Though it sounds simple, a read aloud is actually more than just reading a book. It is an important opportunity to teach young scholars how to read. It’s also a carefully planned classroom activity, just like any other lesson.

A read aloud lesson can be broken down into pre-reading activities, during reading, and a closing. We've broken down each step below followed by a video example from one of our veteran teachers.


Before you crack the book open and start reading, there are important tasks at hand. Some of these are considered pre-reading activities. Others are just smart teacher tricks to set up the read aloud for success.

Set behavioral expectations at the very beginning.
Kids are kids. They need to be told what they should be doing during an activity like a read aloud. You’ll notice teachers at KIPP NJ telling students on the carpet that we’re sitting in SLANT, and our voices are off. Sitting in SLANT, and other behavioral expectations should be reinforced throughout the lesson.

Introduce the objective, the book and activate background knowledge
After behavioral expectations are set, you can tell kids what you’re going to be reading, and more importantly what you’re practicing while you’re reading.

Make sure you explicitly tell kids the objective. In the video below, Mr. Purefoy tells kids they’ll be practicing text-to-self connections, and then makes sure to reinforce that with kids, using call and response. (00:27)

Next, preview the book you are reading and build background knowledge. You'll see in the video below, Mr. Purefoy looks at the cover of the book and makes a prediction about the plot. (1:27) This gets kids in the right mindset for the story.

During reading

Ok, so now we’re at the main event. It’s time to read the book!

Here are some key tips with call outs to where you can see this modeled in the sample video to make sure your read aloud is successful:

  • Read with expression and fluency. You’re modeling how kids should be reading in their head, and keeping them engaged all at the same time. Mr. Purefoy uses different voices and expression to keep kids engaged.
  • Stop and ask questions with students – Students have short attention spans. Keep them engaged by stopping and making them think!
  • Stop and share examples that support the learning objective – “When I read that part, I thought about a time when…” You get the picture. Do this every few pages in the beginning, so you can have kids try it later in the book. (2:37)
  • Use multiple strategies to increase student talk (turn-and-talks (4:25), cold calls, call and response, warm calls) Just make sure you monitor what they are talking about so you can call on a few to share.
  • Don’t just ask the easy questions, throw higher order questions in there too. Asking kids to make a prediction or explain why they think something happened are two strategies you can use. (5:50) & (6:36)
  • Throughout, reinforce behavioral expectations, and intellectual expectations – Kids should be using sentences, sitting up straight, tracking the speaker, and using habits of conversation they have learned previously.

After reading

You made it! Now let’s wrap up the lesson so what you’ve done for the last 20 minutes sticks.

Restate the objective. (6:48) Then give kids a chance to practice before you wrap up. In the video, Mr. Purefoy gives kids a chance to think about it, then has them turn to a friend and talk, then has a few kids share.

That’s it! What strategies do you use in read-alouds? Got any hot book recommendations? Share them in the comments section below!

Elementary Read Aloud from KIPP New Jersey on Vimeo.

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