CLIL - Content and Language Integrated Learning > info > Building Language and Literacy in Bilingual Classrooms through the Use of Interactive Read Aloud Strategies and Technique

Building Language and Literacy in Bilingual Classrooms through the Use of Interactive Read Aloud Strategies and Technique


Dana LaQuay-Butrym, M.Ed., Pre-K-6 Certified Teacher & Literacy Coach

American School of Warsaw


Edyta Wernicka, M.Ed., Early and Media Education,  an English teacher

Szkoła Podstawowa nr 11, im. I Dywizji Kościuszkowskiej w Warszawie


Key Terms:

interactive read aloud, gradual release model, turn-and-talk, stop-and-jot, learning objectives




One of the greatest challenges we face as educators is keeping our students engaged and motivated to learn.  Reading aloud to students is one of the most powerful tools educators have to build classroom community which engages students in abstract thinking, rich linguistic vocabulary, deep comprehension,  and academic concepts while instilling a love of reading. This article will be looking at Interactive Read-aloud which is even more powerful than just reading aloud.  Three qualities that separate reading aloud from interactive read aloud are (1) Interactive read-alouds are pre-planned lessons designed to meet specific learning objectives.  (2) Interactive read-alouds make thinking visible by having the teacher stop at pre-chosen spots and model the thinking needed to deepen comprehension and pull students into meaningful speaking, listening, reading, and writing opportunities by utilizing techniques such as turning and talking with a partner or stopping and jotting their thinking.  (3)  Interactive read-alouds are also designed specifically for the purpose of supporting independent reading.


This article will teach you a researched based approach to designing and using interactive read alouds in your classroom.  It will include detailed sample lessons–including one presented in both English and Polish–walk you through the process of creating and presenting interactive read aloud lessons that will engage learners and help them develop their oral language proficiency.


In addition, it will explore technological tools that you and your students can use to support and improve learning, even at home where children may not have parental support with reading, especially while reading in English.


We will also explore the use of interactive read aloud and these other techniques as they have been being implemented in the first state funded bilingual classroom in Poland.



Building Language and Literacy in Bilingual Classrooms through the Use of Interactive Read Aloud Strategies and Techniques


An Introduction

            Warsaw University brought together teachers and students from different contexts in the form of workshops around Warsaw.  In early March, Edyta Wernicka, who has been working as a mentor teacher for students in Warsaw University’s EU sponsored program, attended a workshop set up in the American School of Warsaw.  A part of this workshop, was led by Dana LaQuay and Heidi Laffay, entitled “The Power of Interactive Read Aloud.”  It was at this workshop, that Dana and Edyta first met each other and began learning and cooperating together.  Edyta was excited about techniques and strategies being used to engage students through interactive read aloud.  Dana was thrilled with the idea of learning more about using interactive read alouds in a truly bilingual context.  Therefore their collaboration began with meeting up and coplanning an interactive read aloud lesson.  Then co-teaching the lesson to Edyta’s bilingual students.  Through this experience, they began to learn more about the scaffolds students needed in order to meet with the greatest success.  It is through this partnership and work with actual students that they wanted to share the techniques of Interactive Read Aloud and an actual case study of implementing interactive read aloud in a bilingual classroom in Poland.


What is Interactive Read Aloud?


According to Fountas and Pinnell (2011), interactive read-aloud is a teaching context in which students are actively listening and responding to an oral reading of a text. (p. 360)  One of my favorite quotes about interactive read aloud comes from internationally acclaimed founding director of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in New York, Lucy Calkins, “How important is reading aloud?  Critically important. ‘Don’t you ever want kids to just lie back and let the words flow over them…to just listen?’ people sometimes ask about the read-aloud.  But I have to admit that I don’t really see the read-aloud in this dreamy, sleepy sort of way.  Too often children consider the read-aloud as a time to doze, dream, fiddle, and snack.  I see the read-aloud as the heart of our reading instruction time, and I want kids’ full attention to be on what we do together.” (p. 63)


