Many say that interactive read-aloud is the backbone of reading and writing workshop. Reading aloud a range of great literature and beautiful informational texts across the year immerses children in vocabulary and content, provides opportunities for conversation and sophisticated language, and is a time when young children can think deeply about books far more complex than the books they might be reading on their own.
Strategically planning your daily read-alouds can help you get the most out of this valuable practice.
Tips for Planning an Interactive Read Aloud
CHOOSE A FOCUS
It can be helpful to choose a comprehension area to focus on for your think-alouds. Rather than modeling prediction on one page, then retelling on another, followed by envisioning, compare/contrast, and so on, you might find it helpful to plan for repeated practice of just a small set of comprehension strategies, based on the comprehension work your children could benefit from most, and matched to the work the book lends itself to.
PLAN A LISTENING PROMPT
Set your children up for successful active listening and conversation by including a listening prompt in your book introduction. Let your students know what to be on the lookout for. If you plan to focus on retelling or summarizing at certain points in the book, let your students know from the beginning to listen for the important events or important information they are learning.
PLAN WHERE YOU WILL THINK ALOUD
Part of an interactive read-aloud is teacher modeling of strong comprehension. You can read the book ahead and mark places where it makes the most sense to pause to think out loud in front of your students, giving them a model of the way that proficient readers think, talk, and respond to books. Planning ahead for this will help you budget your time, and be selective about where to stop, so that you aren’t interrupting the text too much. Sometimes the best thing to do is just read.
PLAN OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS TO RESPOND TO THE TEXT
Along with modeling your own thinking for children, you may also want to plan opportunities for children to practice the work that you’re showing them. Children might turn and talk, stop and jot a few words, or create a quick sketch. They might quickly, informally dramatize a part of the text, or maybe even start a whole-class conversation. You can strategically plan the prompts that will spark their response so that the language you provide steers students toward the comprehension and conversation work you have in mind. For example, if you focus is on retelling or summarizing, you might plan to use prompts such as:
“Turn and tell you partner the most important events that have happened so far. In the beginning…”
“Stop and jot a word or two to describe what happened at the beginning of this book. In the beginning…”
“Make a quick sketch of what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of this book. In the beginning… In the middle… In the end…”
BUILD REREADING INTO YOUR PLAN
Last, but not least, you may want to plan for rereading. It’s tempting to try and squeeze everything into one read-through, but it may make more sense to plan several reads. Perhaps you’ll read a book or a section the first time just for the sound of the language and to enjoy the pictures. Maybe on the second read-through you’ll model some literal comprehension work, retelling and summarizing. Then on a third read, perhaps you’ll focus on deeper comprehension, like character feelings or character change. Perhaps you’ll plan to reread just a few pages, or larger chunks of the book.
Looking for more ideas to boost your read-alouds from now to the end of the year? Each Wednesday night at 7:30 pm EST the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join hosts Crystal Brinn @crystalbrinn and Noelle Thiering @NoelleThiering to chat about the power of reading aloud.
Not on Twitter? Take Heinemann’s free Twitter for Educators course here.
Elizabeth Moore, literacy consultant and coauthor of two books in the Units of Study for Teaching Writing and Units of Study for Teaching Reading series, has been a first grade teacher, fifth grader teacher, literacy coach, and lead staff developer at TCRWP. She has also served as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. Currently she lives in the mountains of northern Vermont where she finds adventure around every corner.