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Interactive Reading

Interactive reading is an effective and engaging strategy that places the responsibility upon students to construct their own meaning from a reading. It involves in-class reading, principally by students, although this process can work with the teacher reading, as well.  Here is some information to get you started with this reading strategy:

  1. To ensure equal participation and random selection of students, create name sticks. Write each student’s name on a popsicle stick or tongue depressor.  Place them in a small can and pull the students’ names randomly to assign readings, generate questions, or respond to questions asked by the teacher.  Change readers frequently, perhaps in the middle of paragraphs.  This encourages students to follow along closely.  The teacher may also do some reading.  (Be sensitive that not all students may function well with a random reading technique.)
  2. Teach the students to ask for clarification of vocabulary or phrases that they do not understand.  Encourage students to ask questions.  If no one asks about vocabulary items or idioms that may need clarification, use the name sticks to ask specific students what potentially troubling items might mean.  They will quickly become more proficient at recognizing the vocabulary items that trouble them and more proactive at asking for clarification before the teacher asks them.
  3. Teach the students to infer, to discern between fact and inference, and to infer what the text implies. It is worthwhile to teach the linguistic distinction between what the text implies and what the reading may infer.   This can be done using warm-up books or journals and a donut (or bull’s eye) graphic organizer.  See the ninth grade lesson, Integrity and Thank You, Ma’m for an example of this graphic organizer strategy for facts and inferences. The name of the topic (often a character or sometimes a setting) goes in the small center circle (the center of the donut).  Facts from the story go outside of the donut, while the inferences the students make about the topic go inside the donut ring.
  4. Teach the students to predict what will come next in both narrative and expository works, based on titles, expectations of the author, and the text.  Frequently ask, “What is going to come (or happen) next?”
  5. Teach the students to ask questions, including simple on the surface questions that can be answered from the text: What does the boy try to steal from Mrs. Jones? Answer: Her pocketbook or purse.  Also teach under the surface questions:  Why was Mrs. Jones out so late at night?  Answer: Maybe she had to work late.  Maybe she was coming home from church or from drinking.  Why was Roger out so late?  Answer:  Maybe no one was home at his house.  Maybe his parents did not care about him.
  6. Teach the students to summarize.  This is a high-level thinking skill.  If students struggle with summarization, you may start by asking individual students, again with the name sticks, what they remember about a part of the story they have read recently.  List their responses on a white board or overhead.  When the list is reasonably complete, ask the students to decide whether each item should be left in or removed for a summary.  Some discussion may ensue as they discuss what is important to the story.  There may be more than one right answer; it is important that they have a rationale for their choices.  Students can be given lists of items from a paragraph or a piece of writing and asked what they should leave in and leave out of a summary.
  7. Make connections.  Connect what is in the story with other literature, news items, movies or their own lives.
  8. Another element of interactive reading is making judgments or evaluating material in the reading.  Ask the students to decide who they trust in the story, if the character’s actions were appropriate, what the students would do in a similar situation, and what alternatives were available to the characters in the story.  This can be a part of your character education study and a way to delve more deeply into ethical and moral issues within the reading. See the definitions of core ethical values and character traits for vocabulary study.

By Janet Ewell

© 2006 Orange County Department of Education