Friday, May 27, 2016

Do I Really Have Time to Read Aloud Daily?

These were video clips from World Read Aloud Day 2013, of me reading aloud from The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (students filmed me).  I read aloud every day.  Even when I don't have time.  How do I justify this?  This year on World Read Aloud Day, I asked students to write a Quick Write in their notebooks on their thoughts about read aloud time.  Their answers helped me justify this daily practice...

What do you enjoy about reading aloud time and why do you think it's important?

- I enjoy having an experience with a teacher to point out things and get a much larger vocabulary. I think it helps bonds become closer. - Brayden

- It shows people new types of books they might never have known they liked.  - Kyle

- I think read alouds are important because you learn expression skills.  For example, if the sentence has an exclamation point at the end, you would say it excitedly. - Aaron

- I enjoy the different voices that Mrs. Mueller does for different characters and that she leaves us at cliffhangers. - Owen

- I enjoy how I can relax while my imagination is pumping the whole time we are reading.  - Hunter

- I like when you leave off at a cliffhanger because it makes me want to come back for more. - Darrell

- I enjoy read aloud time because when you're read aloud to, you may notice certain details you did not when you read to yourself.  I also enjoy it because my brain is tense, and I want to relax. - Sophia

- When someone reads aloud to you, you feel like you are truly in the character's world, almost like the Omnimax Theater. It's important to read aloud because sometimes children will read very fast and not experience any emotion or sympathy for the character when they read to themselves.  - Kayley

- I think that read aloud time is improtant because instead of reading silently, everyone can have the same experience.  Mrs. Mueller makes it fun by making different voices and saying them like the character would. - Nicole

- From the time we open the book to when we close it, every second is nerve-racking, thrilling, and overall, pretty darn fun! - Lauren

- I really enjoy read aloud because it's a chance to connect with everyone.  We can all rage with each other about Claire (Out of My Mind), the Miller (Rump), and Mam (The War That Saved My Life), and cry when Ada is beaten (The War That Saved My Life).  - Peyton

- I love read alouds!  What I most enjoy about it is the feeling you get when the person reading it makes expressions.  I also like how how you just get to listen; no headaches that make it impossible to read and no too tiny text. - Paige

- I enjoy read aloud time; I like responding and discussing what we think.  Discussing it gives you more ideas.  I think it is important because I definitely notice way more things than reading by myself.  - Megan

- I love to read silently, but reading aloud give you the opportunity to explore tones, voices, and enhance fluency skills.  - Jaidyn

- I think read aloud is important because people can talk to each other about the thoughts they have.  I think you can think about things in the story more when you are listening.  - Sam

- A teacher can almost always read better than a student, so the teacher can read more challenging books.  Hearing challenging books will improve students' reading ability overall.   - Maya

What makes a book good for a read aloud?

- A good read aloud has a mixture of emotions, lots of action, and characters I can relate to.  - Aaron

- A good read aloud is one that is very exciting.  Another good quality is to have parts when you can really imagine and visualize what is going on. - Sophia

- For a read aloud to be good, the reader has to be good! - Peyton

- Things that make a read aloud good: well, there is the reader, and they change voices from character to character and when they talk with you about the story.  - Megan

- I like when Mrs. Mueller reads aloud because she does the different voices and tones, and most importantly, she leaves us on cliff hangers... - Jaidyn

- A good read aloud is one that makes you think.  It also needs a mix of emotions like sadness, fear, love, happiness, etc.  It needs to be well-written and exciting.  - Sam

     If kids can't convince you to read aloud every day, maybe research will.  Richard L. Allington and Rachel E. Gabriel outline six elements of instruction that every child should experience every day in their article, "Every Child, Every Day".  Using Jim Release's and Wu & Samuels' research, they say, "Listening to an adult model fluent reading increases students' own fluency and comprehension skills, as well as expanding their vocabulary, background knowledge, sense of story, awareness of genre and text structure, and comprehension of the texts read."  They go on to say that few teachers above 1st grade read aloud to their students.  We can change that!  I can still remember my 7th grade English teacher reading aloud Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and my high school English teacher reading aloud A Day No Pigs Would Die.  It was impactful, even as an older student.  I've forgotten many of the day to day lessons and activities we did as English students, but I remember the read alouds.

