The first eight weeks of school is critical. Building routines and setting the stage for learning across the year happens in those first few weeks. Read Aloud is one of the most important routines in our classroom. It is the time when we come together around a book and enjoy it together. But it is far more than enjoying a book. Our conversations help us build and grow our thinking and give us strategies for understanding longer, more complex books. I know if the conversation is to grow over the course of the year, I need to choose books carefully for read aloud.
During the first three weeks of school, I thought it was important to read short read alouds that matched the kinds of books kids would be reading at this age. I think it was Joanne Hindley who taught me the importance of not always reading books above a child's independent reading level because what we read aloud is often what kids think we value. So if I want kids to read books that are right for them independently, I want to share those books often and throughout the year. The books I read early were books that set up the routine of daily read aloud from a book we had to carry in our heads over days. It also introduced kids to various authors and series as a starting point to our talk about series and authors. And, we so loved seeing Mercy Watson appear in Leroy Ninker! These were the books we shared during the first few weeks of school:
Lulu and the Brontosaurus
The Meanest Birthday Girl
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up
Bink and Gollie
Currently we are reading aloud The Quirks. My students last year love the Quirks and I blogged about it here and here because I loved it so much. It is a little bit of a stretch for some kids as they are many characters to keep track of and some little things that readers miss unless we stop to talk. So we are stopping to talk often and learning how to hold onto a story over several days. Getting your head back into a book every day is critical and an important skill for this age. During this read, we've also changed read aloud a bit. We moved to sitting in a circle facing each other on the floor. We've worked at building on a conversation rather than just sharing what you are thinking and moving on to the next person. And we've added a reader's notebook component where kids can stop and jot their thinking. At the beginning of third grade, I find students want to say everything they are thinking and learning to capture thinking in writing helps them learn to analyze and prioritize their thinking--figuring out the thinking that helps them dig deeper into their reading.
Next week, I plan to begin Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. Jessica Day George will be visiting our school in October and we are very excited! The kids are very familiar with fairy tales but this will most likely be the first novel-length fairy tale they've read. For this read aloud, I am going to share the audiobook. I decided on this for a few reasons. I want to talk about audiobooks as a way to read. So many kids build fluency with audiobooks and the text in front of them. I also think audiobooks are important for all readers-I am a reader who gets carsick so the only way I can read in the car is with audiobooks. I figure some of my students may want to add audiobooks to their reading lives. The audiobook will also give me a chance to keep a readers's notebook as we read. I will use an iPad app such as Notability and track my own thinking as I listen to the audiobook. I have found that this is a great way to model a variety of ways to track thinking without interfering much with kids' own thinking/process.