Rethinking the Read Aloud: Repeated Interactive Read Alouds in Kindergarten Dorothy Sisk George Mason University Spring 2013 Action Research PBA



Rationale Everyone loves hearing a good story. Often a child’s first exposure to literacy is hearing a story in an adult's arms. Aside from being an enjoyable experience for the reader and listener, a plethora of research has been done on the positive academic effects of read alouds. Therefore many teachers utilize read alouds as an essential component of their literacy block. According to Fountas and Pinnell (1999): Reading to children is the most effective literacy demonstration you can provide. As you read aloud, you demonstrate how to think and act like a reader; you also provide insights into writing because you are sharing a coherent, meaningful piece of written language that an author has constructed. (p. 9). In practice, however, not all read alouds are created equal. Recent research exposed a specific type of read aloud to provide an even richer learning experience: the interactive read aloud. Fountas and Pinnell (2007) go further to define an interactive read aloud as “A teaching context in which students are actively listening and responding to an oral reading of a text” (p. 247). In my spring kindergarten placement, the first part of the day I took over was the readaloud. I was very confident when I initially took this over: I had lots of experience and training on this subject. But after a few lessons, I grew frustrated with them. My read-alouds lacked focus, my questioning didn’t reach higher-order thinking, and student responses reflected this: they were often brief and off topic. Further, I noticed that students forgot important parts of the story and when they did recall information it was not the main point I had intended or expected.



Bothered by these observations, I researched what I was doing wrong and how I could improve. I went back to my binders of articles from two literacy methods courses. The article Repeated Interactive Read-Alouds in Preschool and Kindergarten by Lea M. McGee and Judith Schickedanz (2007) finally brought clarity to my practice. I realized that what I thought was an “interactive” read-aloud wasn’t at all. With this new insight onto what a successful read-aloud incorporated, I decided to take action. I revamped my read-alouds based on the above guidelines and measured the effect of repeated interactive read-alouds on student comprehension and vocabulary through rubrics, observations, and reflections. My question is: How do repeated interactive read-alouds affect student comprehension and vocabulary? Literature Review Introduction My study focused on the effects of repeated interactive read-alouds on student comprehension and vocabulary. McGee and Schickedanz (2007) state that merely reading aloud is not enough to build students’ vocabulary and comprehension. Rather, the method matters most. The most effective interactive read-alouds: • • • • • incorporate teachers' modeling of higher-level thinking, ask thoughtful questions calling for analytic talk, prompt children to recall a story, are repeated and related by topic, and develop vocabulary through inserting short definitions of words and phrases during reading.



To focus my study I researched other academic studies that measured effects of read alouds on various aspects of emergent literacy including comprehension and vocabulary development. After reviewing ten studies and several articles, I found four emergent themes that cut across each study: 1) Interactive read alouds evoke higher-level responses from students (analytic talk); 2) Interactive read alouds increase student vocabulary; 3) Interactive read-alouds increase and strengthen student use of comprehension strategies; and 4) Interactive read alouds benefit at-risk student populations. 1) Interactive read alouds evoke higher-level responses from students (analytic talk) When an interactive read aloud is implemented, students engage in high-level thinking. In a study of an at-risk 5-year-old, Kevin, Wiseman (2012) found that due to the use of interactive read alouds, where Kevin could respond with his own ideas and use his own background knowledge, he responded to the text with increasing understanding and complexity (2012, p.271). During this study, Wiseman observed that at the beginning of the year Kevin’s responses were largely literal interpretations of the test. By the end of the year, his responses gained complexity and he was able to make text-to-self connections as well as text-to-text connections (2012 p.265). One reason for the increase in higher-order responses is due to the nature of teacherstudent interactions during Interactive read alouds (Wiseman, 2011; Dickinson & Smith, 1994). Wiseman (2011) conducted another study on interactive read alouds with more participants that researched the types of teacher-student interactions that occurred during the read alouds. She discovered that these interactions, which ranged from modeling to extending, allowed for collective construction of meaning and helped students make complex connections and



