Interactive Read Alouds
“Reading aloud, no matter the age, is the magic bullet for creating a life-long reader.” — Jim Trelease
Few would argue that reading aloud to young children is a beneficial activity in early literacy development. However, it has become clear that reading aloud bestows the same benefits to students in the upper grades — including middle school and high school.
Read alouds are powerful. They motivate, excite, build background knowledge, support language acquisition, model fluent reading, build comprehension skills, support the development of thinking skills and allow us to introduce students to multiple genres of literature. Without fear of failure, listening to a good story allows students to imagine, wonder, and question.
In as few as 15-20 minutes a day, we can help students reap the benefits of exposure to all types of reading material that is on and above their present level of independent reading.
Click the headers below for tips on how to facilitate read aloud activities.
Reading aloud is most influential when we do more than just read the words. During an interactive read aloud, the teacher stops reading now and then and poses an open-ended question, a thought, a wondering or “think aloud.” It is these opportunities to connect text to real-life experiences and issues that make stories come alive. The conversations and discussions that result significantly deepen comprehension.
Turn and Talk:
A simple way to provide frequent opportunities to engage in conversation is Turn and Talk. Turn and Talk is an occasion for students to turn to another student and talk something through for a very brief period of time. It is important that students understand how to take turns and have equal talking time.
Open-ended questions allow students to think critically and require more than a few words to answer. Listening in on paired conversations in Turn and Talk allows us to keep conversations moving and take the pulse of student understanding of text. In order to keep student conversations on track, consider providing a structure for the discussion. For example:
First student: “When the book said ______ I was thinking ______ because ______.
Partner: “I agree with you because _____.” OR “I disagree with you because ______.”
How to Conduct a Read Aloud:
- Read the material yourself before sharing with students.
- Mark text with potential spots to stop and pose a question, thought or think aloud.
- Include frequent opportunities for students to talk about texts. Use Turn and Talk or other partner and group discussion strategies.
- Set the stage before reading each day. Discuss what you read yesterday and what might happen next.
- Make the book come alive. Use expression and tone to layer meaning. Try voicing characters uniquely and pausing to create suspense.
- Make the listening environment comfortable.
- Limit sessions to 20 minutes or less.
Read Aloud Tips:
- Read aloud from a variety of genres: fiction, nonfiction, informational texts, poetry, popular and news magazines, newspapers, picture books, etc.
- Find ways to connect characters, events, settings, etc. to the lives of students.
- Make reading aloud routine. Schedule a time that fits in the daily routine of your program.
- Allow students to suggest read aloud selections.
- Follow up read alouds with art or writing projects.
- Look for other books by favorite authors or on topics of special interest.
- Develop Readers Theater scripts or plays to act out interesting or important scenes from texts.
- Build Literacy Mystery Boxes. These boxes hold items related to a story you will read. For example, to help student’s predict what "Jumanji" by Chris Van Allsburg is about, you could include a game piece, a set of dice, a plastic lion, an umbrella and a plastic chimpanzee.
Reading is Fundamental — a national organization that promotes reading aloud. Find booklists and many other resources here.
Oczkus, L.D. (2012). Best ever literacy survival tips: 72 lessons you can’t teach without. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Wadsworth, R.M. (2008). Using read alouds in today’s classrooms. Leadership Compass, 5(3). Retrieved from https://www.naesp.org/resources/2/Leadership_Compass/2008/LC2008v5n3a4.pdf
West, L. and Cameron, A. (2013). Turn and talk: One powerful practice so many uses. Metamorphosis Learning Communities, New York, NY. Retrieved from http://www.metatlcinc.com/images/stories/Powerpoints/Turn%20and%20Talk.pdf
- 2Key Terms
- 3Literacy Diagram
- 4Literacy: A Cornerstone of College and Career Readiness
- 5Literacy Skills Develop Over Time
- 6“Texts” Come in All Shapes and Sizes
- 7Literacy: An Evolving Set of Skills
- 8Oral Language and the Reading Connection
- 9Unlocking Meaning: Vocabulary is the Key
- 10The Vocabulary Gap
- 11How Do Reading Skills Develop?
- 12How Do We Become Good Readers?
- 13Five Components of Reading
- 14Phonemic Awareness
- 19Comprehension — Putting the Pieces Together
- 20Developmental Stages of Reading
- 21Stage 1 — Visual Cue Word Recognition
- 22Stage 2 — Phonetic Cue Word Recognition
- 23Stage 3 — Controlled Word Recognition
- 24Stage 4 — Automatic Word Recognition
- 25Stage 5 — Strategic Reading
- 26Stage 6 — Proficient Adult Reading
- 27How’s My Reading?
- 28The Power of Writing!
- 29How Writing Skills Develop
- 30Why Literacy Is Important
- 31Preventing Summer Learning Loss
- 32Literacy Everywhere
- 33Deepen Your Understanding
- 34Listen to Students Read Aloud
- 35The Value of Good Questions
- 36Motivation — A Key to Promoting Positive Reading Behaviors
- 37Literacy Skills Affect Future Success and Civic Participation
- 38Learn More Library
- 41Check for Understanding