So, Exactly What Are Interactive Read Alouds?

A blog image for interactive read alouds on the Teach Me T website.  An image of a white female, representing. teacher, with her head turned to the side with a pencil near her lips.  She is pondering and she is surrounded by rows of books that are open.

I know that this term can sound a little daunting- “Interactive Read Alouds“! The first time that I heard this phrase, I sat and reflected worried. Was this something that I was supposed to be teaching but wasn’t? Had I been doing read alouds wrong this entire time? Someone help me!

Thankfully, I quickly learned that “interactive” read alouds was something that I had been doing all along. I can assure you that it is a method that you have probably been doing with your students the entire time, too. You are a rock star, so I KNOW that you are already rocking this!

Reading Aloud to Your Students

Read Aloud Time Is Always My Favorite Part of the Day

First, let’s talk about how significant reading aloud to your students is. This is the time of the day that I always looked forward to with my students. Truly, no matter what grade I was teaching, reading to my students was always THE best time of our day! When I was teaching First Grade, we began the year with The Wizard of Oz. Yes, with Dorothy , Toto, the Lion, Tin Man, and the Scarecrow- the whole gang!

We found a beautifully written, slightly condensed version of the story. At first, I was a little worried about diving in to such a rich and dense text with 6 year olds. But, I have to tell you that they ate it up. Guess what? I ate it up, too! I loved it. I’ll tell you, though, reading stories out loud to your students requires an “all in” attitude. You have to read with PASSION, personality, and conviction! That makes the story pop and come to life!

The Benefits of Reading Aloud To Students

Right off the bat, one of the greatest aspects of reading aloud to your students is the opportunity to spend that “class community” time together. We can all take a break. Catch our breath. Enjoy the peace and calm that this time brings. Simply embrace and relish in our time together.

As educators, we also know that calling students to the carpet, or to their desks, is a great way to redirect the day and re-connect, and/or regain order. From an English Language Arts (ELA) perspective, students hearing words aloud helps to build their vocabulary. It exposes them to more challenging texts and concepts that they are likely not yet able to read independently, and it helps them to hear what (more) fluent reading sounds like. When we think of being culturally responsive, it also opens up “windows” and reflects through “mirrors”.

Photo of male and female children sitting criss-crossed on the ground as they listen to someone read.  Th e image represents students participating in interactive read alouds.

There’s So Much Value in Reading Aloud to Your Students

Read Alouds also build stamina, strengthens those reading, writing, and listening and speaking skills, demonstrates what language sounds and feels like, enhances creativity and imagination, teaches about characters through their actions, words, and responses, AND… Well, what do read alouds NOT teach? ha ha. I don’t know how many paragraphs I could add on this topic. I’ll stop here for now. Share your thoughts on the beauty of reading aloud to children in the comments below.

Readaloud.org has great information on the importance and value of reading aloud to students. You can find their website here. There is scientific evidence behind reading books aloud to students. But, the most important evidence is the heart evidence and making connections with your sweet students. That is my favorite part of it!

A gif to support interactive read alouds.  A gif from reading aloud.org that shows a mother giraffe and a baby giraffe. The mother giraffe is reading to the baby giraffe while the baby giraffe sends the mother giraffe floating hearts.
I love this gif from read aloud.org!

You also know that reading aloud to students gives them the opportunity to hear text at their listening level (not their own reading level which will likely be much, much lower) and exposes them to higher level thinking and comprehending.

Reading Aloud is Key (For Older Students, too)

This article from educationworld.com shares a lot of wonderful information to support reading aloud to students of all ages; especially those older students that we often assume are “too big for this kind of thing”. If you love using Instagram, you might really want to visit (or follow) the Literacy for Big Kids’ page (literacyforbigkids)!

What Makes a Read Aloud Interactive?

A Read Aloud becomes interactive when you add more intention, structure, and purpose to the process. This is the time when you read and engage students with a planned academic intent. You may be focusing on characters’ feelings, voice, rhythm, etc. Whatever your focus, you select a text and activities that support that academic focus. In planning, you might select specific vocabulary words, specific dialogue of/between characters to focus on, and so forth.