Interactive read aloud is a time when a teacher has pre-selected a text and designed a lesson with a learning objective that will engage students while developing skills to deepen their reading comprehension and response to text.  In designing the lesson, teachers have preselected a few significant points to pause and share their own thinking in order to demonstrate how experienced readers engage with and think about text, making their thinking visible for students.  Often times these points are marked in the text with a post-it note.  After modeling the thinking for their students, teachers then turn this over to the students allowing them the opportunity to try out this thinking and share their ideas with a partner. While students are sharing their ideas for a minute or two, the teacher goes around and listens into their conversations to assess students strengths and needs.  Then the teacher calls the students’ attention back to the whole class and shares an example of student thinking that highlights the specific learning target.  This give the teacher the opportunity to explicitly state what type of thinking or skills good readers use and ask readers to use that skill whenever they read.  Be careful in planning and presenting to not stop too frequently or for too long so that the flow of the read aloud is not disrupted.


What does the research say?

From  Polish  report on programme Reading schools and Reading kindergarten (Czytające szkoły” i “Czytające przedszkola”) which was prepared in 2006 by Ośrodek Ewaluacji and “ABCXXI – Cała Polska czyta dzieciom”,  we know what children may achieve by actively listening to read alouds.


That research showed those students who had been listening to read alouds for 15- 20 minutes a day, improve in the areas of: speaking, writing, reading fluency, vocabulary and  language acquisition, reading comprehension, concentration, memory, and critical thinking.  It also showed that children who were read aloud to started to be reflective and much more motivated in reading, in addition they could more easily cope with emotional problems. That is the reason why we should  give children contact with real books. Reading books as a routine should be key point in our educational system.  Better than reading aloud, might be only interactive read- aloud.


According to Seravallo (2010), “Researchers have long regarded read-aloud as an indispensable part of the school day, with some recommending several opportunities each day for teachers to read aloud from a variety of genres (Calkins 2000; Collins 2004; Laminack and Wadworth 2006; Nichols 2006).”  (p. 132)  According to Hickman and Pollard-Durodola (2009), “Research has found that a strategic read-aloud procedure is an effective way to develop oral language, vocabulary, and listening comprehension skills of children.” (p.4)  I think a very important phrase in this statement is “strategic read-aloud procedure” because when teaching is planned and there is a clear target and procedure, students learn more.  Interactive read aloud is not just haphazardly picking up a book and reading it while students are eating snack.  It is a completely structured lesson that when done correctly will lift the level of our students listening, speaking, reading and even writing skills.


Hickman and Pollard-Durodola (2009) also point out that August and Shanahan (2008) stated that one key difference between the development of language and literacy in one’s first language and one’s second language is that

Second language learners have an additional set of intervening influences– those related to first-language literacy and oral proficiency…(there is) ample research evidence that certain aspects of second-language literacy development are related to performance on similar constructs in the first language; this suggest that common underlying abilities play a significant role in both first- and second-language development… Well developed literacy skills in the first language can facilitate second-language literacy development. (p 7-8) 


Basically, this means the better students are doing in their native language, the more likely they are to do well in a foreign language.  In a bilingual classroom in Poland, teachers need to continue to build students’ native language skills, the techniques such as interactive read-aloud would be best introduced in students’ native language and then transferred into the English language context.  As interactive read aloud promotes well developed literacy skills by engaging students in using active listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills it is beneficial for all classes, including bilingual classrooms.



What are the steps in designing an interactive read-aloud lesson?

Step 1–Determine your students’ levels of language proficiency.


Interactive read-alouds should be implemented as a core technique for reading instruction in both languages in a bilingual classroom.  Their level of language proficiency in one language may not be the same as in another language.  For example, in most Polish classrooms, the level of Polish language proficiency is most likely higher for students than their English language proficiency.  Their level of language proficiency will help guide your decisions for instruction since students are able to participate in more complex thinking and skill practice based on it.