demonstrate higher-order thinking (Wiseman, 2011). While not focused solely on interactive read alouds, Dickinson and Smith (1994) studied preschool read alouds to identify patterns of teacher-child interaction. They also found that two patterns of interaction that involved plenty of teacher-child dialogue evoked much more analytic talk by the students (1994). The analytic talk observed in interactive read alouds is significant because many of the studies identified this aspect as the key driver of student achievement in many areas of early literacy development (Dickinson, 1994; Wiseman, 2011; Wiseman 2012). 2) Interactive read-alouds increase student vocabulary Children enter school with a wide range of vocabulary ability, but many enter with minimal knowledge, and low-income students can enter school with half the vocabulary of their middle- or upper class peers (Silverman, 2007). According to Hemphill and Tivnan (2008), early (pre-school and kindergarten) vocabulary is a strong and consistent indicator of reading comprehension, and has a significant relationship with children’s level of reading comprehension at the end of third grade. Several studies have focused on ways to increase vocabulary through read-alouds (Silverman, 2007; Whitehurst et al, 1988; Hargrave & Senechal 2000). Two studies specifically focused on the use of dialogic read alouds and their effect on vocabulary knowledge of preschoolers (Whitehurst et al, 1988; Hargrave & Senechal, 2000).Whitehurst et al (1988) defines dialogic read alouds as having three principles: 1) encourage children to talk, 2) give informative feedback to the child, and 3) the reader should change the questions and feedback as the child’s abilities develop. These are the same principles that later guided Hargrave & Senechal’s work (2000, p.76). Both studies found that when these dialogic principles were implemented, children showed significantly greater gains, as much as an



8.5-month difference in growth, in expressive vocabulary compared to peers in a control group (Whitehurst et al, 1988; Hargrave & Senechal, 2000). Instead of implementing control and experimental groups in their study, Dickinson & Smith (1994) observed read-alouds to 4-year-old students, examined patterns of student talk, discovered three distinct patterns of reading books, and measured student vocabulary growth across the three styles of book readings. The study showed that the more interactive read-alouds that engaged students in analytic talk had strong effects on student vocabulary (Dickinson & Smith, 1994). Highlighting the positive benefits of analytic talk on vocabulary growth, Silverman (2007) extended Dickinson & Smith’s research by implementing the three styles of book readings in kindergarten classrooms and measuring student vocabulary growth. The research corroborated Dickinson and Smith (1994) and showed that student vocabulary grew more when students engaged in an active analysis of word meanings (Silverman, 2007). 3) Interactive read-alouds increase and strengthen student use of comprehension strategies Aside from the positive gains in student vocabulary, several studies focused on student usage of broader comprehension skills and strategies. Sipe (2000) conducted an observational study of 27 first and second graders responses during an interactive read aloud. He concluded that their responses fell into five distinct categories that exemplified sophisticated textual critique, including analysis, personal connections, and intertextual responses (Sipe, 2000). This highlights interactive read alouds as one of the most important areas for the development of key comprehension skills (Sipe, 2000). Two studies took this idea a step further to specifically study the effects of interactive read alouds on retelling/summarizing ability, an important comprehension strategy (Lever &



Senechal, 2010; Morrow, 1990). The findings indicate that interactive read alouds increase the retelling ability of kindergarten students: their retelling narratives were better structured, included more story elements such as main characters and settings, included more words and emotional references, and included grammatical structures and story-specific vocabulary (Lever & Senechal, 2010; Morrow, 1990). These studies guided my research, as they highlighted specific comprehension skills (retelling) that I could monitor to assess student achievement. 4) Interactive read alouds benefit at-risk student populations Finally, Mol et al (2009) performed a meta-analysis of relevant research studying effects of interactive read alouds on preschool through first grade pre-readers. The meta-analysis revealed that nearly all of the studies included at-risk student populations (Mol et al, 2009). Indeed, of the studies I have cited in this review, all studies used subjects from diverse backgrounds, including English language learners and low-income students (Wiseman, 2012; Hargrave & Senechal, 2000; Dickinson & Smith, 1994). Many of the subjects were labeled atrisk for language and literacy development (Wiseman, 2011; Sipe, 2000). This is a significant finding, as it underlines the receptiveness of this population to an interactive read-aloud intervention. Conclusion To help students increase their vocabulary, strengthen their use of comprehension skills, and increase their use of higher-order thinking, research supports using Interactive Read Alouds as part of the kindergarten literacy block. Based on this research as well as the work done by read aloud experts such as Linda Hoyt and McGee and Schickedanz, I created and implemented