     I look forward to daily read aloud time just as much as my students do.  On a rare occasion that we can't read aloud, I get loud protests!  It's a time they count on.  A time when we build community as well as vocabulary, background knowledge, text structure, and fluency.  When new students come into my class, the rest of the kids insist they read our read alouds so they can be part of all the references we make from those touchstone texts.  If you don't already read aloud daily as part of your classroom routine, try it out.  I daresay you'll love it, and so will your students!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Nonfiction Wednesday


I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the fifth year in a row.

It's been FOREVER since I posted a Nonfiction Wednesday post, but I'm back on it!  Here are some recent favorites:

Granddaddy's Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box

Granddaddy's Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, illustrated by James E. Ransome

This is a touching story about a grandfather who wasn't able to exercise his right to vote because of a deputy stopping him before he got a chance. His grandson never forgot that day and voted with his granddaddy's picture in his hand on the day he voted for the first time. This would be a good pairing with Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery.

Welcome to the Neighborwood


Wow! These pop-up illustrations are incredible. I found myself smiling in amazement and delight as I opened each page. Sheehy teaches us about animals that survive by building homes, traps, or structures for their survival. The book also shows how these animals need each other - nature is so fascinating! Great facts and word play accompany the beautiful artwork - would make a great addition to the classroom library and/or a gift. I can imagine that any child would want to open this book again and again. I know I do!

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation On Trial by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by E.B. Lewis


I'm glad Susan E. Goodman chose to tell this story of a courageous young girl and her family who fought against school segregation in the 1840s. She lost that case, but her cause continued, and Boston became the first major American city to officially integrate its schools in 1855. It's sad that a hundred years later, it had to be fought for again. In many ways, segregation still continues. "The march toward justice is a long, twisting journey. Three steps forward, one step back. One step forward, three back. Laws change, and the march moves forward. People resist change, and the march slows to a standstill, waiting for a better time. Then, at last, ideas have changed enough and people have changed enough. Finally the march cannot be stopped." E.B. Lewis expertly paints beautiful and emotionally-charged illustrations throughout this important picture book. Excellent resources in the back - a timeline, update on the heroes of the book, sources and resources, and an Author's Note.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Slice of Life - The Memoir in May

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.  I've taken a little hiatus from my blog, but I was itching to write about a few things, so I'm back!

     May.   It is the best of months, it is the worst of months, it is the month of wisdom, it is the month of foolishness.  It is also the month full of schedule interruptions and changes.  This creates havoc in my class.  Therefore, student-directed projects are the best way to go for my gifted ELA classes.  For my fifth graders, this means writing memoirs.  The end of fifth grade seems a perfect time for kids to be able to write their first meaningful memoirs.  Younger children can certainly write memoirs, but the reflection piece of a memoir seems harder to teach until they fully grasp theme and a bigger life picture.  Even gifted writers at this age can struggle with this.  I try to help them distinguish between personal narratives and memoir by reading many picture books that exemplify the genre (even fictional ones that have the "feel" of memoir), and talking a lot about experiences that shape us.  Many of my Slices of Life during the March Challenge of 2014 add up to be one larger memoir, so I share those.  One of my students suggested I put them together into a memoir to use as a mentor text.  A future project...

     My students aren't finished yet, but I love their ideas, many of them inspired by the longer memoirs they read for the unit: Marshfield Dreams, Knucklehead, Looking Back, Sisters, Smile, El Deafo, and Woodsong.  One student even took the format of the novel in verse she read last month, even though it is realistic fiction and not memoir, the brilliant Love That Dog, and structured her memoir similarly.  She explained to me how she was moving the poems forward to make a story "like Love That Dog".  I love how kids "stand on authors' shoulders" (Katie Wood Ray) and try out their craft moves.  I tell my fifth graders they can write their memoirs in any format - verse, graphics, narrative(s), short reflections with photographs, etc.  Each one of those format ideas are represented.  It's so interesting to watch what the kids choose.  In addition, I love to read about the experiences kids deem as important to who they are: life lessons learned from horses (I worked with this girl, and we talked about how Kwame Alexander included Chuck Bell's Basketball Rules throughout the The Crossover and how they're metaphors for life - suggesting that maybe she could try that with her horse experiences), moving, lessons learned from mistakes, pet stories, a fishing trip with an uncle when turning 10, memories with a family friend who is so special he is called "Uncle ____", memories around special keepsakes (I read The Matchbox Diary and Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge which inspired her), and more.  Some decided to go back and expand a Slice of Life from their Kidblog posts. 

     This kind of student writing is my favorite.  When they write about their own experiences, it has so much meaning.  It's the perfect way to end the year, making May the best of months.