I began my career many years ago and have worked with all grade levels at the elementary level now. I love what I do. I especially love my time reading aloud to students, no matter the age. It brings us together as a family and allows for all students to participate.
It wasn’t always that way. I must say that I made my share of mistakes along the way: too many questions, low-level questions, covering too much in one book, to name a few. I have reflected a lot since then and have a much better sense now of what a read aloud should look like: it should be interactive between the teacher and students.
What is an Interactive Read Aloud?
An interactive read aloud is instruction involving the whole group in which the discussion revolves around literature. The teacher picks a piece of literature to read aloud to the whole group, then plans for conversations and makes decisions about when they will occur during the lesson.
Teachers must plan ahead for:
- Book selection
- Text features
- Questions to ask
- Modeling of strategic reading behaviors and fluency
- Places to stop for interaction
You need to make plans for before reading, during reading and after reading when planning an interactive read aloud.
Book Selection is Important
You want to select books with the students in mind when planning for an interactive read aloud. This makes your lesson more student-focused compared to teacher-focused. When we consider students’ strengths and interests, and choose books that students will be excited about, it lets them know that we care about them. It also helps to nurture and foster a love of reading in our students.
Some questions you can consider when picking out a book are:
- What are my students’ interests and what might they need next?
- Does this book build on the previous books?
- Does it build on background knowledge?
- What’s our purpose for that particular book as it relates to what we want our students to gain?
- Is there an opportunity to teach students about how to communicate effectively?
Engage Readers + Preview the Book + Ask Questions
Engage the student readers by sharing the purpose of the lesson and why it’s important for readers. You will also want to preview the book with students without giving too much away. The goal here in this pre-reading portion of the interactive read aloud is to get students engaged and excited about the story to come. Ask them any questions related to the topic of the story and also ask them what they want to learn from reading this story.
Model Reading Behaviors + Ask Interactive Questions
While reading the text to students, you will be modeling decoding skills, fluency and voice inflection amongst a number of other reading behaviors that you want students to eventually develop. This is a very important part of a read aloud-the modeling part. In addition, you want to strategically plan where to stop during the text and take breaks to ask leading, interactive questions to students. Finally, something else important that you can do during this phase of the interactive read aloud is to verbalize your thoughts or “think out loud.” Basically, share what you notice in the story as you read the text, talk about any thoughts that you have about the story and why (make connections.) This helps to incorporate what good comprehension looks like to students and helps them to start thinking this way when they read a story.
Have a Conversation + Extend the Learning
The “after reading the text” portion of the interactive read aloud is just as important during the interactive read aloud as the planning and modeling stages. Ask students some leading questions to engage students in conversation: What surprised you in the story? What did you learn? What questions do you still have? What was your favorite part and why? Then it’s time to extend the learning through other hands-on activities and really capture what students comprehended during the interactive read aloud.
One of my favorite stories to use as an interactive read aloud in January with K-2 students is the beloved, “The Mitten” by Jan Brett. There are so many hands-on and engaging activities that you can do with this book that really keep the little ones engaged-you can even have student helpers come up and put “paper animals” into a real mitten while reading. This story is great for sequencing and retelling. I use this Mitten Activity Pack with my students and it helps me plan my entire interactive read aloud. It includes 24 comprehension questions already created and a game board in color and black and white that I like to use as a scoot activity after reading to get students up and moving around the library. It also has plenty of graphic organizers that I tend to use with my 2nd graders and a printable mini book that is perfect for Kindergartners and 1st graders and works on the comprehension skill of retelling. Interactive read alouds are my jam!
Are you planning interactive read alouds for your students?