The first year I taught 5th grade, I came upon a great idea for previewing chapter books with readers–the idea being that you teach them how to do it together with a whole class read aloud and then they’d hopefully begin to transfer the process to independent reading. Well, I can’t say that that ever happened, and I don’t even teach 5th anymore to try again, but what I do know is that the process worked well enough that I decided to revive it for a try in first grade.
I believe that our newest chapter book is the 21st we’ve shared together this year. Yes, I said 21st! That’s amazing, no? We agree. 🙂 Well, if you’ve been following our read aloud timeline progress and updates, then you know we enjoy short books with funny characters, interesting pictures and exciting adventures, and that we’ve become fans of Kate DiCamillo (we’ve read 7 of her books!). Once along the way, we tried something a little longer and more complex, and started reading The Lemonade War (I have read the series and also heard once of a whole school doing this as a RA and thought I’d try it with my crew), but quickly abandoned it when it seemed like we weren’t ready for something with such little support for readers (well, listeners in this case).
Well, recently it was my turn to choose the title (since they’d had control of the previous 15!) and I introduced them to the amazing world of The One and Only Ivan. They did great with that one, even without pictures and even though it was super long.
Well…it was my turn again, and with the help of my friend Millicent (to whom I should really give the credit for choosing the book with her mom), and the choice was the classic The Wizard of Oz. I was willing to try it with this crew both because I think we’re more ready that earlier in the year, and because I wanted to try it with my own first grader last year (when it was suggested on a list by NPR for their Backseat Book Club).
As we were getting started, though, I wondered if there was something I should do this time around to help support my kiddos, since the story is much more complicated that others we’ve read. That’s when I thought of how I’ve brought so many other things from my 5th grade days to 1st grade and they’ve gone really well. I knew I had just the thing to try, and it was our Read Aloud Preview Packets.
With 5th graders, each kid actually had their own paper copy of the packet, on which they’d write questions, inferences, noticings and whatever else they needed to help them digest the story. I figured that this time, since it was our first time, we’d try it together and then maybe I’d give them a go at it on their own.
Tuesday, then, we sat down together and I opened our class copy in Word on the ActivBoard. Here’s how our conversation went:
Starting with the front cover, we studied and analyzed, pulling up all the schema we had as well as recording wonderings we had based on the picture. This one was different than the actual cover of our book (which is a beautifully bound green leather copy), so I grabbed one that I thought would create a good conversation.
Then we were on to the back cover. Again, our actual cover was just green, so I found one that we could talk about:
Next was the Verso and Dedication. Well, this one didn’t have a dedication, but we talked about what that word meant, and what it might say if there was one. This next part was really also just an explanation of what a verso is and what you can learn from studying it.
Moving on, we looked at a special feature of this book: a map! We had read another book with a map (Who Is Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas?) and so connected to that knowledge as we thought of how this one would help us as we go through the story.
The next (and last) part in the preview is usually just the first page, but this book also had an introduction, so we did that one, too. The goal of this step was to help kiddos get their minds set to dig into the story. Baum wrote his introduction to explain his purpose and intentions with the story, and so it was a great conversation about how he wanted his Wizard to be different than previous fairy tales known to readers.
We didn’t actually read the first page, because kids were done (and I knew that we’d be reading it the first day anyway), but finished our conversation with mention of how many of them were coming into this book with experience seeing TWOO movie (two different versions, actually). We talked briefly about how different books and movies usually are because they’re made by different people, and how we could keep track of these similarities and differences as we read.
Whew! I’m so glad we did that! I wasn’t quite sure how it would go, but Rm. 202 kids seemed really into it, and they had lots to say during our discussion. We’re only about 6 pages in, but it seems like they’re already mesmerized by a great classic story and I am, too–I’ve never read it, either! Here’s to another GREAT read aloud!!