Before, During, After

Evy Baca, kindergarten teacher in the National School District, tells us how to incorporate the "Before, During, and After" activity when doing a read aloud to build students' vocabulary and support their reading comprehension.

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Evy Baca, kindergarten teacher and a teacher leader with the California Reading and Literature Project.


Hi, I’m Evy. I’m a kindergarten teacher and a teacher leader with the California Reading and Literature Project. So, reading in the classroom is one of my favorite things to do and when done correctly, it’s a highly effective and engaging teaching tool. So in this video, I’m going to share a simple routine that you can do before, during, and after a read aloud so that students are actively listening and thinking throughout the entire story

So, this routine can be done with any storybook and it only takes a few minutes to prepare beforehand. The “Before, During and After” activities are designed to capture and maintain student’s interest from the get go. You’re building their vocabulary and supporting their reading comprehension throughout the entire story.

This routine works best for the younger students, like in grades kindergarten through third grade, and it’s especially beneficial for students learning English as a second language because you are guiding students to make connections to what they already know and studies show that this helps support comprehension. As a teacher, you’re also building the vocabulary, you’re supporting the vocabulary development and you are giving them access to everyday language.

So before I sit down with the students, I’d like to do a preview of the book I’m going to read. This can be done in like seven to 10 minutes, before school starts, during recess, or even in transition time when students are finishing up that independent activity.

So for the preview, you’re scanning the pictures and the text for vocabulary words that might need clarifying for students during the reading. Also another note, this routine is mainly designed for narrative text. So you want to choose a book that has characters, a story plot, as opposed to an informational text, which doesn’t really lend itself to the types of questioning that I’ll be sharing with you. For example, if I’m scanning through the pages and I notice the vocabulary words “neighbor” or “knocked over”, these are words that students might not be familiar with and I just wanna make sure that I take the time to explain them briefly when I get to these pages. And I’m going to show you some examples later of how to do a brief explanation of vocabulary words. You want to pick out words that are critical to understanding the story, but words that students might use in a different context in their everyday language as well. I would say five to six words is ideal for the whole story. You don’t want to pick out too many words and stopping and interrupting the flow of the reading. So I think five to six would be a good amount.

When you’re ready to sit down in front of the students, you’re going to start with an introduction, a book introduction. If I have the book The Three Little Pigs, I would sit down and say, “today, we’re going to read this book. It’s called The Three Little Pigs and the New Neighbor,” and right off the bat I’m going to call attention to the pictures on the cover, I might invite the students to.. what do you notice? What do you think is gonna happen in this story? Who do you think the characters are going to be? So I’m inviting them to make predictions to talk about the cover. And this is a good time too, especially for those English language learners, to get some of that initial vocabulary out. In the title, The Three Little Pigs and the New Neighbor, this is where I might give a quick and brief explanation of what the word neighbor means. I might ask them to give examples or ask, ” who knows their neighbor? Do you talk to your neighbor? Is your neighbor nice?” Just kind of getting them to make those connections, like we said earlier, to make those connections to the story before reading it.

If students are having a hard time coming up with answers or responding to your prompts, you could help guide them by drawing attention to the details in the picture. For example, if there’s a wolf, I might say, “oh, what is the wolf doing in the picture? Who do you think he is? Why do you think he’s trying to open the door?” Invite the students to just build that curiosity with you. I might draw attention to the facial expressions of the pigs on the front cover — just anything to kind of spark that initial interest.

So when the students have finished making their predictions and talking about the illustration, I’m going to transition into reading the story by saying, “now let’s find out what happens to the three little pigs and their new neighbor.”

So the “during” part: so this is what you do during the reading, and this is mainly the focus on vocabulary. We are explaining words that students that might not understand and might need more clarification on, and remember that these are the words that we’re selected ahead of time during your preview of the book.

So explaining vocabulary words to students, you could use short explanations, you could do gestures, you could act it out, or you could simply point to the picture in the book. Sometimes that will explain it enough for them. If the book uses the word “gasped”, students might not know what the word gasped means, but you can explain it by acting it out or by again, pointing to the picture in this story book. So remember that when you’re introducing vocabulary, the explanations should be short and brief so that you’re not stopping and interrupting the flow of the story too much.

The “after”: so after reading the story, you’re gonna ask students open-ended questions that require them to make inferences about the story events. Prompting students with why questions requires them to use a higher level of thinking as opposed to simply asking them questions with who or what. Again, this discussion activity, this can be done as a whole group, as you call on students one by one, or you can have students share in pairs. So sharing in pairs is actually a good strategy to use if your students are chatty or they look like they’re excited to talk. This would be a good time to have ’em turn around and just talk to each other.

Asking open ended questions, remember, requires a higher level of thinking and since they are open ended, there really are no right or wrong answers. Students can share some pretty outrageous ideas, but you just kind of want to accept it all. Just have fun with it. And kids are pretty imaginative, so it’s okay if they have an answer that’s not typical.

So before we end, remember that when doing a read aloud we want to make sure to capture students’ interest before reading the book by asking them to make predictions and make connections to what they already know about the story topic so students will be eagerly listening to see if their predictions are correct.

During the reading, you are explaining and supporting vocabulary development by inserting those little explanations or examples of vocabulary words that were pre-selected before our reading the text to the students, and after asking students open-ended questions, it just kind of gets them into deeper thinking and just having a discussion about the story and what they learned, and this kind of also helps with their basic comprehension of what happened in the story. And don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the reading because remember that students will most likely be feeding off of your energy.

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