The 5Ws of Interactive Read Aloud

WHO? Passionate teachers of reading

WHAT is an interactive read aloud?

What it is

What it isn’t

  • A teacher carefully chooses and plans a read aloud in order to help students reinforce and practice their reading skills
  • A time when the teacher models reading skills and fluency
  • A time when students participate in partnership or book club discussions (based on the read aloud)
  • A time when students are engaged in the text while practicing reading skills
  • A teacher picks a book to read to the class because the movie is coming out.
  • A time for students to cool down after lunch
  • A text that a teacher reads for the first time in front of the students
  • A text chosen solely for content or for engagement
  • The teacher does all of the work while students sit passively

WHY interactive read alouds?

  • To develop students’ vocabulary, fluency and reading skills
  • To provide another opportunity to practice what was previously taught in conferences and mini lessons

WHEN? As much as possible.  Try doing interactive read alouds at least once a day for 15-25 minutes.  If you can do more even better.  Don’t forget that you can incorporate read aloud into the content areas.

WHERE? Students are usually on the rug during interactive read aloud.



  • Which genre will you be focusing on?
  • Which writing genre will compliment your reading unit?
  • Which content area subject will compliment your reading unit?
  • Which tribes issues do you want to highlight?


  • What will engage your students?
  • Should I read picture book or a chapter book?
  • Consider the level of the text.  Will it be too difficult for most of your students?

CHOOSE A FOCUS—These are two ways that I plan read alouds:

  • Mixed Bag Read Aloud–Read the text and pay attention to the type of thinking you do.  Think about which reading skills you use to understand this text.
  • Angled Read Aloud–Read a text with specific reading skills in mind (1-3 skills)


  • Turn and talk
  • Stop and Jot
  • Pay Attention Cues
  • Dramatize—Show me on your face, act out that word
  • Finger puppets
  • Stop and sketch


  • Choose 2 or 3 tricky but useful words
  • Create word sandwiches  (This idea came from Cia Pinkerton and Shana Frazin.  I paste library card pockets into my read alouds.  I store my word sandwiches in the pockets so students can use them later when they reread the read aloud on their own.)
  • Provide picture support if necessary


PRACTICE—Never ever ever read a book aloud without reading it to yourself first.

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anthony Pirro  |  September 15, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I love it! Clear, concise, accessible! A wonderful resource for any educator!

  • 2. Joann  |  October 11, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Are you familiar with Lester Laminack? He coined the “6 read alouds a day” philosophy – its a perfect fit with what you are doing

    • 3. Deeanna  |  October 11, 2009 at 12:26 pm

      I have heard of him. He spoke at the TC Reading Institute two years ago. I have heard of the “6 read alouds a day” philosophy but I haven’t read any of his work about it. I’ll put it on my ever-growing to-do list. Thanks for the tip.

  • 4. Pam Bloch  |  October 12, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    I just heard Lester last Friday and he actually encouraged the use of read alouds for class management. You can read a picture book straight through (which is what he said you should always do the first time through, “Picture books should be consumed as a whole”) in 7-12 minutes. If you begin reading, children will stop and listen. Then you may easily and calmly transition to the next content area, “mathmaticians! Line up!”

  • 5. Mary  |  April 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Can you give a few more details about what a word sandwich is and how you make and use them??
    Thanks! I love this site!!

    • 6. Deeanna  |  April 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks for your question! I use word sandwiches in a variety of ways. I take a vocabulary word (frazzled) and ‘sandwich’ it in between two synonyms (stressed, busy). It could look like this:


      Next to the sandwich you could include a picture that represents the word. I make word sandwiches when introducing tricky vocabulary that is essential for understanding the read aloud. Sometimes I paste library pockets on the inside jackets of the read aloud book and place the word sandwiches inside. This way students can review the vocabulary words before rereading the book.


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