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Reaping the Rewards of Interactive Read Alouds

Reaping the Rewards of Interactive Read Alouds

January 26, 2023

by: Ramon Torres

4 mins


The power of reading has a special quality of connecting, communicating, and creating lasting memories for students across all levels of learning. From Pre-K to Grade 12, reading nurtures the mind, molding it into a potent tool for the imagination. This power is only magnified with the introduction of shared read alouds.

Just ask Pam Koutrakos, this week’s guest on Literacy Matters with Cheryl Lundy-Swift. Koutrakos shares with us over 20 years of literacy experience working as a teacher, instructional coach, and consultant. She is a distinguished writer of several helpful books such as Word Study That Sticks: Best Practices (K–6), The Word Study That Sticks Companion: Classroom-Ready Tools for Teachers and Students (K–6), and Mentor Texts That Multitask: A Less-Is-More Approach to Integrated Literacy Instruction (K–8). 

As a lifelong learner and teacher, Pam has made considerable progress with her students by using shared read aloud experiences to create a sense of community. 

You Have Read Alouds, and Then You Have Interactive Read Alouds

Read alouds — we’ve all experienced them in one form or another throughout our educational years. The teacher picks up a book, gets in front of the class, and starts reading off the page. It can be casual or purposeful, however, both activities are used with the intention of sharing a singular, unified experience. 

The difference lies in the purpose. Your standard read aloud provides a joyful, easy-going listening experience and can be introduced spontaneously throughout the day. The interactive read aloud is a pre-planned activity that focuses on refining comprehension and conversational skills. During interactive sessions, instructors may open the floor for conversation between students as they digest the story.

Knowing the difference between these two styles can help you achieve your goals for the school year. Not only is the read aloud’s purpose important to establish, it’s also crucial to choose the right text that fits the needs of your classroom.

Choosing the Right Texts

Each classroom is different. Every student is unique. One story might captivate a certain set of students and be mundane for another set. As an educator and leader, it’s vital to keep a pulse on the interests of your students when choosing your next read-aloud text.

Learn what motivates your learners. Do they enjoy fictional stories? Are they intrigued by tales of adventure? Or do they prefer something more grounded? Consult your local librarian for a list of must-have books that are perfect for your grade. With the right story for the right audience, you can keep your classroom engaged for weeks!

A World of Wonder Works Wonders

When used appropriately, the imagination can be a magnificent tool to help students stay engaged. Throughout interactive read-aloud sessions, try pause-and-ponder activities so students have time to marinate on the story. Ask open-ended questions such as “why do you think the author used this word?” or “what words helped you picture this scene?” to help students explore their vocabulary.

Provide opportunities for your classroom to challenge themselves during the reading and go beyond what is on the page. By doing this, students form connections between new and familiar language. As each component of the story coalesces, students will progressively investigate their understanding of the text and grow as readers. The next time you conduct a read-aloud session, put your writers’ lenses on and ask questions that get your students to go a step further.

Not only are read alouds a fun activity to pass the time, they also prove to be useful for child development. Students can enjoy a story while honing their skills as communicators in the literacy world. Whether embarking on a new narrative journey or revisiting past works, use the texts to your advantage. 

To discover more ways that read alouds can enhance your students’ learning experience, watch the full episode of Literacy Matters with Cheryl Lundy Swift.

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