structured read-alouds to study its effect on my students’ vocabulary knowledge and comprehension skills. Context and Intervention The school where I implemented my research is a Title 1 elementary school located in an east coast suburb. The school has a diverse student population representing many nationalities and languages. Out of the whole school population, 60% of students are Hispanic, 25% of students are Asian, 10% of students are white, 2% Black and 3% are listed as “other.” Due to this diversity, many students speak another language at home, and 62% of the school is Limited English Proficient. Over two-thirds of the school population receives free or reduced price lunch, the Federal poverty signifier. My kindergarten classroom represented the same rage of ethnicities and languages. Of the 21 students in the class, 20 are English language learners: three speak Urdu at home, 11 speak Spanish, two speak Vietnamese, and we also have speakers of Tagalog and Pilipino. These students arrived at school with varying English ability: some did not know any English while others were nearly fluent. The reading level of the students likewise varied over a larger range. Around five of the students received Pre-A level instruction while another group of 4 received DRA level 12 reading instruction. Over a four week period I implemented four read alouds. Each story was repeated three times on consecutive days. To help construct each read aloud I consulted Linda Hoyt’s template for effective read alouds and McGee and Schikendanz’s guidelines in effective read alouds. My interactive read alouds contained the following components, with examples of how they were incorporated in my first week of read alouds:



Specific Learning Outcomes: I focused each lesson on the achievement of one specific comprehension or vocabulary skill. For my first week, my objective was for students to use sequencing words (first, next, after that, then, finally) in their story comments during the read aloud and retelling after.

Strategic Selection of Text: Once the skill was chosen, I then selected a text that helped achieve this goal, and also connected with current content being taught. For my first week, the students learned about magnets in science. I found a rich fiction text about a family of refrigerator magnets, The Shivers in the Fridge by Fran Manushkin, which fit well with my objective of sequencing, and also tied into the science content for the week.

Selected Focus Vocabulary and Teaching Strategy for Vocabulary: I then previewed the book and pre-identified one or two vocabulary words to focus on during the reading. To highlight the vocabulary, I incorporated kid-friendly definitions, had students act the word out, or discussed other examples of the word. In my first read aloud I focused on the word “ponder.” I inserted a kid friendly definition into my read aloud, so that every time I read the word “ponder” I told students: “to ponder is another way to say that you’re thinking about something.”

Student turn-and-talks: Around every five minutes during my reading, I prompted turn-and-talk moments during which two children shared ideas about the text using skills from the learning objective. To set this up, I modeled my thinking, asked a question, and then directed students to discuss with their partners, and then share with the whole class.



Teacher Modeling: I planned several opportunities for teacher modeling in my turn-and-talks that followed a gradual release model (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). First, I modeled the skill for my students. For example, during my first Shivers read aloud, I modeled how to retell the events of the story using the sequencing words “first” and “next.” During our next turn-and-talk, I started the students off by sequencing the beginning of the story, and then had them practice continuing the retelling with sequencing words such as “after that” and “then.” Finally, I had them use all of their sequencing words to retell the story on their own.

Higher Order Thinking: To encourage higher-order thinking I utilized questions that reached the analyzing and evaluating levels on Bloom's Taxonomy. For example, in the my turn-and-talk during the Shivers reading, I modeled using sequencing words in my retelling, and then asked students to evaluate my retelling, determining whether I included everything or missed any details. Data Collection

My study aimed to determine the effects of repeated interactive read alouds on kindergarteners’ vocabulary and comprehension skills. To gauge the effectiveness of my intervention, I measured three skills: student use of comprehension skills, student retelling ability, and finally student use of vocabulary. To measure these skills, I collected data on each day of implementing the read alouds. I video recorded each read aloud and watched them after school to tally observations in a spreadsheet. I also wrote daily and weekly in a teacher reflection journal. My final data collection tool was a retelling assessment taken from Linda Hoyt’s book Interactive Read Alouds Grades K-1.



