The Interactive Nature of Read Alouds: Ideas to Consider


Here’s a post from Courtney Kinney, a 12-year elementary school teacher and staff developer at Growing Educators, filled with practical tips to grow young readers’ literacy skills.

The power to capture your students’ imagination during an adventure to the time of dinosaurs, to transform your students’ world into an alternate time period, and enable them to envision being a dragonfly chased by a buzzing hornet.  You’re asking yourself, “What daily classroom practice has this power for my readers?”  The answer could be: Interactive Read Aloud.  That’s right, those 20 minutes a day of protected, dedicated time for engaging your readers with text by implicitly modeling reading skills and behaviors.

Understanding Interactive Read Aloud.  Interactive Read Aloud is a daily 20 minutes of implicit teaching when teachers gather their readers close together in their meeting area and model reading skills and behaviors they want all readers to develop.

  • Interactive Read Aloud is a time to build community while exposing readers to a variety of texts, genres, text complexities, and text structures.
  • It is a time for revealing our metacognition as readers and making it explicit by modeling our own reading behaviors by thinking aloud, stopping and sketching or jotting our ideas, or acting out scenes from the text.
  • It is a time to model thoughtful, reflective conversations and hone in on partnership conversations that lead to whole class grand conversations, which are eventually student lead, student monitored, and student driven.
  •  It is a time to model reading behaviors such as stamina, initiation, and rereading for meaning and fluency as well as a time to model reading skills such as envisioning, synthesizing, critiquing, or author’s perspective.
  • It is a time to focus on listening and speaking Common Core State Standards.

Here are some of our tips for creating a thoughtful Interactive Read Aloud in your classroom.

Interactive Nature.  Implicit in the name of Interactive Read Aloud is that it is an interactive time when readers engage with the text as well as with one another.  The interactive nature can take on many forms, including interacting with the text through stop and sketches or stop and jots on post-its, acting out particular scenes from text,  turn and talks with partners, or whole class grand conversations where readers engage in conversations with one another by responding to each other’s ideas with sentence stems that promote engaged conversation, such as: “I agree with you because…” “I disagree with you because…” “That’s an interesting point…” “Adding on to what ___ said, I think…”  By giving our readers the language to help support their conversations, we are implicitly teaching readers that an important part of engaging with text is formulating ideas and expressing those to others.  In this video clip of Jessica Martin, our Co-Founder and Director of Growing Educators, notice how she supports her readers by finding points in the text that support interaction in the form of acting out scenes to deepen the understanding of characters and promoting the engagement of all her primary readers.

Supporting Content Area Text.  Interactive Read Aloud is an ideal time to build your reader’s content area knowledge, to prepare them for an upcoming science or social studies unit of study, to engage them with nonfiction text prior to an expository writing unit of study, or simply to implicitly model how readers plan for reading informational text differently than other genres.  Weaving content area text into your writing or reading workshop can be bridged by supporting the thinking work during your Interactive Read Aloud.   This can be 20 minutes daily of dedicated time to study a particular genre or subject such as biographies, insects and animals, or the American Revolution, while exposing your readers to complex text and supporting them with strategies that enable them to access the content while navigating the text complexity.  In this video clip, notice how Jessica Martin navigates through content area knowledge while supporting her primary readers’ access to the structure of nonfiction text.

Strategic Planning.  In order to understand how to utilize text in a more effective and engaging way, teachers need to thoroughly read through the text prior to using it during an Interactive Read Aloud.  Knowing what reading skill and behavior you want to implicitly teach your readers, what reading plan you want to highlight for the text, when to stop in the text to model thinking and reactions, or when to have partnerships turn and talk to one another takes a very planful teacher.  Using post-its to mark the spots in the text you want to engage with is a helpful way to feel prepared during an Interactive Read Aloud.  In this video clip of Erin Donelson, one of our Growing Educators Staff Developers, notice how she sets up her upper grade readers to make a reading plan to follow along with her in this text.  Notice how strategic her planning is, due to her thoughtful contemplation and thorough reading of the text prior to her Interactive Read Aloud.

