Read Aloud with Accountable Talk: Making the Invisible Visible

Consultants' Corner

178361272How do we teach our students the questioning, comprehension, thinking and reasoning strategies that proficient readers engage in naturally?  Read Aloud with Accountable Talk is a key instructional component that engages all these strategies. Last week, Michele Farah and I facilitated a Read Aloud with Accountable Talk workshop for K-5 classroom teachers and special educators working with students with IEPs.  This daily instructional component is part of a balanced literacy approach to an English Language Arts block throughout the elementary years, and many times this instructional strategy is employed in secondary grades as well.

The purpose of Read Aloud with Accountable Talk is to engage students in narrative or informational text that is read aloud while the teacher:

1. models the comprehension and thinking required to make sense of the text,

2. poses questions and predictions, and

3. creates, confirms, or updates theories about the text or an author.

115530971 (2)In essence, the teacher’s role during Read Aloud with Accountable talk is to make these “invisible” aspects of language and cognition, which are required for reading comprehension and rigorous thinking, “visible” so that students can practice them in their own reading.

In a gradual-release-of-responsibility instructional delivery framework, Read Aloud with Accountable Talk falls on the “I do” and “We do” end of the continuum for teaching reading comprehension strategies.  Whereas shared reading, guided reading, partnerships, book clubs, and independent reading shift the responsibility for comprehension of text to the student — the “You do” end of the continuum.  After teachers read aloud and model their own thinking and comprehension, students are asked to share their own thinking (i.e., practice the strategies modeled), while the teacher listens in, scaffolds, and provides feedback to students.

Teacher and student talk is “accountable” when it:

  • References an idea or information specifically from the text that is being read aloud
  • Builds on other ideas offered during the dialogue to create shared meaning
  • Includes rigorous thinking, such as comparing, analyzing, reasoning, or evaluating

Educators shared many of their “a-ha”s with Michele and I last week at the workshop, which I offer here as a helpful list of “Do”s and “Don’t”s for implementing Read Aloud with Accountable Talk:

Do This:

Not That:

  • Plan ahead by intentionally selecting the text to read aloud, stopping points for modeling thinking, prompts that will be used to start the student talk, and a clear expectation of what the talk should sound like at each student talking point
  • Grab a book on the go and wing it with any type of question



  • Create anchor charts or sentence starters with students to name comprehension strategies and  conversational moves that readers and talkers use regularly
  • Randomly question or prompt students without modeling thinking and offering scaffolds for students to enter into the conversation
  • I’ll tell you my idea, you offer ideas or information to build on a line of thinking… we build something greater than the sum of its parts
  •  I’ll tell you my idea, you tell me yours… OK, we’re done!
  • To the greatest extent possible, use text and resources that will be used again in other components of the ELA block, or on another day during Read Aloud with Accountable Talk
  • Use texts that are not discussed or used in Reader’s Workshop, Writer’s Workshop, or Word Study

Read Aloud with Accountable Talk is not intended to replace the important act of reading aloud to students for the purpose of enjoying literature or informational text.  It is however, an important instructional strategy that general and special educators can use to explicitly teach the language underpinnings of reading comprehension and rigorous thinking that lead to academic engagement and success.  Check out some of our Read Aloud with Accountable Talk resources in the Consultant’s Collection of the Oakland Schools literacy website. Just type “read aloud” in the title field to perform your search.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADiane Katakowski is a speech and language consultant in the Special Education unit at Oakland Schools. She supports educational speech-language pathologists and special educators in their ability to improve student achievement and engagement in order to close the achievement gap between students with and without IEPs.  She facilitates professional learning around communication, speech and language development, early literacy skill development, and setting goals, progress monitoring, and visually-displaying data to guide intervention for language and literacy skills.  Diane is also a member of Oakland Schools’ multi-disciplinary Response to Intervention – Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (RTI / MTSS) literacy team. 

Beginning Again

Literacy & Technology Notes from the Classroom
my classroom reading corner for mini-lessons

my classroom reading corner for mini-lessons

It’s August, and even though school doesn’t officially start for two more weeks, most teachers I know are getting back into the classroom, dusting off binders & computers (literally) and thinking about the upcoming year.

