Today I’m sharing tips and tricks for doing interactive read alouds in your classroom.
I remember the day my entire class was engaged. We were sitting in our chairs, hanging on every word as our teacher read Letters from Rifka. What would happen in Ellis Island? After everything she’d endured, would Rifka finally join her family in America? Or would she be sent back to Poland?
There’s nothing like a riveting read aloud to keep your class’s attention.
Even if that class is made up of 20-year-olds.
It was my Children’s Literature class in college. My professor read to us every day to impress on us the importance of reading aloud to our future students.
He was right, of course. Reading aloud has countless benefits.
Read alouds …
- provide a model of good reading
- motivate our students to read on their own
- develop background knowledge
- improve reading comprehension
- boost vocabulary
- promote critical thinking skills
- develop oral language and listening skills through class discussions
- create a sense of community in the classroom
Isn’t reading aloud enough? Do they need to be interactive?
It’s clear that read alouds are important. Is it necessary to make them interactive? After all, we have enough things to think about during the teaching day. Can’t we just pull a great book of the shelf, enjoy it with our students, and call it good enough?
I’ll be the first to say that not every read aloud needs to be interactive. There are plenty of times, especially in K-2, when we grab a book because we need to fill a couple minutes. Maybe we’re waiting for our turn getting pictures taken. Or the bus is late for the field trip. Or we’ve got ten minutes left of the school day and we just. can’t. even.
What makes a read aloud interactive?
It’s clear that read alouds are valuable – even those where the teacher reads and the students passively listen. But it’s a shame to stop there. We plan the rest of our teaching. Why shouldn’t we think more about our read alouds?
An interactive read aloud is purposeful and planned for. You choose a book before you meet with your students, determine teaching points (such as skills and vocabulary), and (if you’d like) jot them down on sticky notes. Put those notes at the places in the book where you plan to stop and talk. Then read and enjoy!
In an interactive read aloud you might …
Do these things before you read
- talk about the author and illustrator
- take a sneak peek at the book before you read (read the back or inside summary)
- examine the table of contents
- invite students to discuss what they already know about the topic
- make predictions about what will be in the text
Do these things as you read
- stop to examine new vocabulary words
- think aloud as you read
- invite students to make connections to the text
- encourage students to interact with the book by having them talk to a partner, act out a sentence or short part of the book, make a quick sketch or note, or participate in a class discussion
Do these things after you read
- ask students to retell the story
- have students name things they learned
- check predictions
How long should an interactive read aloud take?
It’s easy to let a read aloud take thirty minutes. If you have that kind of room in your schedule, go for it! I recommend about 20 minutes, especially if you are using primarily decodable text with beginning readers. That’s because this interactive read aloud time is crucial for helping your students build language comprehension.
When you’re just starting out – and aren’t sure how you’ll find time to plan for yet another thing – try just one interactive read aloud a week. Read aloud on the other four days, certainly, but focus your attention on an interactive read aloud on one special day. Eventually, add more days.
Many teachers read the same book over several days. They read the book in its entirety the first day, then revisit parts of the book on subsequent days for deeper teaching points.
What books should you read?
Not every book is a great fit for an interactive read aloud. Usually we want to read books that are above the level that most of our students can read on our own. We want books that are a good match for our students developmentally, emotionally and socially. We want books that easily lend themselves to teaching points.
And, always, we want to read books that we enjoy.