Navigating Through Text.  Interactive Read Aloud is an ideal time to implicitly model how readers, of any proficiency level, navigate through text.  Modeling reading habits can include such topics as re-reading, using a bookmark, text directionality, navigating a table of contents, book introductions or picture walks in fiction text.  With nonfiction text, such topics for modeling may include: highlighting text features, organizing note-taking for finding main idea, questioning strategies with sentence stems “I’m getting a hunch that…” and noticing writing craft moves.  Notice in this video clip how Jodi Manby, one of our Growing Educators Staff Developers, sets up a book introduction for her primary readers during Interactive Read Aloud with a text that will eventually be used to launch a persuasive writing unit of study.

Notice how in this video clip, Jodi enables her readers to navigate the text and engage in the interactive nature through turn and talks with their reading partners.

Enjoy this transformative time with your readers and inspire them through your own passion for the written word.

Growing Educators is an educational consulting firm specialized in providing professional development opportunities for public schools in reading and writing workshop, balanced literacy, and the Common Core State Standards.  Find more details:

Twitter: @groweducators
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Bonfire of the Valley


It finally rained in Los Angeles, which is a very good thing. This rain is a welcome bit of relief to the ongoing drought, which has the snow pack at 22 percent of normal.

Bureaucrats are deciding how many fish will die, at least 500,000 acres of cropland will be left idle, and at least one small town is projected to run out of water entirely this year, but in the LA area, we face no water restrictions, most of the comments about rain have to do with the troubles it causes for traffic, and I still see people washing the sidewalks off with hoses.

So the Central Valley is going up in dust.

Meanwhile, in a little valley closer to home, Centinela Valley Union School District Superintendent Jose Fernandez was paid $663,000 last year while school board members pleaded ignorance, saying “we would not knowingly give that high a salary.”

In 2010, after declaring personal bankruptcy and losing his home, he obtained, from the school district not a bank, a $910,000 loan at 2% interest for 40 years . He justified the loan by saying “This is something that exists in the world of senior managers.”

We live on one planet, but it seems we inhabit distinct, separate worlds. There is the world of Los Angeles, where we drive everywhere and wash our sidewalks to keep up appearances. And there is the world of the Central Valley, where we get our food, farm laborers are struggling without work, and farmers hate environmentalists because they are trying to protect fish.

There is the world of senior managers, where Fernandez’s personal bankruptcy resulted in a ludicrously generous bailout loan, a new house in Ladera Heights, and an obscene contract. And there is the world of poor students, where the materials budget was cut by $700,000 in the same year that loan was made, resulting in things like teachers not having enough paper to make copies.

It all reminds me of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, when Sherman McCoy,  a model of the 1980s era of greed who calls himself a “Master of the Universe,” ponders the necessity of taking a taxi rather than the subway to Wall Street. “Insulation. That was the ticket….If you want to live in New York, you’ve got to insulate, insulate, insulate.  Meaning insulate yourself from those people.”

For his part, Superintendent Fernandez appears to be in denial about his insulation when he says, “We did not abuse anything....We could have gotten a home in Laguna Beach or Brentwood. We picked a place [Ladera Heights, median income: $103,00] very close to the district, composed of people similar to people we serve in the district [Centinela Valley, median income: $33,000 – %49,000].”

But perhaps we shouldn’t be so shocked. Perhaps we don’t live in one world, but in a kaleidoscope of gated communities, where the only four-letter word that arouses righteous anger is “tax,” where voter participation slips into the single digits in local elections, where parents drive their children two blocks to school, and where my lawn has priority over your avocado grove, though I will later complain about the high cost of avocados. In such a mishmash of worlds, a school leader grabbing for half a million bucks and a school board unaware of what they have paid their top employee is perhaps not surprising at all, only inevitable. If we’re going to do anything about it, we may have to tear down some of the insulation we have built up around our own worlds.