Powerful Instruction: Interactive Read Aloud
Raise your hand if you often feel like you never feel like you have enough time. How about this one: do you ever feel like your kids just aren’t getting it, even though you’ve taught it? We’ve all been there. This is why it’s so important to work smarter, not harder. Because let’s be real. Teachers are already working too hard, and it’s hard to fit everything in. Thus the key role of the Interactive Read Aloud. This is very different from an every-day read aloud. Although they are both super important, it’s the interactive one that will really help your teaching stick.
When choosing an Interactive Read Aloud, I like to consider:
- What’s coming up in my content areas. Whenever I can kill two (or more) birds with one stone, I’m in. There are beautiful books written about everything. I like to find several books on a topic–some I’ll just read aloud for enjoyment, some for deeper comprehension work through interactive read aloud. This is a text set, and is an awesome content knowledge builder. And this is why I like to start reading these books at least a week before I start teaching the content.
- What new windows to other worlds do I want my students to look through? Our world is beautifully diverse, so it’s important to share stories about cultures that are different from our own. This is also a great way to build a community within a classroom; to help children (and ourselves) understand each other better.
- Are there some social issues going on in my class or just in the world in general? Books so beautifully show us how to be a good human. The discussions around these ideas are hands-down the greatest community builders. Interactive read aloud is a platform for social-emotional learning.
- What genre do my kids need exposure to? If I’m noticing that kids are primarily gravitating towards specific types of books, I look for a different genre that I can showcase that I think those students might enjoy.
- Are there new authors or writing styles I want to introduce to my class? Sometimes this can be all it takes to hook kids into a whole new world of reading!
- What am I about to teach in writing? If it’s informational writing, for example, I want to expose my kids to lots of different types of information texts, to open their eyes to many different styles and structures they themselves might try out. I’m also always on the lookout for author’s craft that I can use for writing lessons. As I pick out my next books, I’m careful to read like a writer, because using real authors as mentors to learn from is a powerful teaching tool.
- What academic language do my kids need to start using and understanding?
What about actual reading skills?
In terms of reading skills, you can use just about any book. This is the easy part. When planning where to pause to pull back the curtain of a reader’s thinking, most books will work well. The key is to “spy on yourself” as you read it, paying close attention where you might need to reread for clarity, pause to ponder or connect, or use context to gather meaning–or a million other reading skills.
From there, it’s all about determining where the prime stopping points are for students to interact–where they’ll turn and talk, stop and sketch, stop and jot, act out, or just stop and think. This is where they apply the reading skills that they need, based on standards, assessments, and understanding where students need to go next in terms of levels of text complexity. I’m not just thinking about recent assessments; I’m thinking ahead to the types of questions my students will encounter on bigger benchmark assessments too.
The interactive read aloud is where I can frontload for these bigger, more sophisticated levels of thinking. These can then be reinforced and tailored in small group instruction. One AMAZING resource for guiding me in this type of planning is the Fountas and Pinnell Literacy Continuum. It has a very comprehensive section that explains what makes each level more complex than the one before it. The other resource for this kind of planning–that’s completely free–is the bands of text complexity from Teachers College.
As you can see, interactive read aloud is a powerful teaching vehicle for so many reasons. This critical piece of the balanced literacy model is a key instructional tool for helping our teaching stick. While they do take time to plan, the benefits that result are so far-reaching, it’s more than worth the effort. I promise, it will save you so much instructional time down the road!
Want some help planning an interactive read aloud? Contact me to set up a coaching call, so we can think it through together! The first conversation is always free! And, join my private FB group for immediate support from like-minded educators!
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Related posts: Read Aloud vs Interactive Read Aloud, Balanced Literacy Instruction [What it Actually Means], Lesson Planning Tips That Help You Do More, Better [In Less Time] , Getting to Know Your Readers and Writers to Save Time Later, Why You Need to Do Shared and Interactive Writing