Interactive Read Alouds

Connecting to a book and to each other

“I see things a bit differently,” the second grader said to her classmate. She responds to the perspective just shared on “Lunch from Home”—a picture book about what happens when a child’s favorite packed lunch is met with disparaging comments at the school lunch table—and adds her own insights.

Another student said, “I agree with what you are saying. I also think we could use more precise words to describe how the characters are feeling.”

The circle of students sitting on the classroom carpet deliberate like small diplomats, building on each other’s thoughts and, most noticeably, not speaking over each other.

promoting comprehension, vocabulary, knowledge building and speaking and listening skills

Interactive read alouds begin with the teacher reading a carefully chosen book to their class. The ideal book is connected to another book they’ve read together, giving students more opportunity to learn and practice vocabulary and build knowledge of a topic. Classroom posters offer visual aids to conversation, including word lists for various emotions and hand signals for agreeing, adding on, and sharing a different perspective.

modeling book behavior

Patty Major’s first grade class at Meadow Pond calls the interactive read alouds “Grand Conversations.”

Before she begins reading “Stop the Clock” to her students, they take time to look at the cover and read the description on the back. She’s modeling book behavior to students, another part of being a reader. They look closely at the cover and notice a teddy bear alone on a city sidewalk. Certainly, that’s an important detail, they agree.

Major reads one or two pages at a time, stopping to ask the class questions. After a few all-class shares, she asks the students to turn and talk.

What Is the message of the book?

The students also sit in a circle for an all-class discussion. “I think the author is telling us to slow down,” said one student. “I agree. I think he wants us to know that it’s okay not to finish something.” “My partner said that mornings are rushed,” said another student. 

“I love that!” said Major. “You’re right! That’s part of life.”

A powerful impact of interactive read alouds is building students’ vocabulary. Porcelli ties it directly to knowledge building, calling the two skills the gatekeepers to reading comprehension.

Building Skills with a Lifelong Impact

After Rutigliano’s second graders wrap up their discussion of “Lunch from Home,” she asks them why they think they take time for interactive read alouds. “To learn how we all think differently,” said one student. “To understand the book more,” said another.

“Our conversations build more than speaking and listening skills,” said Rutigliano. “We learn how to agree and disagree, and that it’s okay to have different opinions. These skills help us in many different parts of our lives.”