When trying to determine the English language proficiency, a useful tool to consult is the World Class Instructional Design and Assessment Constortium (WIDA) English Language Proficiency Standards and Resource Guide 2007.  In particular we recommend beginning by looking at Figure 5M: CAN DO Descriptors for the Levels of English Language Proficiency, PreK-12.


Step 2 — Choose a topic and genre from your country’s or state’s educational standards.


In Poland, teachers are responsible for teaching the Polish National Curriculum.  This is where Polish teachers should begin.  Since an interactive read-aloud lesson is designed by the teacher, he or she needs to use these standards as a guide for planning instruction.

In addition to the Polish National Curriculum, teachers may also find it helpful to reference Example Topics and Genres: Content Related to WIDA’s English Language Standards for the grade level they’re teaching.  The topics are broken down by grade levels, however; these are not tied to the Polish National Curriculum, rather they are tied to the academic standards in the United States.


Step 3–Identify a specific learning target that your students need to meet based on your country’s or state’s educational standards.


If you were an educator in Poland, the specific learning target should come from the Polish National Curriculum.

If you were an educator in the United States of America, most likely the learning target should come from The Common Core Standards adopted by 43 of the 50 states.  An educator may also look at the learning targets that are put into child friendly language in the form of “I can” statements to help provide clear objectives in English language arts.  However, as a Pole or other national, you may find these a helpful supplemental resource in guiding your teaching.


Step 4– Select a culturally meaningful text in the language of instruction.


This means choosing a text that will be interesting and engaging for your students because it is at the appropriate level of difficulty given their language proficiency and grade level.  It should also be a text that can be used to teach content related to the standards and learning targets of your curriculum.


Teachers in a bilingual classroom should be choosing appropriate texts in both of the taught languages. In Poland, teachers will most likely be choosing more complex texts in Polish than in English.  However, both texts should be engaging and interesting to the students.


Imagine trying to teach children for the first time how to tell time on an analog clock.  The teacher’s first objective is for students to understand how to tell time.  Therefore when introducing this concept it makes sense to not complicate teaching this concept by attempting to teach it in the language where students are less proficient.  First introduce the topic in their native language and use that to scaffold their understanding in their second language of instruction.  The same is true for introducing the concept of interactive read-aloud.  It should be introduced and taught first in Polish and then transferred to their second language of instruction.   You might use an interactive read aloud such as Pszczółka Maja Poznaje Zegar by Von Kessel Carola in Polish to teach about telling time.  Later, you may choose to read aloud The Grouchy Lady Bug by Eric Carle that also uses analog clocks and time to the nearest hour to tell a story that is engaging to students.


Step 5 — Pre-read the text.


Read over the whole text and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the language level appropriate for my students?
  • Does this support the topic or genre that I wanted to teach my students?
  • Could I use this text to teach my specific learning target?
  • Will students find this text engaging and interesting?
  • Do you enjoy this text?


If you answered, “yes” to those questions then you have made a good selection.  If you answered, “no” to those questions then perhaps you should go back to step 4 and continue looking for a culturally meaningful text.


Step 6 — Determine 3-4 new words to be pre-taught.  Create meaningful definitions for each word or translate the word into known language.


When choosing words, you want to choose words that are new but will also be used frequently.  These words are called tier two words.


Step 7 — Plan out natural stopping points and mark them.


In an approximately 15 minute read aloud period, you would not stop more than three times to allow for the flow of the story and maintain your readers’ interest and engagement.  You want to make each stopping point meaningful for your students by focusing on teaching to your target.  For example, if your target is for readers to be able to use details from the text to describe characters, then all three stopping points should be focused on that target.


Step 8 — Plan the way you will model your thinking and scaffold learners to deepen their thinking as you read.


