Interactive Read-Aloud

Dr. Liliann Patterson, third grade teacher at Westmorland Union Elementary, tells us how to use the "Interactive Read-Aloud" activity to help students learn, use, and practice new language through meaningful conversations.

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Dr. Liliann Patterson, third grade teacher in Westmoreland, California, and also a teacher leader with a California Reading Literature Project.


My name is Dr. Liliann Patterson and I am a third grade teacher in Westmoreland, California, and also I’m a teacher leader with the California Reading Literature Project. The strategy that we are going to review today is called “Interactive Read-Aloud”. By implementing this strategy, we allow students to learn, use, and practice new language through meaningful conversations.

I have used this strategy with my third graders each time that I teach a story. Read-aloud is used by teachers so that students are able to listen to a reader, a fluent reader, read with expression and animation. Read-aloud gives the students the opportunity to learn new words, to learn new topics and to develop their listening skills as they are listening to you read fluently. The strategy can be used in any grade level, because the goal is for every single student in K12 to be able to understand the words, the sentences, and the stories that they’re reading. We want them to understand them so they can talk about them and they can answer questions about the stories.

For this strategy, you just have to worry about three steps:

The first steps is the one that you are in charge of. You have to make sure that you practice and preview the story before you go in front of the students to teach it. We practice the story because sometimes the stories might have words that are difficult to pronounce. There might be the name of characters, there might be the name of cities or towns. So we want to make sure that we understand how to correctly pronounce those words. We also want to make sure that we look for dialogue when there are different characters, such as in the story “The Three Little Pigs”. We want to make sure that we choose those different voices that we’re going to use when a pig is talking versus when a wolf is talking.

In addition to the preview of the dialogue and the worst that might be difficult to say, we also want to look at the story and have some sticky notes ready because we want to identify where is the best place to ask questions about the story. Remember, we want the students to be able to let us know through their answers if they’re understanding the story. If it happens that when you are asking the questions the students still do not understand it, they don’t know how to answer the story. Go back to that section, the beginning of that section, reread it, talk about it and then ask the question again and ultimately the student will be able to give you the answer. So we have to preview the text. Here are some examples of some questions that you can use when you are using a story as your read-aloud.

Now the second thing that you do, that is something that you do in front of the students. This is you teach the vocabulary words that are crucial for them to understand. Ideally, the materials that you’re using have already identified the words, usually they’re highlighted in the text, or if it happens that the materials don’t have them, you can go ahead and find between 7 to 10 words while you’re doing your pre-read, in your preview, and you can identify it. For instance, what are the words that I’m supposed to select? Well, if you are reading a story about a town that had a tornado and, as result, there were many damages, you need to make sure that you teach the word “tornado” and “damages” so the students are able to understand the extent of the damages that the tornado causes.

Now, once you have the words, what we do is we follow some steps so the students are able to understand the words and also to be able to picture the definition of the words in their heads. You show the word, you show them how is it pronounced, you give them a picture that is going to help them understand the meaning of the word. So make sure that the pictures actually convey the meaning of the word and use the word in a sentence so they understand how the word is used in a sentence. So you do those steps for all of the words that you’re going to teach, show them the word, give them a picture that defines the word and use the word in a sentence.

So the first step was you preview this text. The second step is you teach the vocabulary words and the third step will be now we’re going to read the story together. What I would recommend is that you read the story one paragraph at a time .You read one paragraph and you ask the students after you have read together the story that the section as the student, “hey boys and girls, are there any words that you still don’t understand?” Make sure that you clarify those words that they don’t understand so we can ensure that the students are understanding each section that you are asking. Then once the students understand the content of that paragraph, then you can ask them the question that you put on the post-it. You ask that question, don’t let any student answer, ask the question, then give them time to think — they can talk to their partners so they can compare their answers — and then randomly select a student so he or she can answer the question.

We are using the Interactive Read-Aloud activity to help student discover the story’s meaning. We need to be patient, because sometimes we’re going to have to stop, go back, reread and then have questions to be answers. The goal is for students to understand the story’s words, sentences and paragraphs. And this is what comprehension is all about.

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