Every pair of eyes in your classroom is looking in your direction, there is almost no restless movement, because almost all of your students are focused and engaged. The room is silent until you ask your first thought-provoking question and then immediately there is a hum of excited whispering as students share their thoughts and ideas with each other. This is what can happen during a well-planned Interactive Read Aloud (IRA).
Below you'll find a various strategies, instructional tips, and printable lessons to help you enhance your Interactive Read Alouds and capture the attention of students!
An Interactive Read Aloud is when a teacher orally reads a purposefully-selected book to the class, while asking corresponding, thought-provoking discussion questions throughout the reading of the book. Interactive Read Alouds provide students with an engaging reading experience that enables them to make meaning, to develop high-level thinking, and to listen to others while discussing a book.
An Interactive Read Aloud is NOT when a teacher has five minutes to fill time and grabs a book from the classroom library to quickly read to the class.
Exposes students to texts that are more challenging than the ones they can read independently
Develops high-level thinking
Deepens comprehension through discussion and active thinking
Builds good reading habits within students
Provides practice with comprehension strategies
Introduces students to new authors and genres
Enables the teacher to model fluency
The text can be used as a model during reading mini-lessons
Fosters an enjoyment and a love of reading
Helps to grow a community of life-long readers
Gives you an opportunity to share some of your favorite books with your students
#1 Select a meaningful and engaging text. It is important to consider how the text will support lessons, units, or themes that the class is working on.
#2 Preview the text. Mark passages that will lead to thought-provoking discussions.
#3 Plan to ask both explicit and implicit questions. Try to develop a line of questions that will encourage discussion among the students. Using the “Revised Bloom's Taxonomy Cognitive Dimensions” or the “Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Levels” will ensure that students will take part in a variety of discussions from understanding the plot of the story to analyzing the author's message.
#4 Before reading the text, be sure to introduce any background knowledge that will be necessary for understanding the text.
#5 Read the story with lots of expression. This will help to draw your listeners in.
#6 Read aloud fiction and nonfiction texts. Articles on current events often spark great discussions and debates.
#7 Choose books that you enjoy! The students will pick up on your enthusiasm.
LESSON 4: THE KEEPING QUILT BY PATRICIA POLACCO
Download a printable community quilt activity that goes along with this book.
Jeremy desperately wants the shoes all of his friends are wearing at school, but his family can't afford them. When his shoes fall apart, he gets a pair of "those shoes" from a thrift store that are too small for his feet. In this heartwarming story, Jeremy learns an important lesson about what we want versus what we need.
Unhei has just moved to America from Korea. She is embarrassed to tell her new classmates her name, so she tells them she will pick a name by the end of the week. The kids in her class try to help her out by filling a glass jar with names. On the day she is about to reveal her name, the jar disappears, and encouraged by her new friends, Unhei decides to keep her Korean name.
LESSON 8: MEMORY STRING BY EVE BUNTING
Every button on Laura’s memory string represents a part of her family’s history. The buttons most important to Laura are the ones that belonged to her mother: a button from her mother’s prom dress, a white button from her mother’s wedding dress, and a single small button from the nightgown her mom was wearing on the day she died.
When the string breaks, Laura’s stepmother, Jane, tries to comfort Laura and helps her search for a missing button. Laura realizes that a memory string is not just for remembering the past, but it’s also for adding new memories.
LESSON 9: HOW WILMA RUDOLPH BECAME THE WORLD’S FASTEST WOMAN BY KATHLEEN KRULL
What an amazing story about one of our greatest Olympic athletes! This is the story of Wilma Rudolph. Before she was even five years old, polio paralyzes her left leg. Rudolph never gives up and not only regains the use of her leg, but becomes a basketball and track star. At age twenty, Rudolph is the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympics.
LESSON 10: SWEET TOOTH BY MARGIE PALATINI AND JACK E. DAVIS
Many kids have a sweet tooth. But not like Stewart’s. Stewart has a very loud and demanding sweet tooth. Stewart soon realizes his aggressive sweet tooth isn’t so sweet! Determined to stand up to his sweet tooth, Stewart decides to attack the problem with the best weapon he can think of – a raw carrot.
This is a great book to read during a health unit or around the holidays when kids are eating lots of sweets.
LESSON 11: STELLALUNA BY JANELL CANNON
This is the heartwarming story of a fruit bat that makes a home with a family of birds after she is separated from her mother. Kids will learn about the different characteristics of birds and bats as they enjoy this story about friendship, compromise, and acceptance.
Plus, this book provides factual information about fruit bats at the end of the book in the author's notes to increase the readers' understanding of the text.
LESSON 12: EACH KINDNESS BY JACQUELINE WOODSON
Chloe and her friends won't play with the new girl Maya. Eventually, Maya stops coming to school. Chloe's teacher then shows the class how even a small act of kindness can make a big difference and even change the world! Chloe regrets her actions and reflects on how much better it could have been if she had only shown a little kindness toward Maya.
This book is a great read aloud for the start of the school year. Foster a positive classroom community and encourage students to do small acts of kindness for their classmates. It is also a great story to read when discussing the importance of inclusion, acceptance, and other challenging topics.