Create an anchor chart to explain to readers the type of thinking you are going to model and expect them to do.  This should explain to readers the learning target and provide them with a scaffold, such as a sentence frame, to guide their responses.  For example, when planning out the interactive read aloud Feelings by Cheryl Ryan, the objective was to teach students that readers make connections with characters in the book to deepen their understanding.  Therefore, we used a sentence frame to support students in talking about their feelings in relations to the character in the story.


I feel……………(sad, happy, angry, scared)……… because……………………………


On each of the post-it notes you used to mark natural stopping points, jot down exactly what you want to say to model the thinking you want readers to do.  Also jot down the question and task you’re going to use to prompt students to also use this thinking.  For example, when planning out the book Feelings by Cheryl Ryan, I put a post-it note on page 5 to model my thinking and prompt students to turn and talk:

Hmmm, so I’m going to connect with the boy in this story (this character).  He feels very happy because he sees his family.  I feel very happy because I am reading to you.  I love reading.

ASK: Use this (point to sentence frame chart). “I feel happy because….” and turn and talk to your partner about what makes you happy.  Is it riding your bike?  Playing games? Talking with your friends?  Drawing pictures?   Turn and Talk



Step 9 — Plan and practice how you will read with expression (voices, actions, etc.)


Reading the story aloud a few times you will develop the expression and actions that will support student engagement and comprehension.  When you read aloud, you’re modeling reading with fluency, expression, and rate that brings the story to life.  You are drawing students into the world of the story.  As well, when there is a more complex phrase or expression you can add actions that will show the meaning of the phrase.  This allow students to comprehend the story even if there are some unfamiliar words or phrases.


Step 10 — Plan the student engagement with gradual release model.


Generally, you begin by clearly stating the explicit target of the read aloud and displaying this on an anchor chart.  Then at the first place where you pause, you are modeling for students the exact type of thinking you would like them to do.  After that, you may turn it over to the students by asking them, “Use the sentence frame on the chart (read it and point to it) and turn and talk to your partner about what you think.”  This will allow them to repeat the thinking you’ve shared or add onto it, which is a strong first scaffold.  Then get up and listen into partnerships sharing, offer additional support as needed.  After you call their attention back to the front, you can explicitly restate the type of thinking you heard students doing and how that is the type of thinking good readers do.  At the second stopping point, you may prompt the students with the idea that this is another place that has made you think about the target idea.  Then ask students to use the frame and turn and talk about it.  When they’re talking you’re getting up and moving around listening in on the conversations your students are having and jotting down notes.  After a minute or two, or when the conversation has died down if sooner, bring the attention back to the front of the classroom and summarize the thinking that was done.  At the third stopping point, you may repeat the type of questioning again, expecting more automaticity and independence in application.  After this, you would finish reading the story or chapter and remind students to use that skill in their independent reading.


What are the keys in presenting an interactive read-aloud lesson effectively?


Before your first interactive read-aloud.

Step 1 — Set up a meeting area for interactive read aloud.


We have found that bringing students together on the carpet creates a more inclusive community when working and reading together than sitting at desks.  So if it is possible, set up a reading area, where students have enough space to sit together on a carpet.  We also find that having a chart that clearly displays expectations for activities such as turn-and-talk are helpful and should be clearly visible from this meeting area.  Another key tool teachers use during read aloud is a chart.  Using an easel where you can display an anchor chart for students helps focus both the students’ and teacher’s attention on a learning target for the lesson.


Step 2 — Set up discussion partnerships.


Teachers should determine the partnerships that will be used throughout a unit of study using interactive read-alouds.  Providing a continuous partnership will allow students to build on their conversations from previous lessons. It can also support students in managing their behavior by choosing partners that will work well together.


Step 3 — Teach the expectations for the techniques and structures embedded in interactive read-aloud.