Video Observations I video recorded each interactive read aloud I implemented (see Appendix A). At the end of the day, I watched the read aloud and tallied behaviors I observed based on an observation matrix I adapted from Linda Hoyt's Interactive Read Alouds K-1 that monitors student use of comprehension strategies. The specific behaviors I looked for were: relating comments to the story, using sequencing words (first, next, etc.) in their comments, using story vocabulary in comments, retelling the story, using story information in partner conversation, making prediction and inferences, offering opinions, making predictions, and asking questions. I tallied each time I observed those behaviors in the videos. This allowed me to collect data on three different measures. I was able to tally specific observations on whether, and how, students were using comprehension strategies. It also allowed me to measured students’ retelling ability by checked student responses during the read aloud in my observations. Finally, I was able to measure student usage of story vocabulary in my observations. Teacher reflection journal I also wrote daily and weekly in a teacher reflection journal (see Appendix B). In my journal I noted specific areas student achievement and where students struggled to grasp the concepts. I also took note of trends in student progress and whether I noticed improvement over time, and monitored use of student language sand vocabulary. This allowed me to measure each one of the targeted skills. I took note of the use of comprehension strategies, retelling ability, and vocabulary usage. Retelling Assessment



The last data collection tool I used was a retelling assessment taken from Linda Hoyt's Interactive Read Alouds K-1 (see Appendix C). I implemented this assessment on four students after each read aloud. I selected the students to represent a range of reading abilities and English proficiency. I met with each student individually and allowed them to flip through the Ages of the book before I began the assessment. I then asked them to "tell me everything you know about this story, especially the parts you think are most important." If the struggled getting started I prompted the to tell me what happened first and what happened after that. I then asked a follow up question such as, "how would you describe this story to a friend" and "what did you like most about the book and why." I took notes on their responses and assigned a score of one through five, five showing mastery and one showing little retelling ability. This tool allowed me to measure the students retelling ability, as well as whether they used story vocabulary in their retellings. Data Analysis After collecting my data, I analyzed the first week of data to determine whether my students’ comprehension and vocabulary had increased. It is important to note here that I still have three weeks of data that I have not yet analyzed. I used both qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze my data in order to see overall trends and patterns in student achievement. Qualitative Data The only form of qualitative data I used was my teacher reflection journal. To analyze this data I read over my entries for each day and the end of week entry. I then went back over the entries and coded them based on the preset themes of the skills I measured: vocabulary usage, comprehension skills, and retelling ability. After I separated my notes into these three categories,



I looked for emergent themes, particularly whether I saw improvement or confusion, and which students excelled and struggled. Quantitative Data I utilized two forms of quantitative data: the retelling assessment and my observation tallies. To measure student growth in the retelling assessment, I analyzed the scores for each day of the assessment. To do so I looked at each individual student's scores, and measured growth between day one and two, and day two and three. I also averaged all four students’ scores on each on the days as well as the average change between each read aloud. I color coded the data to show areas of growth in green and no change in yellow (see table below). Next, I analyzed the quantitative data from my observations. To do so, I went over each category and calculated the change in occurrence from day one to day two and day two to day three. I then created a heat map with those numbers to highlight significant growth, stagnation, and decreases in instances. I created a rule in Excel where the lowest numbers were labeled in red, the highest numbers in green, and no change in yellow (see table below). I then organized the questions by skill I measured: comprehension skills, retelling ability, and vocabulary usage. This allowed me to see the greatest areas of growth as well as area of no change, and in one instance, a decrease. Findings 1. Students' showed greatest growth in retelling ability When analyzing my data, the first significant finding that stood out was that student retelling ability increased the most. In the first read aloud, I only observed six instances of