Your ultimate goal is to “teach the thinking” via the text that you have selected to share with your students.

I Found an Amazing Resource!

Paige Bessick of paigebessick.com (I think that her blog may have been renamed elementarylives.com by now) does a lot of resource creation around interactive read alouds. She is, I believe, the first person that I came across that was emphasizing this terminology. Thank you, Teacher Gram (Teacher Instagram). Here is a post that she created on the subject that I think that you will really gain a lot of information from.

As a matter of fact, she didn’t just create a blog post about interactive read alouds she created an entire blog series and a checklist that you can download and apply! At this moment, I don’t know Paige {yet- I’m channeling my growth mindset here}, and this isn’t an affiliate plug. It’s important, I believe, to find experts and to sit at their feet (so to speak) with a notebook in hand, with my ears wide open, and pen and paper so I can take lots of notes. I thought that you would love this information, too. Check out her posts and gather all the intel that you need to rock out your Interactive Read Alouds (IRAs)!

Make a Plan

An image for planning an interactive read aloud.  An image of the hands of an African American woman on a white desk.  She is holding a white pencil in her hand as she prepares to write in her planner.

What do you think? Are you ready to make your read alouds even more intentional?

Include These Steps in Your Process:

Choose your why?

  • Decide what literacy skill(s) you want to teach or focus upon
  • Select a text that you know can be used to highlight this aspect well AND that will be engaging to your students.
  • Pre-read the text several times, looking for those aspects that you would like to highlight/teach
  • Mark the areas that you will draw your teaching points from
  • Sticky notes or tabs are perfect for this.
A photo of a Caucasian woman's hands as she prepares to write a note on a hot pink sticky note.  The  sticky note is on top of her calendar/planner.

Sidebar: Sticky notes are likely best as you will want to write down the focus/intention in advance so that you can produce your beautifully crafted lesson. This way you won’t have to think of what to say/do on the spot. It will already be noted and ready for you.

Is Vocabulary Key?

  • Determine vocabulary words for the lesson(s).
    • Do they need to be pre-taught to help deepen (and not impede) comprehension?
    • Will students learn the meanings within the context of the text?
    • Remember to give students the opportunity to see and interact with these words in their environment.

Student-Text Interaction: What Do You Want Your Students to Do?

  • Choose/think of how you want students to interact with the text.
  • What will they do before you read the text?
  • During the reading of the text?
  • After the text has been read?
  • How do you want students to interact with the text?
    • Write on whiteboards?
    • Create a sketch?
    • Draw an illustration?
    • Provide a written response?
    • Complete sentence stems?
    • Design a storyboard?
    • Turn and talk to their neighbor?

Sidebar: Be sure to teach, model, and practice the routines that you want students to follow. What does Turn and Talk consist of? Additionally, how will students know when you are ready to re-convene? Voice level? Is movement allowed? If you set this up from day one, it will make each IRA that much more successful and effective!

The process of planning for an interactive read aloud does take time and intention on the front end, but if you leave all of the materials together and reattach the sticky notes to the necessary pages, you’ll be able to reuse the text/lesson again and again. Of course, you can always add to it or revamp it, but the bones will already be in place for you. If you add anchor charts, posters, and/or any other visual aids, you can store them all together safely for easy accessibility. These storage cases have worked really well for my classroom storage. They may be a great way to keep all of your fantastic plans neat, clutter free, and at your finger tips!

I really hope that you and your students love sharing this focused reading time together!. Let me know how your plans for an interactive read aloud go!

a pin for Pinterest for this bog post titled, "So, Exactly, What Are Read Alouds?".  A photo of a white, female teacher reading a book, surrounded by 3 students.
Pin this so that you can refer to it again and again!
A caricature of Tania N. Davis of Teach Me T
 
Tania
 

 

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Photo Credits: Alexa Williams  and Marten Bjork 

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A Black female standing in front of three black boxes that are stacked on top of each other. I am wearing a blue, denim dress that is tied at the waist. My hair is in long braids.

Hi, I'm Tania!

I help creative and time-conscious teachers plan student-centered lessons that interest and motivate student learning so that lesson planning takes less time and is actually enjoyable! 

Learn more about me and how I can help you here.

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