1. I do not do novel units where all of my students read the same book. I use small group guided reading and literature circles instead so that I'm better able to differentiate my instruction. However, when I'm doing my daily whole class minilessons, I need a common text that all my students are familiar with to reference. The interactive read aloud provides that common text that all students are familiar with, regardless of their reading level, because it has been read out loud to them.
2. Interactive read aloud is all about student talk. While I'm reading, I pose questions and have students turn and talk. I will sometimes throw out a pre-reading questions for students to discuss in partners, small group, or the whole class. I also have a few focus questions that I ask students after our reading every day that they discuss in their table groups. The connection I have seen between incorporating this practice daily and the improvement of discussion during guided reading/literature circles is undeniable. I'm a huge believer that each students needs to hear his or her voice multiple times during every class period. In my classroom, I am not the holder of all the information. My students are thinkers who have valid thoughts worth sharing. They are taught to value their thinking.
3. I prefer to have students do writing about reading activities in relation to our current interactive read aloud. For me, this is where I see what students are understanding about a text and what students are not understanding. Because I am so familiar with the book, I am able to easily see through their writing to assess their comprehension. This would not be possible if students always wrote on their independent reading books.
The above explains to you why I love interactive read aloud, but whenever I use a practice in my classroom daily, it's necessary to mix it up. Part of the reason I love IRA's is because it's part of our routine and classroom structure that students are expecting, but that doesn't mean that within that structure I don't like to try something new. In my normal routine, each student has a sticky note while I'm reading, and there is a focus question on the board that they're jotting thoughts down on the sticky note about. This past week, I experimented with two different reading strategies to change up the routine of our interactive read aloud and increase student engagement. They were both extremely successful, so I thought I'd share them with you.
Strategy Number One: Before, During, and After Sticky Notes
I asked students to put three sticky notes in front of them and write, "Before," "During," and "After" on them. Before I started reading, I asked students to write down on the "Before" sticky note the name of a character in a book, a television or movie character, or someone they know who has changed negatively because of a life event. Next, while I was reading, students used their "During" sticky note to listen for how Olly's dad changed negatively because of an event that happened to him. Finally, after I was done reading, I asked students to study their "Before" and "During" sticky notes and use the "After" sticky note to explain how the person they wrote down connects to Olly's dad. Sometimes my students have a hard time making meaningful connections, and this worked awesome to walk them through how to write a meaningful connection. This strategy can be used for more than just writing connections, though. I can see using it with three different focus questions.
Strategy Number Two: Using Different Character Perspectives
I numbered students off by four and asked them, depending on their number, to make inferences about how their given character was feeling during our reading for the day. Each student made a T-chart on their sticky note and focused in on the events, and how their character may have felt as a result of the events that happened in the reading. All students had similar events written down, but the feelings changed depending on who their character was. After I was done reading, I had students jigsaw so that every group had a Madeline, Madeline's mother, Carla, and Olly. Students then talked about the main events in the reading for the day, and how the different characters may have felt about these events.
I hope reading about these strategies gets your creative juices flowing, and that you're able to take something away to bring back to the interactive read aloud time in your classroom!