No matter how many years I’ve been teaching, there is something exciting about the beginning of the school year: new students, new supplies, often new curriculum, and new possibilities. This year, I decided to re-do the color scheme in my 5th grade classroom. Before it was rainbow colors everywhere, and I was ready for something more serene. I defended this decision to my husband by saying that I spend more time there than I do at home during the school year, so it should be a space that makes me happy. (Luckily I could back it up with “extra” money I earned this summer!) But there is more going on here than just aesthetics, I find. This re-doing of the classroom is causing me to re-evaluate and revamp the way I teach.

This summer, I’ve been reading favorite blogs, sifting through professional books, attending workshops, and having deep conversations with colleagues in an attempt to constantly do what is best for my learners. I am blessed to work in a district that embraces a Culture of Thinking and is training us in project-based learning. My principal gives us books like Mindset by Carol Dweck. I am collaborating with teachers in other buildings on a project for the beginning of the year. All of this pushes me to be a better teacher and a deeper thinker about learning. My expectations are higher not only for my students, but for myself as well.

One of the changes I’ve decided to make this year is in writing instruction. In the past, I have had my students blog for  the Two Writing Teachers classroom Slice of Life challenge in March, but this year I am making the commitment to have them blog all year long. While this may not sound like a big deal, allow me to elaborate: this will be in addition to writer’s notebooks and writing workshop. Having fifty 5th graders blog multiple times weekly means that I will be spending hours reviewing posts and approving them for publication, as well as managing the comments that I am requiring of students. Their comments will have to go beyond the typical 5th grade “awesome,” or “cool,” but will have to reflect back to the writing process and the content.

481399781This is a huge undertaking that is born out of reflection and the desire to do what I know is best for my students. I know that having an authentic audience and getting consistent feedback inspires and motivates my learners. Our district Ed Tech Specialist just gave me a link to a site called Quadblogging that allows us to connect with other classrooms for a collaborative blogging experience. I’m still contemplating this leap..I think I’ll get to know my learners first, and we will decide together  if Quadblogging is right for us. This is new thinking for me as well: in the past I would have made the decision, but now I want feedback from my students; we are a team in our learning. I will update our progress in future posts!

As these final days of summer draw to a close, I look around my “new”classroom, and I find myself truly excited for the learning that will happen here.  I’m wondering how other educators are embracing the changes that inevitably come with a new school year.  Please share in the comments section what changes you’re making to your classroom and teaching this year.  As for me, I simply can’t wait to meet my new students and begin again.


BethBeth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006.  She is  blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner  teaches all of their math and science. This enables them  to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University.


Podcast # 7: Reflections on & Implications of John Hattie’s Visible Learning Institute at Oakland Schools


Michigan ASCDMEMSPA, and Oakland Schools collaborated to bring John Hattie to Oakland Schools for a Visible Learning Institute.  Hear a number of participants share their thinking on the latest research on effective teaching, the  implications of effect size, and what contributes to powerful student learning.

This podcast can also be found on iTunes (Oakland Literacy Podcast) where you can subscribe to the bi-weekly podcast.

Podcast #6: Vince Gigliotti – Implementing the Workshop in the Middle School


Vince Gigliotti was the Principal of Anderson Middle School in Berkley, Michigan. In 2014, he will be the Principal of Angell Elementary, also in Berkley. 

Vince shares his insights into the implementation of the workshop model at Anderson Middle School.  He is candid about this process, sharing reflections that will be helpful to any school considering such a move.

If you wish to contact Vince his email is:  [email protected]



Podcast 5: Richard Koch – Writing Portfolios and Learning


Richard Koch is a respected educator and leader in the area of portfolios and writing. He shares what portfolios are, how they support student learning and the teaching of writing, as well as helpful ideas on how to effectively use portfoliosRichard is the Director of the Michigan Portfolios . He is also the co-author of The Portfolio Guidebook and consults with educators in the area of teaching writing and writing assessment.

Contact Richard Koch at:  [email protected]

Detroit Pistons Make ELA Videos for Oakland County Teachers & Students

Literacy & Technology News Video

The Detroit Pistons have produced two videos, starring basketball legend and sports commentator Greg Kelser, for Oakland Schools.  As part of their outreach efforts in public education, The Pistons filmed the two videos focused on important literacy concepts.  The videos are embedded below.  The first concerns how to defend a claim with evidence and the second one is about point of view.  Please feel free to use these short clips in the classroom to introduce these ideas to your students.