you can be about almost any text.

  • Treat the author/illustrator/editor/photographer/etc as a player in how the text was made
  • Stop at times in narratives or informational texts to think about whose story/ideas is being told and whose is not.
  • Question and then brainstorm other points of view that are missing and how you could search for them

Reading Aloud texts with our students is a powerful and necessary practice. Carefully crafted, it can drive so much of your students’ reading work across the year.



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