Well…then you can understand how dismayed I was related to this topic when I first heard of my move back to primary. I had spent 10 years collecting some of my favorite upper-grade chapter books, reading some of them over and over, year after year because of their impact and enjoyment.
Don’t get me wrong, there are read alouds in first grade, too. TONS of them. I mean sometimes we read 4-5 picture books in one day. But I was sad that I’d be missing my chapter book time, kids all gathered around my feet hanging on every word, yelling “don’t stop” when I closed the book because the chapter was over and the story was just too good to not keep going. What I found out is that that scene can happen in first grade, too–it’s just with different books and different kids.
I have been a collector of books for a while, and spend much of my summer reading piles and piles of them. Now the piles I get when I come home from the library are just as tall, but there are more books in them. So actually all of the things I love about the read aloud timeline are still happening, just in a little bit of a different way.
I chose the first book we’d read this year, after recommendations from two fabulous first grade teachers I know, Leah and Christy. When I asked my colleagues to share favorite primary chapter books, they separately suggested the My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I was kind of shocked that in all the years I’ve been both reading and teaching, I’d never heard of them. I tried the first book out with my own kids at home this summer and it was a hit, so I figured I’d follow their advice and try it out.
When we got to the end of this book, and it was time to draw the images for our timeline, I was a little unsure if they could actually do it. I know, that’s probably not fair, but again–I had established the whole idea with older readers and was only partly sure that beginning readers (or listeners in this case) would be able to process the story in a way that would allow them to create a detailed visual.
But what I got instead was a great collection of detailed, colorful pictures of my students’ favorite images from the book. After two tries of voting for our favorite image (I did learn that it’s REALLY hard to vote on the best picture unless that picture is yours….), we were able to pic one that reminds us of the main idea of the story. Since then we’ve voted to read Clementine, the first in the Babymouse series and now The Lemonade War. I am SO excited with how this is going, and my kiddos love it, too! They love read aloud, and it’s helping them learn to love books–which I hope will stay with them for a long time to come!
Check out what this year’s portion of the timeline looks like: