Monday, July 25, 2011


Reading aloud to students is one of the most important aspects of literacy in the classroom.  For teachers like myself, it's also one of the most enjoyable moments.  Even older children enjoy the stories that are read to them by their teachers.  What this usually looks like in the lower elementary classrooms is, a classroom of students, sitting on the carpet, gazing up at the teacher who is reading from a rocking chair, and hanging on to her every word.  (Let's be honest, others are playing around and distracted.)  In upper elementary classrooms the students may be sitting at desks, doodling on a pieces of paper, and attentively listening, as the teacher reads from a special place in the classroom.  What about those kids who are not tuned into the story....or distracted and daydreaming?  I'm so glad you asked.  The Interactive Read-Aloud invigorates the traditional read-alouds taking place in many classrooms.  Additionally, it stimulates the learning environment by engaging students in the read-aloud activity.

What makes the reading interactive?  Instead of being passive listeners during the Read-Aloud, the students are active participants in the learning and discovery.  In addition to listening to the story, the students are discussing elements, recording their thoughts in a Read-Aloud Notebook, and sharing their ideas with classmates.  Here's how to get started.  All you need is the Read-Aloud book, spiral notebooks for each student, composition books work well too, and a the Ways to Respond In Your Notebook chart, which is described below. Next, make a Book Preview packet.  Copy of the book jacket, including the summary/gist of the story, copy the first page of the story, and the author's biography.  If the book has a chapter page, copy that as well, or create a document listing the chapters from the book.  This is especially important if the chapter titles have names, rather than just numbers.  Make a preview packet for each student which includes the previous pages mentioned, and you're ready to get started.

Begin by introducing the Read-Aloud book to your students.  Issue each student a book preview packet, and a notebook.  Preview the book with the sudents using the preview packet.  Next, create a list of questions, about the book, suggested by the students.  Record each question on your interactive whiteboard, or on chart paper and save the chart or document.  Every day before beginning the reading, review the questions to see if any have been answered.  Additionally, record new questions that students have.  You can decide how often to add more questions based on your students' input.  Some days they may have lots of questions to add, and other days only a few.

Next, start reading the book.  I like to read one or two chapters a day, depending on our schedule and the length of the chapters.  Allow more time on the day the book is introduced, since the preview and questions will take up a big chunk of your time.  You can also preview the book the day before strating the first chapter.  As you are reading aloud the book to your students, they are recording their thinking in their notebooks.  To support them with this, your students can refer to the Ways To Respond in Your Notebook chart.  The chart will give them ideas for how to respond in their notebooks.  I created a chart on poster board and hung it in my classroom as an anchor chart.  You could also create a chart on you interactive whiteboard and save it for use during each read-aloud session.  Here is a list of some of the items I included on my chart:

Ways To Respond In Your Notebook
  • Make a prediction
  • Ask a question
  • Draw a picture of your favorite part-include a caption or summary
  • Summarize the chapter(s)
  • Describe a character
  • Record a quote from the story and explain what you think it means
  • Describe a part you liked/ tell why
  • Describe a part you didn't like/tell why
  • Describe something you didn't understand
  • Make a list of interesting words
  • Explore the title-explain why you think the writer chose this title
The great thing about the Interactive Read-Aloud is the students are active participants in the task.  After the Read-Aloud, students use their notebook pieces to engage in discussions about the book.  These discussions can also occur periodically during the reading. 

What about assessments?  The assements are built into the learning activities during the Interactive Read-Aloud.  The students' Read-Aloud Notebooks and participation in the discussions, can both be used to assess students' understanding of the story.  I like to collect notebooks once a week for this purpose.  Additionally, when the story is finished, I have my students construct a written reflection as an additional assessment.  Students select one of their best notebook entries to compelete a written reflection of their understanding of the story.  I copy the notebook page and staple it to their reflection.  Later, when I'm reading their reflections, I can compare them to the entry in their notebook.  I also remind students, throughout the book reading, to write good notebook entries.  They will be referring to their notebook entries, when writing their reflection piece, once the Read-aloud book is finished. 

Below is a list of some of the titles I've used for my Interactive Read-Alouds.  As you revive your Read-Aloud time, you will be amazed at how much more your students learn and discover about the stories, as they become active participants in this interactive process. 

  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Dicamillo
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo
  • The Beloved Dearly by Doug Cooney
  • Journey by Patricia Maclachlan
  • Shredderman by Wendelin VanDraanen
  • The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill
  • Fourth Grade Rats by Jerry Spinelli
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  • Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen


  1. Hi Val,
    I love this post as I would never have thought to make our Read Alouds Interactive! My head is swimming with thoughts of things to do to go along with the Read aloud book. I love your suggestions and love your read aloud choices. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Nancy,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I love doing the Interactive read-alouds. I did this more with my third graders and it was our favorite time of the school day. They anxiously awaited each new book, and after the preview they would check-out any available copies from the media center. That's when I knew they were hooked.

  3. Thanks so much for the great ideas. I'm new to teaching elementary ed LA, and this answered some of my questions about how to keep them involved and participating while listening.

    Great post!

  4. Thanks for the comment Lydia. I wish I had done my read alouds this way when I first started teaching. We are all a work-in-progress, continually tweaking things to make them better. I did my read aloud during snack time. So I would often pause to give them time to write. Let me know if you have other questions. I would be happy to answer them.