This means do a lesson just about how you expect students to come to the carpet, sit next to their partner, and what they should do during the turn-and-talk activity.  This time you may teach them the expectations for turning-and-talking, by offering them the chance to talk about a topic of interest.  For example,

Partner 1:   “My favorite hobby is ______ because __________.”

Partner 2:   Make a comment or ask a question about partner 1’s hobby to build on that conversation.

Partner 1:  Respond to partner 2’s comment/ question and ask about partner 2’s favorite hobby.

Partner 2:  “My favorite hobby is ______ because _________.”

Partner 1:   Make a comment or ask an additional question about partner 2’s hobby to build on that conversation.

Partner 2:  Answer partner 1’s question or reply to their comment.


Then you could ask partners to turn back to the front of the classroom and wait quietly when they’re finished.  This could be followed by a question like, “Why is it important to listen to your partner when they are sharing their ideas?”  Turn and talk again like you did about your hobbies taking turns listening and sharing your thinking.

This lesson should be done in the language where students have a higher level of proficiency and then repeated in the other language, by changing the questions slightly and adding that if students do not yet have the words in the language of instruction, they may use words from the other language as needed to communicate.


After you have the three particulars above in place, these are the keys to presenting your read-aloud effectively.

Key 1:  Be prepared and have a clear plan with necessary materials to support learners.

Key 2:  Make the learning target explicit for students and pre-teach necessary vocabulary.

Key 3:  Read fluently and with expression acting out parts to bring the story to life.

Key 4:   Make your thinking visible by thinking aloud the way you want your students to be thinking when they’re reading.

Key 5:   Stop often enough to allow readers opportunities to think and respond to the text, but not so often as to lose the flow of the story or text.

Key 5:  Monitor and adjust to the needs of the learners offering more scaffolding where needed and taking away unnecessary scaffolds.


After students are comfortable with the structure of interactive read-aloud, including turn and talk, begin to introduce alternative other options for sharing thinking about texts in partnerships and independently, such as:

  • Stop and act: With their partner, act out a scene that was just read, or act out your prediction of what will happen next.
  • Stop and jot: Students stop and write down their thinking on a post-it note, index card, or in a notebook. (independent)
  • Stop and sketch: Students stop and draw what they picture in a part of the story. (independent)


What additional tools and resources are available to build language and literacy?

One of the most important tools teachers need are more books.  I highly recommend starting to build a library of books you plan to read aloud to students each year tied with interactive read-aloud lessons.  There is so much power in a well-written and highly engaging text.  These books can be stored where the teacher has easy access to them.


However, interactive read-aloud is a short focused lesson that is meant to scaffold and support readers in their independent reading.  Students should spend time in class each day reading books at their independent levels applying the type of thinking you were teaching during interactive read-aloud in their independent reading.  This means teachers need to build classroom libraries where children have access to books that they can read by themselves.  Allington and Cunningham (2001) suggest 700-750 books for a primary classroom in a monolingual classroom.


One place you can find access to 1,400 books that are leveled in English is Reading A-Z.  These books can be printed and made into copies for students to read.  You could begin with a 14-day trial and download, save, and print as many books as possible in your students independent reading range.  If you have a projector and think you would use it to read aloud to the whole class, then I recommend purchasing a subscription.  These printable books would be a starting place for you to build a library with high quality texts for students.


I also recommend purchasing a subscription to RAZ-kids for your classroom.  This allows your students access to hundreds of books in English anywhere they have access to internet.  In addition to being able to read these books, students may also listen to the stories being read aloud with correct English pronunciation.  This is a huge benefit for children whose parents may not speak or read English well.  If you want your students to be reading in English at home for homework and they don’t have access to English books at their level, this is the answer.  In addition, if you purchase this tool, you can also use it as a tool to help you assess your student’s independent reading ability.