students' correctly retelling the events of the story. By the third day, I observed twenty instances of students' correctly retelling the story, a gain of 14 instances, the greatest gain by far (see Appendix A). This confirmed my findings in the retelling assessment. In this assessment, the scores improved on average by a point on a five point scale each day of the read aloud, for a total of two points over the three day period. This showed student growth from a level where they could not identify neither main ideas nor sequence events, to a level where the main ideas and supporting details were understood and in sequence (see Appendix C). I also noted this growth in my reflections, with themes such as increased dialogue and better sequencing. 2. Students used a wider variety of comprehension skills In the first read aloud, students tended to use only predicting and inferring as comprehension skills. There were eight instances of these skills being used in the first read aloud (see Appendix A). However, only eight of the student comments during the first read aloud were related to events in the story, and there was little dialogue between partners during the turn and talks (see Appendix B). By the third read aloud, the data shows the students using a broader variety of comprehension skills, and focusing their comments on the story. On the second and third read aloud students were engaging in a much richer dialogue, where I even noticed partners correcting each other on the sequence of events or the details in their conversations (see Appendix B). They also made more connections to the story: in the first read aloud they didn’t make any but by the third they made four connections from their lives to the story (see Appendix A). There were two areas that showed no growth and a decrease in occurrence: inferences and opinions. On the first day there were six instances of predicting by students. On the second



and third day, there were no instances of predictions (see Appendix A). This could potentially be explained by the fact that since the story is repeated, there is not a need for predicting by students. Similarly, there was no occurrence of a student offering an opinion about the story in any of the read alouds. Since this is the highest order of thinking according to Bloom’s Taxonomy, and this was only my first week of interactive read alouds, I can only assume that I would need to analyze data for later weeks to see if offering opinions would increase in occurrences. 3. Students used more story vocabulary, but not my focus vocabulary By the third read aloud, students used many more vocabulary words and phrases from the story, but did not use the words that I had targeted with in-story definitions. In my observations, I recorded only three instances of students using story vocabulary in their discussion and comments. By the third read aloud, I recorded nine instances of using story vocabulary, a threefold increase (see Appendix A). The word and phrases they used, however, were not the ones I focused on in my read alouds. In my reflection journal, I noted several times the usage of the repeated phrase in the story “reached out...” This phrase is repeated many times in the story and was most often repeated in the students’ comments. I also noticed that students remembered the name of one of the settings, Mt. Ketchup, and used that phrase three times in their comments. The highest-level reader only used the word I focused on, “pondered,” during her retelling assessment. No one else used that vocabulary in his or her discussion or comments (see Appendix B). Implications



I have always felt that interactive read alouds would be an essential component of my future classroom: now I have the data to back up why they are so important. I was thrilled to see that my students showed tremendous growth in their comprehension of the stories. The data collected on comprehension ability demonstrates the positive affect of highly focused and structured interactive read alouds. While I did see growth in student comprehension, I was surprised that my data did not show that the students picked up on my vocabulary. While they were using language from the story, I hoped that they would also pick up on the words I focused on. Perhaps the words I selected were not as useful in the students retelling of the story, and in the future I will be more selective about which words I choose and make sure to select words that the students will have an opportunity to reuse after the readings. This was nearly opposite of the studies I reviewed. In the studies, the majority found their most significant student achievement in vocabulary usage, and found only moderate growth in comprehension. In these studies, however, the vocabulary instruction was more intensive and a big chunk of instruction, where I focused on comprehension and inserted smaller vocabulary definitions. In the future I would like to adjust my method of vocabulary instruction in order to achieve more student improvement in this area. It is also important to note that I only analyzed data from one week of a four week intervention. I may find once I analyze the rest of my data, that students did improve vocabulary usage. I am also excited to further analyze my data, since it appears from my preliminary data findings that students with limited English proficiency gained the most in retelling ability. I hope



future data analysis I can find a relationship between interactive read alouds and comprehension and vocabulary growth among Level 1 English language learners.



