Teaching Through Interactive Reading November 30 2010

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As a teacher, when I hear the word "manipulatives," I immediately think of math - students moving objects around in order to make greater sense of numbers and their value.

What if reading could be taught in a similar way? What if instead of numbers and objects, the manipulatives involved could be printed words and meanings?

It's in this way that interactive reading helps emergent readers manipulate words in order to understand and practice reading fundamentals.

Shared Reading vs. Interactive Reading

I used to think that Interactive Reading and Shared Reading were interchangeable. Instead, Interactive Reading is based on Shared Reading, the practice of children learning to read by echoing the teacher, reading along with the teacher, or filling in gaps provided by the teacher.

The elements of a Shared Reading lesson can include:

  • a picture walk where students predict what will happen in the story
  • students listening to the story and checking their predictions
  • further questioning and discussion of the story, including main characters, setting, and plot points
  • comprehension and sequencing activities
  • vocabulary and sight word activities

All of these are elements are important in supporting an emergent reader, and many of them appear within the framework of Interactive Reading. But I think the fundamental difference between the two strategies is that Interactive Reading gives control and ownership back to young readers.

Why Word Interaction?

There are children who show up on that first day - and subsequent days - with a strong foundation of literacy based on years of shared reading with family members. There are also those who come to school with very little background knowledge or experience of reading at all. While some children will be able to read all the words during Interactive Reading, some may recognize the pronouns or sight words while still others will just be learning about letters and sounds.

It's difficult to find strategies that can help all kids on this spectrum of young readers. One of the great elements of Interactive Reading is that it can be easily differentiated and used across the curriculum. Using Interactive Charts help teach basic fundamentals like top-to-bottom and left-to-right, tracking skills, the difference between capital and lowercase letters, and word recognition.

How Kids Can Interact With Words

Teaching kids how to interact with words is a fundamentally simple process. First, choose a song, poem, finger play or verse and write it on sentence strips in four lines, like the one below (from Interactive Charts, page 4):

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.
One fell off and broke his head.
Mama called the doctor, and the doctor said,
"No more monkeys jumping off the bed!"

The manipulative word in this case is Five. As you and your students read the rhyme together, replace Five with FourThreeTwo, and  One written on separate sentence strips.

Display the four lines in a pocket chart or on chart paper. Make sure whatever word or words you want to focus on are torn or cut from the rest of the sentence that it belongs to. Students can then be your echo as they learn the rhyme, then individual students can read the entire thing by themselves to the class. Place the charts and manipulative pieces in a reading center for more practice.

There are many more strategies to use as part of classroom Interactive Reading. Charts that include text for counting, colors, animals, and social studies and science charts are provided in Interactive Charts, as well as pre-made take-home books for a variety of reading levels.

Together, these elements of Interactive Reading help all kids take ownership of their reading practice and mastery.