TRC Read to Kids

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Read-Aloud planning made painless: part 1

There’s more than one way to plan a fantastic Read-Aloud. If your team struggles with planning, whether because you don’t remember it’s your team’s turn to read, someone won’t step up and take the lead in planning, or your plans turn out to be too complex or time consuming, TRC is here to help.

This is the first of two posts about planning stemming from our recent volunteer seminar. In this post, we’ll explore two very different planning styles from TRC sites and some communication options. In the next post, we’ll explore components of planning like timing, choosing activities, recycling Read-Alouds and keeping kids’ attention.

TRC volunteers presented two different planning styles at the seminar. Karen McNeilly from Carpenter’s Shelter and Bonnie Miller and Ellen Abramson from ARHA described how their teams plan Read-Alouds and answered questions from fellow volunteers.
Carpenter’s Shelter uses their TRC Google Docs for long-term planning.  Their site coordinator, David Saunders, creates a Read-Aloud team captain calendar for the entire year. Volunteers can access Google Docs to check when they are assigned to be team captain. 
  • The team captain role rotates through every member of each Read-Aloud team, so every volunteer at the Carpenter’s site is responsible for planning a Read-Aloud once every four months.  
  • The captain does everything for his or her month (theme, books, activity, Read-Aloud report), although he or she may ask other members for help.  
  • The captain emails the rest of the team the week of the Read-Aloud with the plan and team members may add ideas.
  • The team arrives ten minutes before the Read-Aloud to look at the books and the activity and prepare the reading area and the activity. All of the volunteers work together to make sure the space is cleaned up at the end of the Read-Aloud.
Karen also pointed out that
  • They can re-use ideas because kids turn over pretty fast at Carpenter’s. 
  • She researches TRC’s website and Read-Aloud database for theme ideas.
  • In terms of crafts, less is more. Limit the kinds of materials you provide and let the kids’ imaginations do the rest.
Team Three at ARHA plans long-term as a group and assigns responsibilities based on members’ strengths and interests. They also use a conference call a week before their Read-Aloud to firm things up.
Once the Read-Aloud schedule has been set and the team knows the dates they will be reading, the team meets to choose themes for the upcoming four to six months. At that meeting they:
  • review and confirm dates for the upcoming Read-Alouds,
  • brainstorm themes, books and activities,
  • assign a person or volunteer to be the Read-Aloud captain for each week/theme, and
  • one person sends out an email outlining the rough ideas for the next six months with date, theme, name of Read-Aloud captain for each month and dates for upcoming conference calls. 
This team divides up the responsibilities for planning based on members’ strengths and interests.  One person knows a lot about children’s books and likes to get them while other members like to plan and implement the activities, so they do those jobs every month. The whole team has agreed to this arrangement and is involved in the theme choices, brainstorming and implementation.
A week or so before the Read-Aloud, the team has a conference call to review the theme, books, activity and snack. 

The night of the Read-Aloud the team arrives early. The book person has put post-it notes on books highlighting features and recommending age groups. If they using special equipment like a cd player, they make sure it works

ARHA uses its TRC Google Docs to keep track of the themes folks have done or have planned for the future. All teams have access to it, so they can avoid duplication.


One of the keys to easy planning is strong communication within teams and between teams. 
  • E-mail, Google Docs and conference calls can keep everyone in the loop. 
  • Reading the weekly Read-Aloud reports from other teams at your site provides crucial information about the kids attending and themes that have been done or suggested.
  • Meeting with your team after a Read-Aloud or site meeting, or on another date, allows you to work out some long-term plans and brainstorm in person. 
  • Arriving early to Read-Alouds to do a quick briefing and let folks look at the books before they have to read them brings everybody up to speed before the Read-Aloud starts.
However your team chooses to do it, volunteer experience has shown that a pre-planned Read-Aloud is a fun and effective Read-Aloud. Talk with your team today and make your own plan for great Read-Alouds. And take a look at the TRC Training Hub next week when we explore components of planning.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

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