References: Dickinson, D. K., & Smith, M.W. (1994). Long-term effects of preschool teachers’ book readings on low-income children’s vocabulary and story comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 29, 104-122. Fountas, I. & Pinnell, G. S. (1999). Matching Books to Readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Fountas, I. & Pinnell, G. S. (2007). The continuum of literacy learning, grades K-2: A guide to teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Hargrave, A. & Senechal, M. (2000). A book reading intervention with preschool children who have limited vocabularies: The benefits of regular reading and dialogic reading. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15(1), 75-90. Hemphill, L. & Tivnan, T. (2008). The importance of early vocabulary for literacy achievement in high-poverty schools. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 13, 426-451 Lever, R. & Senechal, M. (2010). Discussing stories: On how a dialogic reading intervention improves kindergarteners’ oral narrative construction. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 108(2011), 1-24. McGee, L.M., & Schikedanz, J.A. (2007). Repeated interactive read-alouds in preschool and kindergarten. The Reading Teacher, 60(8), 742-751. Mol, E., Bus, G. & de Jong, M. (2009). Interactive book reading in early education: A tool to stimulate print knowledge as well as oral language. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 979-1007.



Morrow, L. M. & Smith, J. (1990). The effects of group size on interactive storybook reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 25(3), 213-231. Pearson, P.D., & Gallagher, M.C. (1983). The instruction of reading comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 8, 317-344. Reese, E., & Cox, A., (1999). Quality of adult book reading affects children’s emergent literacy. Developmental Psychology Silverman, R. (2007). A comparison of three methods of vocabulary instruction during readalouds in kindergarten. The Elementary School Journal, 108(2), 97–113. Sipe, L.R. (2000). The construction of literary understanding by first and second graders in oral response to picture storybook read-alouds. Reading Research Quarterly, 35(2), 252–275. Whitehurst, G., Falco, F., Lonigan, C., Fischel, J. E., DeBaryshe, B. D., Valdez-Menchaca, M., & Caulfield, M. (1988). Accelerating language development through picture book reading. Developmental Psychology, 24, 552-558. Wiseman, A. (2012). Resistance, engagement, and understanding: A profile of a struggling emergent reader responding to read-alouds in a kindergarten classroom. Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 28(3), 255-278. Wiseman, A. (2011). Interactive read alouds: Teachers and students constructing knowledge and literacy together. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38(6), 431-438.



INTERACTIVE READ ALOUDS IN KINDERGARTEN – Appendix B: Teacher Reflection Journal






Reflection A large part of the debate about education policy today rests on the topic of teacher accountability, and using research and data to support instructional decisions. Teachers are now, more than ever, expected to use Action Research to support their classroom pratices. This is reflected in Fairfax County Public Schools, which now operate in Professional Learning Communities that use data-driven research to employ best practices. Before I embarked on this journey to becoming a teacher researcher, I did not feel confident in my ability to support my instructional decisions with data. I now feel confident beginning my career as a knowledgable teacer researcher, and plan to use Action Research in my classrooms in the future. My greatest area of growth during this process has been in my ability to plan, collect, and analyze data with a specific purpose. In the past, I only had a loose framework for how to gather assessment data into a meanigful narrative. I also found during this course that during my initial Action Research implementation I did not collect data with enough specificity to answer my question. Now, I am confident in my ability to plan several forms of data collection to find results in a specific area. I also feel prepared to conduct data collection with the rigor and structure necessary for meaningful analysis. Most importantly, I now have the tools to look at all forms of data with a critical eye, and find themes across all the data, instead of relying on one form to draw conclusions. While I do feel confident in data planning, collection, and analysis, I am still finding a way to make this process seamless with my daily teaching. Since I was “learning on the job” this first time around, it was a somewhat time consuming process. I want to find better, more efficient ways to collect data in my classtoom. I think that with everything I have learned during



this capstone course, as well as with further reflection and self-guided learning, I will be able to find a way to collect data that will fit into my daily teaching schedule. I am committed to continuing my practice as a techer researcher. I saw first-hand the benefits of my intervention on my neediest students. But Action Research made my observations visible to a wider audience. Having the research to support my instruction and demonstrate their learning is incredibly reassuring and powerful. It not only reaffirms my use of interactive readalouds, but could potentially be inspiration for another teacher to try my intervention. The benefit in my classroom would be incentive enough to continue the process, but also anticipating potential benefit to other teacher and students is a major incentive to continue my practice as a teacher researcher.

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