A Framework (to Break) for Planning Interactive Read Alouds
An informal survey of teachers I work with revealed that very few of them found the time to plan an interactive read aloud each day. To be sure, most balanced literacy teachers are reading aloud every day, but taking the time to plan it seems to be a different question. It's understandable; we already spend so much time planning small groups and conferences and mini-lessons. It's easy enough to pick up a book from my classroom library at the last minute, share my thinking and ask questions on the fly. There is never anything wrong with reading aloud to kids, and there are many circumstances across a day when that kind of on-the-fly reading would be totally appropriate-- think about post-recess, let-the-words-lull-you-to-calm kind of read alouds.
But interactive read aloud is different. For one, it's our platform for sharing a crystal-clear model of the thinking we expect kids to be doing at any point in the year in any given unit, so we need to make sure we are clear and effective in our model.
Secondly, as Richard Allington notes in "Every Child, Every Day", there is research that confirms that when kids have opportunities to talk, their comprehension deepens. It only makes sense that we are planful about the strategies and skills that we have identified our class needs, so we can try to focus talk in a read aloud around those skills.
Finally, when we tell kids to turn and talk during an interactive read aloud, we are asking them to open a window into their thinking. It's a golden opportunity. We need to be there with our clipboards and pencils prepared to listen. When we have planned beforehand when that will happen, we can know what we are listening for, and can more easily coach kids to deepen their thinking through that talk.
So, yes, planning interactive read aloud is important. But here's a framework for doing it quickly:
Pick a book you love that matches the genre of the unit. For example, if you are in a nonfiction reading unit, your interactive read alouds will probably be nonfiction.
Make sure you have articulated a list of comprehension goals for your current unit. (Hopefully, you haven't waited until now to do this)! Here's an example of comprehension goals for a spring unit on character in 1st grade:
Pick two unit comprehension goals to focus on for any given read aloud. Read ahead and plan one place in the book where you will think aloud a strategy for goal #1. Plan another place, later in the book, where you will ask kids to turn & talk for goal #1. Do the same for goal #2. Mark each of those spots with a sticky note, to cue you as you teach.
Play with this framework and-- by all means-- break it! You might only focus on one goal the whole read aloud, or Think Aloud around three goals, or ask students to decide where they Turn & Talk, or focus a read aloud on goals from past units, etc...
If talk is as important as Allington's article indicates, we can't rely on finding "teachable moments" for talk while we happen our way through a read aloud. I would love to hear about your experiences using and breaking this read aloud planning framework!