Interactive Read-Alouds: A must in your teacher toolbox.

Updated: Feb 7

Interactive read-alouds play an integral part in developing a classroom full of students who are motivated to read on their own, develop critical thinking skills, and provide a model of what fluent reading looks like. As teachers, the best way to approach read-alouds is by choosing a book that you feel really excited about sharing with your class. Students can feel your enthusiasm and excitement radiate through your reading. Try to choose books that relate to your content. This way, students can continue to make connections in context. While it may seem obvious, you want to set aside time to incorporate read alouds into your daily schedule. For some students, this may be the only time in their day that they hear fluent reading and interact with books in a way that facilitates critical thinking.


Now for the nuts and bolts of doing an interactive read aloud – Where to start? How does it work?


First, you want to do a quick preview of the book you choose. You could start out with a question that activates the student’s prior knowledge. This way, they feel a universal connection with the book before you even start reading it! Then, you want to introduce 3-4 vocabulary words. Choosing the right vocabulary words is extremely important for English language learners. Focus on words that students might find across different content areas or contain cross linguistic connections. Look for words that are cognates in the student’s primary language – for example justice (justicia). With your vocabulary words, you could utilize total physical response to match a movement with the vocabulary word. Using total physical response helps students remember the definition of your vocabulary words. While reading the story, whenever the word is read, students can do the movement. After the vocabulary has been introduced, you are ready to start reading. Before reading, make sure to provide students with a goal for the first read. For example – “While I read, listen for the vocabulary words. When you hear the word, do the motion attached to the word. Look at the pictures and listen to the story and at the end I’ll ask you some questions about the story.” When the story is done after the first read, ask students a question that focuses on literal comprehension. These questions are the who, what, where, when, and why of the text. Follow up your literal comprehension questions with an inferential comprehension question. These questions ask students to have an opinion based on the events in the story, for example, “How does the Little Engine feel at the end of the story?” “Why does he feel this way?” For English language learners, depending on their language skills, you could provide a sentence stem and word banks to facilitate their ability to answer the question. The second read of your story is largely focused on the vocabulary. When you get to a vocabulary word in the story, extend the students understanding of the word by asking them questions about the word. If the word is “investigate”, ask students “Have you ever had to investigate something? When? Turn to a partner and share a time you had to investigate something.” To help facilitate the discussion for English language learners provide a sentence stem for the conversation. When both readings have been completed, finish up by providing students an open-ended prompt to further engage in discussion. Choose a question that every student can answer and encourage them to make connections to the vocabulary and their life experiences. To reinforce vocabulary, use the words in other contexts throughout the day. This will continue to help students make connections and hear the words and understand their meanings in multiple contexts.


Interactive read-alouds are a research-based way to transform your class into critical thinkers, engaged readers, and should be a part of every teacher’s instructional toolbox!


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