Alternatives to The Traditional “Big Book”

Like most primary schools, our literacy storeroom is full of “big books”. Teachers choose big books relevant for their class, taking into account the genre, level of difficulty, contents, features etc of the text. Big books are typically used at the beginning of reading lessons, to tune students in and there is usually a particular learning focus which the teacher reinforces.


For the first few years of my teaching career, I was a regular visitor to the “big book” racks, and would spend a lot of time choosing the books that suited my needs for particular reading sessions.  




This all changed a couple of years ago when I first got my interactive whiteboard. After exploring the stories, activities and websites available online, I realised that the limited choice of the school big book collection was no longer an obstacle in providing my students with a rich and diverse literacy program.




This also aligns with the wide-spread belief that students should be transliterate learners. As teachers we should be exposing our students to the wide variety of texts, media and literary platforms that exist today. Wikipedia defines transliteracy as:

“The ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.”


 Of course there is still definitely a place for big books in the classroom, particularly in the early years of school, as they are an excellent way to teach reading and writing conventions. But it is fantastic that we can now teach our students through the huge array of online options, and this surely makes the classroom a more engaging, energetic and interesting environment for our students.


This week, Kathleen Morris and I presented a professional development session for our staff, where we highlighted just a few ideas for some big book alternatives. We reinforced that there are so many ideas online, and this presentation is just a snapshot of the options available to teachers.


We find new resources online every day and I’m sure others do too. I’d love to hear your ideas!

What is your favourite online alternative to the “big book”?

  9 comments for “Alternatives to The Traditional “Big Book”

  1. mswoodward
    June 9, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Hi there,

    Thank you for some fantastic ideas. I will definitely start exploring the sites you suggested as a way of adding to the literacy program.

    I like the idea of using the class blog for the shared reading experience and as you say a great way of connecting with other students.

    One site that I like to use for listening to a stories is Storylineonline. The students in my class love listening to this while they have their lunch. Their favourite at the moment is ‘Harry The Dog’ read by Betty White.

    Thanks again for the ideas.


    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      June 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      @ Jodi,

      I’m glad you found the sites useful. Whole class reading introductions are so much more interesting now, and using newspapers, BTN, blogs etc really helps our students learn about the world. It also eliminates the common problem of the students already being familiar with all the big books from previous years!

      I used StorylineOnline a fair bit last year too. There is a good range of stories and the kids enjoy listening to the different readers.

      Thanks for the comment!


      • Yvonne
        June 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm

        Hello Kelly, I found your info and slides on Explicit learning invaluable. Iam doing a course on Education support and need this information. May I use some of this for my course. I would appreciate if you could advise the the correct way to reference can you please. Thankyou Yvonne

        • Miss Kelly Jordan
          June 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm

          Hi Yvonne,

          I’m glad you found my information helpful!

          If you just credit my blog address/posts that would be fine, thanks for checking.

          Kind regards,

  2. mrrakt
    June 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Hi Kelly,
    I saved your tweet a little while back in my favourites and have been meaning to get back to it.
    This is a great resource! I use some of the ideas that you mention in the first few slides (YouTube, Newspaper websites etc.) but there are some great links towards the end that I hadn’t seen before. It just makes so much sense to use these types of resources instead of big books. I think big books can have a place but I also think it looks a bit silly if a teacher is sitting by an interactive whiteboard that is turned off while they nurse an awkward big book on their lap.

    Sometimes I have used images from National Geographic as writing prompts too. No words or background information. The students just use the pic to brainstorm any piece of writing they like from narratives to information reports.

    I’m glad I took the time away from (still) collating reports to read and check out the slideshow. Great work!

    Cheers for now!

    Rick KT

  3. Kate Esler
    July 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Hi Kelly,

    Thank you for posting these fantstic alternatives to using traditional big books. I have been trying to use a variety of different media with my Grade Two students and I know these ideas will further engage their learning.

    A website that I use quite a bit for my group rotations is Tumble Books. There are a variety of different stories available for different reading levels, as well as comprehension activities, puzzles and quizzes etc.

    I have been following your class blog etc and am going to use your blog as ispiration for my students this term. I can definitely see the benefit of incorporating technology into all aspects of the curriculum.

    Thanks again for all the tips


    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      July 21, 2011 at 11:30 am

      @ Kate,

      Thanks for the comment! Glad to hear you liked some of the ideas in this post.

      I’ve come across Tumble Books in the past, I’ll have to give it another try!


  4. Rodney Start
    April 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for creating this site to share information with people about teaching literacy. I came across it while searching for info on “Explicit Teaching” in literacy.

    With your permission, I also would like to reference your site as a resource in my final literacy assignment? I’m currently doing my Dip Ed online via Uni of Southern Qld. Looking forward to start teaching Preps ideally in 2014 down here in Melb.

    All the best in Term 2 with your Grade4s.

    Thanks for your passion in teaching children to have fun while learning.


    • Miss Kelly Jordan
      April 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      Hi Rodney,

      Thanks for your comment. That is fine for you to reference my blog, no problem at all. Thank you for asking.

      Good luck with your course and I hope to hear from you again!


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