Duck into Third Grade

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Read-Aloud Rocks!

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This book’s been around since 2002 but it is a treasure and it gave me a much needed to reconnection with my read-aloud roots. I love the quote from one of Mary Lee Hahn’s students about read-aloud, “It is a time when we can learn without trying.”

This week during several teacher interviews, I learned something that I’m having trouble swallowing. I always ask the same questions during these interviews:
1. What is your all time favorite read-aloud?
2. What was the last professional book you read?
Imagine my shock and dismay when answers came back such as these:
“We haven’t had time to do but one, but I love the expression in the kids voices.”
Isn’t this Round-Robin reading???
“We had to stop read-aloud because with so much test prep there just isn’t time.”
Can I cry???
“We were reading one but we had to stop to get ready for the test.”
At least they were honest but what a sad commentary of our educational system!

How many students will never meet Roxie from Roxie and the Hooligans or Poppy by Avi or Rob from The Tiger Rising or William in Waiting for the Magic or Edgar Allan’s Official Investigation Notebook… because read-aloud time has been devalued??? It is so simple but it does require some planning and effort. This book helps teachers to stay focused and to rest assured that what you thought was best for your students was the right thing to do. No, it’s not a prepackaged program that will solve all your problems. Read-aloud is a powerful motivator than inspires students because their teacher reads his/her class and share the exact literature needed to demonstrate the magic of reading. This literature list will change from year to year and from class to class.

There are many read-aloud resources out there. As a parent I used Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook. My children are grown now but I just talked to my oldest son who surprised me by telling me he remembers a quote from a book I read to him over 20 years ago! Amazing huh! Of course, I had to know the book and the quote, for those curious few, it was from a book of intrigue entitled Peppermints in the Parlor by Barbara Brooks Wallace. The quote that has helped him almost daily on the job force, “…even the walls have eyes and ears.” He said remembering this has saved him from a lot of heartache by thinking before he speaks. He said it was easy to remember because it was in story format
and repeated throughout the book.

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Testing, 1, 2, Testing…

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This book has forced me to rethink how I teach reading. I’ve been testing out some of the authors’ suggestions this week and it has been tough. The authors give reasons why teachers should NOT do some standard practices to engage readers, such as front-loading the vocabulary, previewing the text, and making predictions. I am always interested in challenging myself and my students so I jumped right in and it has been about as easy as giving up chocolate. When you’ve done something for years and years it requires a lot of focus to not do the practiced and perfected method… default is like a magnet that draws one in, almost effortlessly.

The authors focus on making meaning of narrative texts. They have rethought standard practices of previewing and predicting. Instead, they jump into the text and let the students make meaning as they go, little by little. I’ve been doing what they suggested with my class read-aloud, The Tiger Rising. The authors encourage making students’ thinking visible so on a chart that’s divided into two columns, What We Know/What We Wonder, we have inched our way through the first few chapters this week. My kids were great on the noticing side but the wonder side was slim pickings. One student even remarked, “We don’t do too much wondering, do we?” This book has given me and my class a thought-provoking challenge that has somewhat distracted them from the testing mania surrounds us.

Book quotes: “…meaning making is, ultimately, a complex and personal journey between a reader and a book.”

“In books, ideas are invisible but patterns are visible.”

“Answers are closed rooms; and questions are open windows that invite us in.”

Our growth lies in the questions we ask. What questions have you asked lately?