5 great activities for read alouds in a special education classroom


Read alouds are a popular part of most elementary classrooms. In a special education setting, however, our activities for read alouds often need more structure and visual support. The key is to find a few activities that work well for your students and then incorporate them again and again during your read alouds. This will not only save you tons of time, but it will also increase your students’ success and engagement.

Below are 5 activities for read alouds I used every week. Why 5 activities? We would read the same book aloud for an entire week. Each day there would be a new activity to go with the book. They take a little prep time, but because they repeat every week, it gets easier as the year goes along.

I have some FREE downloads included below that go along with some of my favorite read alouds for elementary school.


The first thing you will want to do is put together a storyboard to go with the book. It should include anywhere from 15-25 pictures. The pictures will reflect the main events, characters, and feelings in the book. I also like to include a few picture symbols that allow students to respond about how they are feeling. Do they like it, don’t like it, or maybe they just need a way to tell you they need a break.

You can also choose to use picture symbols or real photos. This will depend on the learning level of your students as some may not be ready for picture symbols.

Storyboards to use for read alouds

Make a copy for each student. I recommend making a copy on cardstock and either laminating it or putting it in a page protector. Ideally, you will be using these storyboards year after year. The more durable you make them, the longer they will last.

Obviously, you will be using these boards while reading the story. But there are so many more activities you can and should do with them. You can do things like:

  • Scavenger hunts
  • Bingo games
  • Go Fish
  • Speed matching
  • Bean bag toss
  • And so much more!!

To download a list of what to do with storyboards head over to my blog post to read about Awesome Activities for Vocabulary Boards.

Sequencing main events

One of my favorite activities for read alouds is to have students sequence the main events that happen in the story. I do this several ways.

First, start by having students put the actual images from the book in order. For this, I simply photocopy the pages and laminate them. then I hand them out, one to each student. We then work as a group to put the pages in order.

sequencing cards

I also like to make a quick cut and paste worksheet that I will use later in the week. This can be a little more abstract but remember you can always add color-coding to add additional visual support.

sequencing main events from An Extraordinary Egg

To get some sequencing cut and paste worksheets for The Very Busy Spider, click the button below.

Art activities for read alouds

We do lots of arts and crafts in elementary school. Art activities for read alouds not only help reinforce points from the story, but they also work on fine motor skills and following directions.

Try to make these activities as independent as possible. Parents do not want to see perfect art projects that the paraprofessional did while the student watched. Try to come up with ways to modify and adapt the activity so each student can create their own masterpiece.

To download directions and a template to make a tissue paper cricket that goes perfectly with The Very Quiet Cricket, click the button below.

Cooking activities for read alouds

Sometimes, it can be more challenging to find a way to work cooking into an activity for a read aloud. But most weeks, I did my best. Sometimes, it was a simple snack mix that featured foods that started with a letter commonly found throughout the book. One example was a marshmallow mix we made with Is your Mama a Llama?

Again, the key is finding ways to make this as independent an activity as possible. Picture recipes can be time-consuming to put together, but remember, you can use them for various read alouds. I have an entire blog post on Cooking the Classroom that goes through step by step how to create a picture recipe. Plus there is a free recipe there you can download.

Following directions in the form of a recipe is a great life skill, and can be generalized to many other areas.

To get a free picture recipe for pancakes, click the button below. This recipe works great for the books Pancakes, Pancakes, and If you Give a Pig a Pancake.

Social Stories

Finding a good social story to go with a book is a great activity for read alouds. Using a simple story with a clear message can open the door to various social skills. Here are some examples:

  • If You Give a Pig a Pancake >> Borrowing vs Lending
  • The Very Grouchy Ladybug >> Everyone gets angry
  • The Very Quiet Cricket >> Saying Hello
  • The Tiny Seed >> Perseverance

Social stories are truly not hard to write. And the best social stories are written for the specific student for a specific situation by the person who knows him or her best. I have LOTS of blog posts about writing social stories, but the best one to check out is The most important step when writing a social story.

If you would like to grab a free social story to go with The Tiny Seed, just click the button below

I hope this post helped you think of some activities for read alouds you could do with your students. It will make the story much more meaningful to them when it is supported with lots of various activities. Plus, as you find what truly works best with your class, it will save you a ton of time because you can repeat many of the same activities week after week with different books.

If you are looking for ready-made units for read alouds in elementary school, just click below to get a list of those I have available. (no email required)

Read aloud units for elementary school, CLICK HERE


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