Read Aloud = Another Learning Time

Read aloud is kind of a big deal in my room.  I wrote about it briefly here last year.  Hopefully here’s more to the story. 🙂

I think that reading is important.  Reading is making meaning, understanding both what the words say and what they mean.  Understanding text as you hear it is an important skill, in addition to being able to comprehend the text you read for yourself.   Time is also important, and the time we have during our school day is precious.  So being able to get extra bang for your learning buck is really great.

Read aloud–or “chapter book” time–is that time for me.  I use this time to expose my students to great literature, books that they may not otherwise have heard of, as well as to discuss topics that we need to delve into (bullies, families, respect, etc.) and introduce and then practice reading strategies that I want students to use in their independent reading.

The first RA of the year is also a fun, easy one, that everyone can easily relate to and begin to make connections around.  This year (as well as last), I started with The Boys Start the War by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.  It’s a great story about kids who play practical jokes on each other, who come from interesting families and who just do typical “kid stuff” as they go through their days.  This fun, joyful story gets my students in the mood for fun as readers, and helps me set the stage for harder work I’ll have them do as the year goes on.  During this first book is also when I introduce the partner and thinking structures we’ll use throughout our time in RA.  The first one is called “say something,” and is really just what it sounds like: I stop at certain points in the story–where there is probably something that the students can react or relate to–and have them “say something” to their partner.  In the beginning there are no rules for these conversations, but eventually we structure the conversations to include thinking that good readers do, like making connections, making predictions, inferring something, reacting to something funny, telling a part that they really liked, summarizing, etc.    At the end of the first chapter book, we begin our Read Aloud Timeline.  Well, actually we start the current year’s section of the timeline, which dates back a few years with past classes.  It hangs on the wall around our room like this:

Hopefully you can see it up there–up near the ceiling.  Images taken from each book we read during our year together, chosen by the class as a whole.

The beginning of this year’s section looked like this:

Devan’s image of a water fight that breaks out while the characters are supposed to be washing the windows was chosen to grace our wall as the first picture this year!

Our second book this year was Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea.  This one is nominated for the Mark Twain Award, which we choose for the state of Missouri.   I usually read at least one or two nominated books from the published list, so that my kiddos have more of chance of having read (or had read to them) the minimum of 4 that they need in order to vote.  This one was a little more intense than the first one, and is a story of a 5th grade class and their fabulous teacher.  Because of some decisions along the way (which many deem as bad ones), an accident occurs and they are without their beloved teacher for most of the year.  I’m happy to say that the ending is a happy one, but it’s not easy going along the way.  The topics in this story allow my students to continue to connect and relate, but also helps them to reach outside themselves and think about what they’d do in difficult situations; these decisions can be made, however, within the safety of a good story.  During this second book, I add to their RA toolbox, and turn “say something” into “write something.”  Again, it’s just like it sounds–at certain times we stop and write something about the story.  This also allows me to introduce the place where they will collect this thinking.  Everyone is given a Read Aloud Journal:

What?  It looks like our cubs?  You betcha!  Those half-sized notebooks get a work out in our class.  I don’t remember who first gave me the idea of hacking a spiral notebook in half, but I love them!  You should try it!

The image for BOMT on our wall was drawn by Owen.  It looks like this:

Sorry–I have a curse of blurry pictures I think–but hopefully you can see that it’s a picture of the hospital room where Mr. Terupt spends much of the story and plays a big role in the book.

In our RA Journals, we’ll collect our thoughts about books we share together this year.  Some of it they share with others in our class, and some entries I use for assessment, as well.  See? More bang for our learning buck. 🙂

Right now we’re in the middle of another FABULOUS book called Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  I found it this summer and was beyond amazed at how great it was.  A whole movement has been started around this story to help children learn to “choose kind” rather than bully or mistreat others.  This one has the same setting (5th grade in a school), the same structure as the other two (chapters and sections that alternate between different characters to show varying points-of-view) as well as themes of respect and valuing people for who they are rather than what they look like.    During this book we started another strategy for showing our thinking: a behavior-over-time graph.  With this organizer, students can show what they’ve discovered about how the characters are feeling throughout the story, using evidence from the text to support their thinking.  It’s a Systems Thinking strategy that you can learn more about here.   As with the other strategies we use in RA, this is one I hope students add to the independent reading arsenal, as well.

So, as you can see, Read Aloud is work time in our room.  It’s no rest-and-quiet-down-after-recess-time in Room 202.  Read aloud = another learning time in our world.  And we learn alot here!

What suggestions do you have for read alouds?  Have you read any of the books we’ve shared so far this year?  Leave us a comment and tell us what you’re thinking. 🙂