A Case Study: Ms. Edyta Wernicka’s first grade bilingual classroom in Poland


Part I: Background Information on Classroom Structure and Context

Having the opportunity to teach in a bilingual classroom in Poland, I thought about how to utilize children’s potential in communication. My students are six year olds, who started their education this year in first grade, and most importantly in a bilingual classroom in a state school in Ursus, Poland. It’s the average Primary school with an enrollment of 1000 students. It’s situated in Ursus (in western Warsaw), a place with a sad history. After the huge factory called Ursus  fell on hard times, people in the area started losing their jobs. Some of them were able to find other work in the city centre, but others could not. Many people lost hope due to their long unemployment, and turned to alcohol or drugs for comfort, and this turned into addictions. Although it has been a long time since that factory closed, teachers here continue coping with children from poverty and hopeless backgrounds. Some of our students feel they have no future prospects and they don’t believe in themselves.  Thanks to our principal and local authorities, we were able to pilot a pedagogical experimental program,  and open a bilingual class this year.  It would offer the opportunity for all those children whose parents couldn’t afford to pay for additional language lessons. It may offer them opportunities and prospects that would otherwise be out of reach for them.  As in all state schools, we cannot segregate children nor were we able pre-assess children. The school informed parents about the opportunity to place their children in this bilingual classroom.  They also informed parents that the programme might be harder than  in other classes.


In Poland, there are no bilingual classes in Primary State schools, the only one way to start it was to request and plan a pedagogical experiment.  We started co-operating with Warsaw University and prepared a special proposal that summarized the curriculum of this bilingual pilot program. After the ministry had accepted it, my bilingual class was formed. It consists of a variety of students. Some of them had no previous experiences with English, others had some English lessons in kindergarten. All of them were six years old, some have special emotional, behavioral, and academic needs.  We based our project on Polish National Curriculum. The first language of students in my class is Polish and it is being taught eight hours a week by a monolingual teacher who speaks only Polish. Other subjects like Maths, Science, Music, Art, PE or ITC are taught through an integrated curriculum. Second language learning in English is integrated during 2 CLIL lessons a week, but it appears everyday in classroom language. Children also have two English language lessons a week.


Speaking English in my class  is rather difficult for children, although they are pretty talkative in their first language. Children seem to be stressed out when they cannot understand me or for example cannot read an English word properly. I’ve met Dana at a time when my students were able to read and write in Polish and, in my opinion, it was the best time to learn reading and writing in their second language. The great opportunity to try Interactive read aloud in my class happened at the perfect time.


Part II: Reflection Based on Observation and Learning In a Different Context

As a Polish educator, I have taken time to reflect on areas of weakness that I’ve noticed in our education system.


As an educator in Poland, I find our educational system has some flaws. I was told that communication skills and group work is one of the  key components for European students. Although I could see teachers struggling with leading students in partner work and teamwork tasks during lessons. Cooperative learning appears as if it is something they have never been taught before and have never experienced.


In fact, I’m one of those who find it challenging to easily cooperate with others. From foreigners, I have heard that Poles seem to be hardworking people but they cannot easily share their ideas and work with others. As a young teacher, I wanted to change everything starting with the classroom environment.  I wanted to change it into a friendlier place where learning was student center rather than teacher directed.  A classroom where students constructed their knowledge by taking part in creative tasks and working together. Being a teacher in bilingual class in Polish state school, I was wondering how I could improve my students oral skills while sustaining their natural eagerness for learning.


Creating this learning environment centered around children posed its challenges and I found it was not all easy to conduct while squeezing everything in our time schedule. Based on our curriculum, we need to teach our students so many important things like:

-building communication skills

-improving writing and reading skills

-develope reading interests  and introduce abstract thinking


And other educational learning objectives. For me they are all connected with communication skills. Unfortunately, I found my students losing their motivation and interest when I wanted them to speak English or share their ideas.


In searching for solutions, I continued on my quest for professional development and participated in a workshop at the American School of Warsaw (ASW) and learned about the interactive read-aloud method.


