We know that we should read to young children, even before they can read to themselves. We also know that, when reading to these youngsters, we should involve them by talking about the pictures in the books, asking questions, etc. Research has demonstrated that the most effective read-alouds are those where children are actively involved in asking and answering questions and making predictions, rather than passively listening.
In this blog, we will be looking at the importance of interactive read-alouds for older students. In fact, these types of read-alouds benefit students of all ages, including middle-schoolers and high-schoolers.
By reading aloud to older students we:
- provide a model of fluent reading
- encourage and motivate our students to want to read on their own
- provide and enhance background knowledge
- improve both recall and upper-level reading comprehension skills
- boost vocabulary knowledge
- promote critical thinking skills
- develop oral language and listening skills
- create a sense of community in the classroom through class discussions
These benefits are especially important to our struggling readers. They typically have not read books that are at their grade level in terms of the vocabulary and complexity of the text. These gaps can be addressed through the kind of read-alouds we are discussing here.
What should we do to make our read-alouds interactive? As we read, we can:
- stop briefly to examine new vocabulary words
- use think-alouds to provide a good model for understanding text
- encourage students to visualize
- invite students to make connections to the text
- encourage students to interact with the book by having them talk to a partner, act out a sentence or short part of the book, make a quick sketch or note, or participate in a class discussion
The benefits of reading aloud in this way can be continued after we read. We can ask students to:
- retell the story
- talk about the things they learned
- check their initial predictions
- discuss the characters and their similarities/differences
- discuss the specific words used by the writer to create a mood, emphasize a point, etc.
To accomplish all of these goals, we must be careful in choosing the books to read aloud to our students.
In general, we want to read books that are:
- above the level that most of our students can read on their own
- good matches for our students’ oral language skills and emotional and social development
- well-matched to the vocabulary level of our students If students don’t understand most of the words in the book, we can’t expect them to be able to engage in the text or in our discussions.
- written in a way that can engage our students in critical thinking
- high-quality “good” literature
- entertaining, so that students want to hear more each day
And, most importantly, we want to choose books that WE enjoy reading.
In our next blog, we will look at specific steps for planning an effective read-aloud and view a sample using a connected text.
Bookmark for Interactive Read-alouds (click to download and print):
Lynn has been a practitioner in the field of literacy education for almost 40 years and has served as a special education teacher, teacher educator and trainer, intervention director, and university professor. Her focus has always been on intervening with struggling readers and on helping educators to do this most effectively. Lynn is the developer and facilitator of OGOA’s Connect to Comprehension Course.