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Engaging Students through Interactive Read-Alouds

By Edited Aug 8, 2016 0 1


“Reading aloud to students is not a luxury but a necessity”(Fountas & Pinnell, 2006, p. 215). Young people long to hear quality literature modeled through an expressive voice. Orally depicted tales “nourish the intellect of your students, expanding background, vocabulary, and language, developing an appreciation for inquiry, and creating a literary community in your classroom.” (Fountas & Pinnell, 2006, p. 215)

Teachers have been using read-alouds in classrooms for years. Consider what a common
classroom read-aloud looks like. The instructor sits at the head of the classroom with students gathered around. He or she chooses a story, starts at the beginning and reads directly through to the end. There may be breaks to discuss here or there, but this type of read aloud is generally extremely teacher-centered. The student function is passive and education opportunities are minimized. While there is nothing wrong with reading aloud to pupils in this manner, interactive read-alouds allow for a more compelling storytelling that engages students and encourages learning.

In an interactive read-aloud both the reader and the individuals listening are active. The instructor reads the words aloud, but each person is intentionally involved in learning from the story. There are many ways for teachers to connect with pupils. Teachers should consider what will occur before, during, and after reading.

Before reading the instructor explores the text and plans for intentional discussions. Before reading questions such as, “What do you notice about the front cover of this book?” compel students to participate from the start. Instructors may also assign students a task when reading the tale, perhaps searching for the relationship between characters or recognizing lush vocabulary.

During reading the facilitator provides guiding questions, models clear and expressive language, demonstrates the thinking process he or she is going through and invites dialogue. Conversation points should be carefully chosen before the reading starts. Students may comment whole group, small group, or turn to a buddy.

After reading the instructor gauges student understanding through talk. Children are encouraged
to share connections and understandings derived during the reading. This is a good time for teachers to guide participants to make connections with other literature or across subject areas.

The most effective read-alouds focus on one or two components. For example, a reading of It Rained on the Desert Today by Ken and Debby Buchanan might concentrate on the five senses and the strength of expressive sentences. This story chronicles the first storm of the monsoon season with dramatic words and brilliant watercolor pictures. The expressions and images in the account lend themselves to student discovery of each sense during a
rain storm. “The rain has finally arrived! It brings thunder and lightning, crashing and flashing! They come so loud it sets my bones to shaking, so thick, the desert turns fuzzy gray and disappears.” (Buchanan, 1994). Pre-planned stopping areas, exploratory questions and talk during reading, and small group conversation at the end assist learners to identify the authors’ goal in using specific language to represent the landscape.

Imagine if learners were treated to an interactive read-aloud each day from Kindergarten through sixth grade…they would be exposed to over 1,250 books. These publications may come from any genre or topic. Employing interactive read-alouds in your classroom will boost student language, story format, and cognitive understanding.


Foutnas, I.C. & Pinnell, G. Su. (2006). Teaching for comprehension and fluency.
Portsmith, NH: Heinemann.

Buchanan, K. & Buchanan, D. (1994). It rained on the desert today. Flagstaff, AZ: Rising Moon.


Read Aloud in a Kindergarten Classroom
Credit: Dave Parker


Jun 9, 2012 8:24pm
Great article! It is also a great idea to point at the text while you are reading it too. It may take some practice since you will likely be holding open the book but once children get used to it they often start to look at the text as much as they do the pictures. Just look at how every little head in the picture is focused right on the story! Must be a good one....
Thank You for this article!
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