Read Aloud Timeline: How-To!

I realized today that while I’ve written about our Read Aloud timeline many times, I haven’t ever really explained how we do it.  I had someone ask me about it and thought I’d write it here, in case you wanted to try it for yourself!  I am sure there are many ways to make it happen, but this is what I’ve found works for us.  Please let me know if you try it and how it works for your readers! 1. Read Ok, I probably should have started after that, but it’s the first step, so there it is. 🙂  In both 5th grade and 1st grade, read aloud is one of the most important (and enjoyable) times of the day! It is a sacred event that happens every day, no matter what.  It is (as I mentioned here) not about laying down and relaxing after recess time (in fact, our RA isn’t even after recess!).  it is a time for a family of learners to enjoy text together–to laugh, to talk about language, to make predictions, to ask questions, to just share a positive literacy experience.  And especially for emerging readers, it’s a time to hear what good reading sounds like and to hear texts that they may not yet be ready to read for themselves. 2. Create timeline images I’ve done this step of the process in many ways, and is probably the step most open to interpretation and variation depending on your community.  In the beginning–for any grade level–I have them choose a part of the story that they like.  For most kids, this means something that was funny or surprising.  After we’ve gone through our first 2 or 3 books, then, the focus of the image might change a little bit.  I might have them choose the most important part.  If we’re studying inferring or predicting (or some other specific comprehension strategy), I’d have them choose an image that shows where they used that strategy to make sense.  For our purposes in 1st grade, we’re still just choosing whatever image we want; our next step is to choose an important part of the story. I usually have my students draw their images on a regular 8 1/2 X 11 piece of paper (because they fit nicely on the wall and are still a good size to see the picture from far away), with colored pencils or crayons.  Bright colors are preferred, just because the contrast is easier to see across the room, and all of the white space must be filled in (well except of course in the last few books we’ve read–they were graphic novels and kids could give me a good reason for why they left the white space there: “It was like that in the book, so my image looked like that, too!”).  On the back of the picture friends have to write what the image shows, as well as why they chose it.  The mechanics of the writing have to be correct, both because it’s good writing, but also because in the next step someone else will have to be able to understand what their image is all about.  This step usually takes place right after we finish a book, and at this point we can finish our images in about 30 minutes.  If we don’t, they usually finish them at choice time, take them home, or we have them out for morning work the next week so we can vote the next day.

3. Vote In our class we have small groups of 4 that we use for the purpose of choosing read aloud images, as well as anything that I need to quickly break up the class to accomplish.  The groups stay the same all year, and get to know each other really well.  Depending on the year they have different names: when I taught 4th grade they were called “districts” to relate to our study of state government, the year we had a construction theme they were called “zones,” the year I had an animal print theme (I know–that sounds really lame now….) they were called “tribes” and this year they’re just generally called our Room Teams.  Some years the groups are numbered and some years the teams make names for themselves.  How you do this part really doesn’t matter, except that for me it’s the easiest way to narrow down our 20 pictures to a manageable 4. Depending on the grade, the groups might vote for both the image on the wall and the image on the front of our class book.  I found out VERY QUICKLY that with 1st graders it’s easier just to focus on the wall.  I also found out VERY QUICKLY that it’s much easier for them to choose their favorite image when they are not considering their own picture.  The first time we voted this year we got NOWHERE because everyone kept choosing their own picture.  Looking back now it makes perfect sense, considering where first graders are developmentally, but at the time it was just frustrating!  So as I shared my frustration with my team, my super smart friend Rochelle suggested I have them go through the process with random pictures.  It seemed like it was worth a try, and so the next time we did it I passed out the pictures so that they didn’t have their own picture in their hand or in their group at all.  They had to explain the part of the story on the sheet they were given and then choose the one that best represented the story from those choices.   I was AMAZED at how different and how EASY it was that way.  Thanks, Ro, for your great suggestion! Another thing i learned really quickly was that doing the whole raise-your-hand-for-the-one-you-want-to-vote-for process doesn’t work well with first graders either.  Even with only 4 choices (after we narrowed it down in our groups), it seemed like someone didn’t vote, someone else voted more than once, or they kept changing their minds based on what everyone else was voting for.  I couldn’t keep a clear count and had to figure out some other way. So, as both a more clear way to tell who’s voting for what, and as a way to make the process more interactive (which is good because they need to move!), we put pictures in 4 different places around the room and kids line up in front of the picture they are choosing.  It’s really fast and also allows us with great opportunities for counting, grouping and talking about efficient strategies for figuring out how many votes there are for each picture.  It’s a win-win!

4. Make a class book As I mentioned recently, the rest of the images go into a class book–1 for each book that we finish.  These live in our class library for kids to read and enjoy all year (well they do once the teacher takes time to bind them into books!).  So far we’re up to 14, and I figure we’ll have at least 20 at this rate (hopefully even more!!). 5. Repeat steps 1-4 This is the process we’ve gone through 14 times now.  It’s the process I’ve gone through with other classes close to 50 other times over the past 5 years as well.  And if you’ve seen the pictures I’ve posted, ALL of those images are hanging in my room right now!  There is something really special about being surrounded by all of those pictures, celebrating great books, great discussions and fun times with friends.  It’s fun to watch the timeline grow, and for classes to ask about old pictures.  I also love when past students come back to visit and we can connect again as we talk about those timeline images, too!


This is an idea of what the timeline looks like wrapped around the walls of Rm. 202. I actually had to take it down and move it further over to make more room at the beginning of this year. And I am not sure what I will do next year–I will have officially wrapped all the way around and run out of room! What a great problem to have! The timeline started in August 2009 and is still going in January of 2015. I am not sure I envisioned that when I started doing this back then!

This shows a more current version of this year's section.  I think there are still 3 or 4 missing from this picture.  We're reading so fast I can't keep up!

This shows a more current version of this year’s section. I think there are still 3 or 4 missing from this picture. We’re reading so fast I can’t keep up!

6. End-of-the-year Book After you are finished with your last read aloud (which for me runs right up to the last day of school–yep, sometimes we’re finishing our images, voting and laminating in the last hours of our time together!), something special happens.  All of the books that your class has been enjoying all year will become a special end-of-the-year memory for each kiddo.  The last thing I do is take all the books apart, and reorganize the pictures by kiddo (which is pretty easy because every image has both the child’s name and their class number on it so they can be easily put in orderly piles), and create a NEW book for each and every one.  I include a cover that lists all of the titles, authors and time frames for when we read each one.  Sometimes I include a note about how much I’ve enjoyed the reading journey, or maybe a quote from one of our favorites.  I haven’t ever had kids vote on their very favorite from the year, but if I did, this might be the cover of this individual book (who knows, maybe I’ll try it this year!). Whew!  Wow–that is really a more involved process than I thought when I sat down to write this.  But it’s TOTALLY worth every minute we spend on it!  I am not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but this is not an original idea of mine (I saw the timeline created in a classroom in Columbia, MO when I was there for a training many years ago), but the process for how I do it has been tweaked to fit my purposes over the years.  It’s definitely one of those things that someone way smarter than me thought of, but that I have made my own through trials and errors to fit what works for me and my kiddos.  I’d love to hear what works for you and YOUR students! Happy reading!! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Read Aloud Timeline: How-To!

  1. Pingback: 100th Day Questions | 20somethingkids and 1kookyteacher

  2. Pingback: First Grade Read Aloud Timeline–UPDATE | 20somethingkids and 1kookyteacher

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