Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
"Choral reading," also referred to as "unison reading," simply means reading aloud as a group. Together, students speak or chant the words of a common text.
This method is particularly effective for teaching poetry, because reading aloud helps students understand the rhythm, meter, patterns, rhymes, and vocal characterizations of a poem. In addition, choral reading helps introduce students to the concept of oral tradition: They learn how poetry can be shaped by communities and passed on from generation to generation without being written down. (By listening to other students add their own inflections to a text, for instance, students are better able to understand how texts can be shaped cumulatively by continued retelling.)
To use choral reading most effectively, teachers should choose readings that are relatively short a poem of two to 10 pages is plenty. Also, teachers should look for a text that will put imaginations to work. "Railroad Bill, A Conjure Man," for example, is a dramatic multi-character poem with lots of repetition; it's almost like a song. Reading a poem like this aloud encourages students to think about the poem's structure and rhythm and it also encourages students to consider who is supposed to be speaking the lines and why. Teachers may also want to select narrative poems featuring a story with a good plot line and dynamic characters so that students have room to experiment with voices and sound effects. In that vein, teachers should look for texts with unusual sounds, contrasts, a strong mood, or snappy dialogue; all this makes for lively group reading.
In the classroom, teachers should ask students to read the entire selection silently before reading it aloud. This will give them time to become familiar with the content so that when they give their choral reading, they can focus solely on vocal interpretation.
Choral readings offer students a creative way to explore issues of voice, characterization, rhythm, and rhyme, along with the dialects and cadences of the texts. Choral reading can also help students to recognize how poetic structures, such as line breaks and internal rhymes, shape the poem's meaning. Finally, choral reading allows students to actually "feel" the work's aesthetic, putting them in touch with their creative selves and allowing them to interpret the work with their own aesthetic sensibilities.
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