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.