Professional Development

September 9, 2020

How to Make Virtual Read Alouds Interactive For Distance Learning

One of my favorite parts of the day in the classroom was interactive read alouds. When it comes to interactive virtual read alouds during distance learning, the benefits will still be the same.

Students get to experience an engaging, rich text that is age-appropriate on their listening level. You get to model how to think like a reader and proper fluency. The students get to learn more about each other because they have sharing opportunities throughout the read aloud. It’s such a powerful time!

By picking a book with intentionality and inviting students to participate in discussion from cover to cover, you will help students become strategic readers, develop a love for reading, and expose students to a large variety of genres.

How to Choose a Text

The same principles apply for an interactive read aloud while distance learning as one for in-person learning. You’ll want to be intentional about the text you choose. Your interactive read aloud may not coordinate with the theme you are teaching, but that’s okay. We’d rather the students learn about a specific reading strategy through a strong text that lends itself to that strategy than be on-theme.

Here’s how to choose a text for virtual interactive read alouds:

  1. First, choose a target reading strategy to model and teach. This is the most important part. These strategies include: making connections (building schema), predicting, inferring, questioning, determining importance, visualizing, and synthesizing.
  2. Next, consider a text that is on the students’ listening level, not their reading level. This means that they can understand and comprehend the text they are listening to. Most of the time, this is beyond their reading level, especially for our littlest readers.
  3. Finally, choose your book that meets both of these requirements and that will hold their interest.

How to Invite Student Participation During Virtual Read Alouds

The main difference between a read aloud and an interactive read aloud is that the students are interacting with the text and the teacher. We are inviting conversation from start to finish with the book in an interactive read aloud.

Virtual interactive read alouds will be very similar to in-person interactive read alouds. We will just have to get creative in engaging students and inviting participation. Here are a few things to try during your next interactive read aloud:

  • Ask yes or no questions and have students give thumbs up or down to answer.
  • Ask questions with several answer options and have students hold up fingers to show their answer. For example, you could ask “What do you think the friends will do to solve the problem? 1. Talk about it. 2. Ask their moms for help. 3. Keep arguing. Hold up your fingers to show me what you think.”
  • Use a hand signal if students make a connection. In the classroom, I had students clasp their hands to indicate making a connection.
  • Have students draw quick pictures. For example, you might ask “What do you think the old lady will swallow next? Do a quick draw to show me and then hold it up.”
  • Implement partner chats just like you probably would do knee-to-knee in the classroom. Send students to a breakout room to discuss something specific, bring them back, and have some share their discussions.
  • Create an anchor chart together. Have a template ready to go in Google Slides and invite students to help you add to it by sharing your screen.
  • Use recording pages for students to take notes on during virtual read alouds. (If you have the Virtual Guided Reading Guide, it has some recording pages in it that would also work for interactive read alouds.)

Interactive read alouds pack so much into such a small part of the day. I just love what I can accomplish through them. My students loved them just as much as I do. If you find yourself teaching via distance learning, I’d encourage you to try making virtual interactive read alouds a part of your daily balanced literacy routine.

If you want to be totally prepared to teach each reading strategy through powerful interactive read aloud lessons, check out the Questioning Interactive Read Aloud Unit and the Making Connections Interactive Read Aloud Unit. They each have scripted lessons, strategy notes, a reader’s toolbox tool, and an example teaching schedule.

Happy Teaching,


8 Get to Know You Games for Distance Learning

Getting to know your students can be trickier while distance learning. Grab this FREE printable with eight get-to-know-you games and activities so that you can start connecting with students, help them get to know each other, and build a positive classroom community.

Hi, I'm Amanda

I’m a K-1 teacher who is passionate about making lessons your students love and that are easy to implement for teachers.  Helping teachers like you navigate their way through their literacy block brings me great joy. I am a lifelong learner who loves staying on top of current literacy learning and practices. Here, you’ll find the tools you need to move your K-2 students forward!


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