At this workshop, I met Dana and the power of interactive read aloud, which at first seemed to me the same as the kind of read aloud that Polish teacher use, as one of their teaching methods and techniques. However, then I began to notice there are some differences between our way of teaching reading and that one I could see in ASW in Ms Dana LaQuay-Butrym’s classroom. The first noticeable difference was that it wasn’t a text which was available for all students in their student workbooks that they could read at their desks. It was a real book, being read aloud by the teacher who pre-planned her presentation, both reading fluently and with expression and acting out phrases.  Another difference was she stopped students while reading and asked them questions for partnership discussions. What is more it wasn’t something children avoided doing, but rather they readily engaged in the opportunity to share their thinking.  There was a soft buzz of voices as students turned to their partner and began discussing their ideas.  It was not like in our Polish schools where many children don’t take part in talk after reading text associated with many other things (new vocabulary, new letters, a social problem and so on) because students are asked one by one to answer about 4 questions after reading the text with the whole class discussion.  Not everyone is the lucky child chosen to share his or her thinking.  That’s because there is one answer for each question, 25 children in the classroom and only 45 minutes for everything.  Perhaps it doesn’t look this way in every Polish classroom, but it has been my experience as a student and as a teacher in my classroom and what I’ve observed in other Polish classrooms I’ve visited.


After being a guest in ASW, and in Dana’s classroom,  I realized small changes may make learning more engaging and productive in my classroom and in many Polish classrooms.   After my visit, I could imagine my bilingual class reading books written in English and improving their communication skills.  Interactive read-aloud may take 15 minutes each day and that is enough for encouraging children into conversation. Students need to think about what is written and discuss with his or her ideas with a reading partner. Sometimes they just predict what might happen next, which is important if we think about imagination and creativity development as well as building a context for understanding how stories develop.  Sometimes they need to think if they ever experienced the same feelings or ever been in the same situation. In ASW, students are being taught special methods like ‘turn and talk’ that I thought were not suitable for young learners who are easily distracted and may have problems creating a sentence.  However, after seeing young learners in action, I believe that amazing technique should be used also with math, science and writing lessons.  Teachers can set up meaningful partnerships based not only on their levels, but on other important factors as well.  For teachers who use the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) methodology, as I do,  the turn-and-talk method is an amazing help. CLIL focuses on four special areas: content ( the subject itself), communication (language), cognition (thinking skills) and culture. In other words, the students study content ( maths, music, etc.) through and with a second language. It was also my question how to improve student’s ability to speak during maths and science lesson.  Pair work is student’s habit in ASW. They know special rules they don’t shout and eager to work. I discovered children aged 6 up to 10  really keen on  talking, usually  they want  to be first  and the best in everything. That kind of activity help them to learn how to be active listener, too. And on the other side give chance for those really shy to practice their speaking in safe area. In Dana classroom, I saw all children actively engaged in learning while not disturbing others.  Nobody was wasting time, rather everyone was involved. What is more, the partner work might be a first step to efficient group work- where children need to cooperate,  listen to each other, and clearly communicate their own ideas. An  Interactive read aloud is pre-planned and students know what’s the real aim of reading chosen book. In the end of lesson, the teacher sums up what they did which is also of a great importance  (to build students’ confidence about their knowledge).


Part III:  Bringing Interactive read aloud into Polish bilingual class.

I shared my interest in bringing interactive read-aloud into my classroom, where children are in a bilingual setting.  They have Polish as a first language and they are actively learning English each day.  They spend 8 hours a week with a monolingual Polish teacher, but they also spend 2 hours per week having CLIL lessons, 2 English lessons 1 IC, 1 music, 3 PE, 1Art and 6 lessons ( maths/ science).  Our students receive much more instruction in English, than children in other grade one classes in Poland.  Dana was eager to experience the first state funded bilingual classroom in Poland and asked if she could visit our classroom to observe and learn and to also try out and interactive read-aloud in that setting.


