Thursday, May 29, 2008

Experimental Read-Aloud


Maybe A Bear Ate It!
by Robie Harris
illustrated by Michael Emberley
Scholastic, 2008
review copy compliments of the publisher

(Exceedingly cute) creature loves book, takes book and toys to bed, "loses" the book (it's right there under the edge of the bed). Creature looks for it, imagines that a series of animals ate, stomped on, ran away with, flew away with, swallowed, or fell asleep on the book. Creature goes looking for the book and eventually finds it and curls back up in bed with the book and the toys.

Even kindergartners will see where the book is "lost" and will be able to infer that the animals the Creature blames for the book's whereabouts are actually the Creature's toys.

I showed the book to a couple of our kindergarten teachers and they said, ", Kinders probably won't be able to get that on their own."

I read the book to my fourth graders. They got it.

I read the book to a group of fifth graders. They got it, they got it remarkably quicker than my fourth graders, and they talked about it with greater clarity and depth than my fourth graders. Hmmmm...age is appearing to make a difference.

I read the book to a third grade class. They got it, but I seem to be letting them look at the pictures longer and I'm encouraging more talk and thinking as we read.

I read the book to a second grade class. Again, I supported them more as readers, but they got it on their own.

I read the book to a first grade class. We're down to about one student who sees the book under the edge of the bed, and one who comes up with the word "imagination" to describe what's happening with the animals. Is one who gets it enough to say that first graders get the book? I'm saying it is. That one kid ramped up the whole class and brought them along. (Thank goodness for The One, right, teachers?!)

I read the book to our special-needs/typical-peers preschool class. They loved it. They found the "lost" book with a lot of help. They were pretty sure the animals were real. Imagination didn't seem to be on their radar. In speaking with the teacher later, I found out that most of them, indeed, do not yet engage in extended imaginative play. Most of them are the oldest child in their family and they simply haven't had any role models for that kind of play/thinking.

Then I read the book to the kindergartners. They loved it. They found the "lost" book. A bunch of support got one child to the idea that the Creature was imagining that his toys were responsible for the "loss" of his book, but the rest of the class did not come along they way they had in first grade.

1. Trust Kindergarten teachers. (Corollary: Kindergarten teachers know their kids better than you do.)

2. Making inferences and using imagination are developmental.

3. It doesn't really matter if your audience doesn't "get" the book in the way you intended, as long as you all have fun reading it!


  1. Okay, so I took something totally different away from the book. I did get it:-) But, for me, it was a book about losing your favorite book and I would go off on that route when I chatted with kids.
    This is like that talking dog book we read!!

  2. This is really interesting! Another reason to read picture books to fifth graders, IMO. Those conversations are so rich! What a lot of reading/writing lessons one could pull out.

  3. Anonymous4:31 PM

    I love your conclusions...

  4. Very interesting. It has been a long time since I have been in the classroom (I quit teaching when I had my oldest and have home schooled for 10 years.) I think some of it depends on the classroom and the particular group of children. I worked with special ed of all grades and subbed in ever grade from kindergarten through high school. I found that reading aloud from picture books worked well for all grades and that certain classes will get something that the same age group will not get in another class. I also find that my oldest will occasionally miss things that my 6 year old will get and that all three will get things my 16 year old brother will completely miss. Such an interesting experiment.

  5. Great exercise and interesting results.

    We love reading picture books at our house, from early, early on ... we're never too old (or too young) for them!

  6. Ok...I love the scientific appproach and all the observations at each level as well as your conclusions. I will add...come back to it and read it again and again. My kids have made all kinds of new discoveries by listening to one another's thoughts, scanning the pictures and hearing it again (no kidding I think I've read it aloud 5). I love this book and your experiment!!!


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