It’s important to make time throughout the day to read aloud to students. Interactive read-alouds are an instructional practice where the teacher reads a book to the students. Often (in non-COVID times), the students are seated on a carpet with the teacher sitting in front of them. Interactive read-alouds can introduce students to the joy of understanding or constructing meaning from a text. During read-alouds, the teacher is the only one who is reading the text – the text is not shared with the students so they are not able to read along with the teacher. Because the teacher is the only one with access to the print, the teacher has the responsibility of reading or decoding the text, which makes it possible for the students to focus their attention on making meaning. To support students with their understanding of the text, interactive read-alouds are a great instructional time to model how you are thinking about the text as you are reading so that the students see that you do not just read through the text, but stop, re-read, question, and think through what you are reading about. Often when kids are read to, they simply hear the text and do not see the invisible work of understanding what is being read.
Because the teacher is the one in control of the reading, it is important to make the read-alouds engaging so that students are excited to be reading. Here are a few ways to make your read-alouds more interactive:
Students need to be exposed to a variety of books and genres. It’s important to select books that will engage your students and keep them wanting to read. Think of read-alouds as a time of the day to promote or even sell a variety of books and authors that the students may not read on their own. Because you only have so much time, it is necessary to be mindful of the books you are reading to the students and make sure they are interested in the topics and genres that you are selecting. Also, be mindful of reading books in different genres so that students may become interested in a genre that they were not familiar with.
No one wants to listen to a monotone reading of a book. So, don’t do that when reading aloud to your students. If there are different characters in the book, consider using different voices when reading. For example, when reading the Pigeon book series by Mo Willems to students, I make sure to use a more gruff voice with Pigeon and a higher or squeakier voice for Duckling. This can help students stay interested and continue to pay attention to the reading. You can also make facial expressions and gestures to help draw students into the reading of the text and these can all support comprehension.
Model Your Thinking
I think modeling how you are thinking through what is happening in the book is so important for readers of all ages. And, it is one of the most valuable aspects of interactive read-alouds. Rather than read the book straight through, stop and explain what you are thinking as you are reading and maybe explain what led you to think in that way. Was there an illustration that made you think a particular way? Was a word confusing to you? Share your thinking with your students. This will help them see how we process the information in a text and don’t just read straight through.
Ask Thought Provoking Questions
I am not a fan of questions that elicit a yes or no response. I feel like they are there to fill space and time. During interactive read-alouds, you have the opportunity to pose questions about the text to the students. This is valuable time and can really support students’ thinking about the content of the book. Rather than ask students questions that they will respond with a yes or a no, try asking them more thoughtful questions that will push them to think from different angles or in different ways. In order to do that, you will need to read the book a few times before reading it to the students. And, I always write the question on a post-it note and stick it in the book on the page where I want to ask the question. This way, I do not forget or I can modify my plan in the moment based on the students’ thinking of the text.
What are some books that you enjoy exposing students to during your interactive read-aloud time?