Supporting Emergent & Early Readers/Writers with Read Alouds


Emergent and early reader texts are frequently about animals and include action words like swim, hop, and jump. The trade books we choose to read aloud to students can serve to build, reinforce, and expand this type of vocabulary. For example, in Nic Bishop’s Frogs (2008), frogs wriggle, grip, burrow, climb, catch, swallow, blink and prey — all within two pages of text.

I don’t shy away from reading more complex texts like Bishop’s to kindergarten and first grade students. They love books like these and are hungry for the knowledge they gain. But I also don’t read aloud the whole book – they don’t have the stamina for that.

Here’s a rough outline of a lesson for kindergarten and first grade with Nic Bishop’s Frogs that includes reading aloud, shared writing and reading, and independent or partner reading

  1. Show the book cover and several pages in the book to the students. Engage in a dramatic “ooo” and “aah” as the students look at these fascinating photographs.
  2. Read aloud 4-5 pages from the text (that you’ve chosen in advance or that students choose)- or more depending on the students’ stamina. These pages do not have to be from the beginning of the book or in consecutive order–that’s the beauty of informational texts!
  3. As you read, keep an eye out for action words and alert the students to do the same. (I’d definitely read the book in advance and know where these words are most prevalent–like the two pages I mentioned earlier). During a lesson with kinder, when I read aloud a sentence with an action word–I made my eyes big and slowed down. This signal cued the students that we’d read an action word worthy of stopping for and acting out After doing this a few times – they were ready and recognized when I’d read a word we could act out. I don’t stop and make up an action for every single action word — just the ones that seem worthy of attention.
  4. Make up actions – on the spot and/or with the students – for the words that pop up. For example, with a group of kindergarten students I was reading aloud to – I made up actions for burrow, climb, pounce, leap and so forth. I don’t spend a lot of time on this – I just quickly make up an action–impromptu.
  5. Each time you finish a page, review “What have we learned that frogs can do?” And go through the words and actions with the students as though reading off a list. “We know frogs can swim [action] and burrow [action] and pounce [action].”
  6. Engage in shared writing–writing a series of sentences–“What did we learn frogs can do?”
  7. Engage in shared reading during shared writing. After composing and writing each sentence, reread the previous sentences as well as that one.
  8. If possible, manageable, feasible, include having the students read with a partner from emergent/early level, even Pre-A, texts. Have the books ready in the students’ book bags or ready to be handed out. I go to the school’s leveled library (if there’s one) and just start pulling books about animals so that we have enough for everyone (at their level). Or you can create boxes of these books and students sit in groups and pull one at a time to read independently or with a partner. Below are two examples of the kinds of texts I pull out. (Love National Geographic Windows on Literacy books!!!)
  9. You might also engage the students in independently writing one fact they learned and illustrating for a class book. “We are authors just like Nic Bishop!” You might include a sentence frame or take dictation to support particular students.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 6.14.03 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 6.14.10 AM

Other books on my shelf that I might use…in a series of similar lessons –

  • Additional books by Nic Bishop
  • Wolfsnail: A Backard Predator by Sarah Campbell
  • How Many Ways Can you Catch a Fly? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
  • How Many Baby Pandas? by Sandra Markle (this one has to be read from beginning)
  • What Bluebird Do by Pamela Kirby (this one has to be read from beginning)
  • Grandma Elephant’s in Charge by Martin Jenkins

I’d definitely read the books in advance and determine what might work. Feel free to skp to certain parts or just read the captions or whatever you need to do to help students access meaning from the text, you know?

Okay…just some ideas I wanted to share.



2 thoughts on “Supporting Emergent & Early Readers/Writers with Read Alouds

  1. Fernando Vigil

    Ms. Cummins,
    I find your blog very useful and I am also currently reading one of your books on text complexity. But one question: (I teach K) What would you say are the activities that the average K student can handle as far as close reading goes? What would you say are the limits or challenges that K kids demonstrate in attempting to engage in close reading strategies? What exactly are the activities or strategies you would not recommend for these kids to do as far as close reading is concerned?
    Thanks so much.

    1. sundaycummins Post author

      Wow. I wish we could sit down and talk for a few hours. Or maybe I should write my next book on this? 🙂
      For kindergarten, it’s more about “moving towards” close reading of complex informational texts. For example, I want them to be able to “listen” to an informational text read aloud and determine more than just the topic–I want them to realize what’s important, what the author’s message is at some level and then I want them to be able to sketch (accurately) and write about what they learned (in a nonnarrative style of writing – so beyond “I love elephants” to “The grandmother elephant can run as fast as a car.”). Did you see my blog on a similar lesson with Grandma Elephant is in Charge?
      I also want kindergarten students to be able to look closely at photographs or illustrations and be able to describe in detail what they notice and what in the photo/illustration makes them think so (so text evidence) and then maybe write and sketch from that experience as well. Tony Stead’s book “Is That a Fact?” helped me understand this and how students can view multiple photographs of the same topic to develop a deeper understanding of that topic and to then write about that topic.
      If they are reading, then being able to identify an important word in one sentence that “will help you remember” what you learned is good movement towards close reading.
      If they are exceptional readers, then maybe they can move into the type of close reading we are asking first and second grade students to do. The trick is finding texts that are not too conceptually difficult – texts they can not only decode, but also comprehend. Texts on animals are one way to start.
      So much more to say on this!!! For the PARCC assessments, we wrote a series of lessons where kinder students are read TWO texts on the same topic and asked to compare and contrast the topics.
      Does this help? I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of this and what you are trying with your students.


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