LESSON 13: HARVESTING HOPE BY KATHLEEN KRULL
Cesar Chavez is known as one of America's most inspiring civil rights leaders. He improved the lives of thousands of migrant farm workers, when he led a 340-mile peaceful protest march through California. Cesar wasn't always a leader though. As a child, he was shy and often teased at school. His family worked in the fields for barely enough money to survive. Cesar wanted things to change. So he took charge. Cesar spoke up, and through his words and actions made a difference.
LESSON 14: FAITHFUL ELEPHANTS BY YUKIO TSUCHIYA
This book is a powerful and tragic story of three elephants’ struggle to survive after they were sentenced to death during WWII. A zookeeper at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo tells the story of John, Tonky, and Wanly three elephants killed (along with all the other animals in the zoo) by command of the Japanese army.
Yukio Tsuchiya wrote Faithful Elephants, “to let children know about the grief, fear, and sadness war produces. And that war affects not only human beings, but also innocent and lovely animals that don’t know, understand, or even care about war.”
LESSON 15: BROTHERS AT BAT BY AUDREY VERNICK
The Acerra team is the longest-playing all-brother baseball team in history. The Acerra family had sixteen children and twelve of them were boys. Each one of the boys played baseball on the family team. This story is about more than baseball...It is a story about compassion, love and caring for others.
Share this story in during the World Series or in the spring with the start of the Major League Baseball season. This read aloud is a great way to engage reluctant boy readers too!
LESSON 16: LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE BY KATHERYN RUSSELL-BROWN
Melba Doretta Liston loved the sounds of music from as far back as she could remember. By the time she was a teenager, Melba’s extraordinary gift for music led her to the world of jazz. She joined a band led by trumpet player Gerald Wilson and toured the country. Overcoming obstacles of race and gender, Melba went on to become a famed trombone player and arranger, spinning rhythms, harmonies, and melodies into gorgeous songs for all the jazz greats of the twentieth century.
LESSON 17: SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL BY DUNCAN TONATIUH
Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.
LESSON 18: BEATRICE’S GOAT BY PAGE MCBRIER
Beatrice’s Goat is the true story of a nine-year-old Ugandan girl. Through Heifer Project International, Beatrice’s family received the gift of a goat. The goat provided Beatrice’s family with milk to drink, and allowed them to make money by selling the extra milk the goat supplied. The money Beatrice made from selling the goat’s milk allowed her to attend school for the very first time. The goat’s offspring was given to another family, so they could then reap the benefits of having a goat of their own.
LESSON 19: GROWING UP PEDRO BY MATT TAVARES
Before Pedro Martinez pitched the Red Sox to a World Series championship, before he was named to the All-Star team eight times, before he won the Cy Young three times, he was a kid from a place called Manoguayabo in the Dominican Republic. Pedro loved baseball more than anything, and his older brother Ramon was the best pitcher he’d ever seen. He’d dream of the day he and his brother could play together in the major leagues. The love between brothers is key to Matt Tavares’s tale of Dominican pitcher Pedro Martinez, from his days of throwing rocks at mangoes to his years as a major-league star.
LESSON 20: THE QUILTMAKERS GIFT BY JEFF BRUMBEAU AND GAIL DE MARCKEN
The Quiltmaker’s Gift tells the story of a generous woman who makes quilts to give to the poor. The king decides he wants one of her quilts, but the quiltmaker refuses to give him one until he gives away all of his possessions. The king then travels the world giving away his treasures. When he comes back to the village, the quiltmaker gives him one of her beautiful quilts. In short, a quilt maker helps a very selfish king learn that the key to happiness is generosity.
LESSON 22: FREEDOM ON THE MENU, THE GREENSBORO SIT-INS BY CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD
There were signs all throughout town telling eight-year-old Connie where she could and could not go. But when Connie sees four young men take a stand for equal rights at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, she realizes that things may soon change. This event sparks a movement throughout her town and region. And while Connie is too young to march or give a speech, she helps her brother and sister make signs for the cause.
After you complete an Interactive Read Aloud, print out a picture of the book cover. Hang the picture of the book in your classroom. Place your next read aloud book cover picture beside it and continue to add onto this row of books with every IRA. Eventually, you will create a border of books around your classroom.
Not only is this very visually appealing for visitors, but it is also an excellent reference tool for students to use when they are looking for books to compare and contrast.
You can enhance this idea by deciding on an IRA “goal or focus” that will be written about below every book cover.
You may want to focus on finding the emerging themes after every IRA throughout the year, or you may decide to have your students figure out an important lesson that the book teaches. For example, one year I focused on themes. I pasted a printout of the book cover at the top of a piece of large construction paper and below the picture I listed the themes the class felt the book encompassed.
By the end of the year, a rainbow of books and their themes encircled my classroom.
Several years ago, I introduced the “book of the month” to my school. Each month, every grade level (K–5) teacher gets a copy of the same picture book to use with his or her class for an Interactive Read Aloud.
The book of the month serves many purposes: it promotes class discussion at a high level; every grade reads the same book, so families can discuss the book at home with siblings in different grades; and for specialists like me that work with several grades, it serves as a mentor text that I can refer to, knowing that all the students have read it. The book of the month cultivates a community of readers who love discussing books!
If you're a reading specialist, literacy coach, or lead teacher, download the Interactive Read Aloud lessons I shared above to start a book of the month movement in your school!