Dana and her colleague, Heidi Laffay, got permission to take a professional development day to visit our classroom.  Prior to that visit, Dana and I, met up and collaboratively planned an interactive read-aloud that would be right for my classroom.  We walked through the steps in designing an interactive read-aloud as described above.  We decided on a simple book “Feelings” by Cheryl Ryan that we were confident students would comprehend, however after our first attempt we realized children would have difficulty in talking about it in English although it was well–known subject for them. They could state the first part of the sentence frame in English, I feel……………(sad, happy, angry, scared)……… because……………………………” but after the because they needed Polish to explain the reason or story about what makes them feel that way.  It was also the first time they were being introduced to turn-and-talk in the context of reading and in English.  They also didn’t have pre-determined partners.  Many students struggled to understand what was expected when they were asked to turn-and-talk.  All of these little details became places for us to teach and adjust and to make the next interactive read-aloud more successful.


They were able to say much more  in Polish and that made us realize that we should have begun by introducing interactive read aloud in Polish. We’ve chosen books that seemed to be good for their Polish level of language skills, knowledge and understanding. It was book for six years old children called “Zosia i fiołkowy kapelusz” by Edyta Zarębska. Firstly, we prepared students for the new method ”turn and talk” showing them special rules for that kind of activity in students’ first language. Children work that way without stress connected with unknown words etc. They were eager to work and happy to be listened to by a friend.  After reading a book they could even retell the story. Our next step was to put the same method into English. As we examined level of reading skills in English in this class Dana planned Interactive read aloud (IRA) in English. Knowing that my students had  problems in retelling the story during the reading assessment we wanted to teach them the easiest way of retelling stories. New experience show us real level of their understanding and great opportunity to introduce “turn and talk” and “five fingers retell “ method in English.


Part IV: The Results: Children are involved in communication during lessons

There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your students enjoying reading in the class. After Dana visited, I was wondering what will happen next. I put several English books on the shelves and said that whoever is ready can go and read something, in the end of the lesson. Almost all of my students went to see and read  books. They even recommended books they have read to others and talked about them. My students learned that it’s important to listen to each other and share their ideas.   Our end result, is greatly improved communication both in Polish and in English.


 Appendix: Sample lesson plans




Allington, R.L. & Cunnigham, P.M.  (2001) Schools that work: Where all children read and write,(2nd ed.).  New York: HarperCollins.


Allington, R.L. (2012).  What really matters for struggling readers.  New York: Pearson


August, D., & Shanahan, T. (2006). Developing Literacy in Second-Language Learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth. Retrieved April 30, 2015, from


Calkins, L. M. (2001). The art of teaching reading. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers.


Echevarria, J. & Short, D. J. & Vogt M. (2013). Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP model. Pearson.


Fountas, I. C. & Pinnell, G. S. (2001). Guiding readers and writers grades 3-6: Teaching comprehension, genre, and content literacy.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Fountas, I. C. & Pinnell, G. S. (2009). When readers struggle: Teaching that works K-3. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Fountas, I. C. & Pinnell, G. S. (2011). The continuum of literacy learning grades prek-8:  A guide to teaching.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Harvey S. & Goudvis A. (2007).  Strategies that work: Teaching comprehension for understanding and engagement. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers.


Hickman, P. & Pollard-Durodola, S. D. (2009).  Dynamic read-aloud strategies for English learners: Building language and literacy in the primary grades. Newark, DE: International Reading Association, Inc.


Hoyt, L. (2007).  Interactive read-alouds: Linking standards, fluency, and comprehension 2-3.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Miller, D. (2002).  Reading with meaning: Teaching comprehension in the primary grades. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers.


Ray, K.W. (1999). Wondrous words: Writers and writing in the elementary classroom.  Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).


Serravallo, J. (2010).  Teaching reading in small groups: Differentiated instruction for building strategic independent readers.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Published: 2015-06-22