Monday, September 14, 2015

The "Pair Share" Tub in My Classroom Library

I started building the "Pair Share" tub one year when I had a group of students who were crazy about partner reading. I wanted to give this social approach to reading a little more depth, a little more meat.

Rather than letting pairs always read one book together, I found pairs of books that went together in obvious or subtle ways. Then, when students wanted to partner read, they also had books that were partners! They could read each of the two books together and talk about them as they went, or they could sit side by side, each reading a different book, and compare their thinking after reading. They could also create an (optional) small project to share their reading and thinking with the class. Because the "Pair Share" books are picture books, this partner reading is a short term break from a reader's typical 5th grade reading goals, but also serves to honor a Wide Reading goal in a fun way.

When I received a review copy of Fab Four Friends, I knew I had the perfect book to pair it with for the "Pair Share" tub!

Fab Four Friends
by Susanna Reich
illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Henry Holt and Company, 2015

Starting with John Lennon, Susanna Reich gives the reader a glimpse into each of the Beatles' (amazingly similar) Liverpool, England childhoods, right up to the point when they create or join the band. The book ends in 1963, with the "Fab Four" close friends on a still rising path to stardom. Today's youngsters (and anyone of an age and geographic background to have grown up on Johnny Cash and John Denver instead of John Lennon *points finger at self*) might have the impression that the Beatles' success happened suddenly, even magically. This book clearly shows that the Beatles' success was actually a lucky convergence of the the childhood dreams and hard work of four working-class city kids from not-so-ideal home lives.

The book includes a helpful glossary (I didn't know what Scousers were, nor what a skiffle band was), and sources for the direct quotations in the book. (Yay! A children's biography without fake dialogue!) There are also book and web sources for further exploration. And if you want a more thorough, Fab Four Fan review of the book plus author interview, click over to Jama's Alphabet Soup.

John's Secret Dreams
by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Bryan Collier
Hyperion Books for Children, 2004

I'll pair Fab Four Friends with John's Secret Dreams. This book takes a totally different approach, both in the writing and the illustrations. The focus is entirely on John Lennon, so the reader gets to see both his and the Beatles' entire lifespans. The illustrations are dreamy, impressionistic, and accompanied by snippets of song lyrics -- a definite change of style for Bryan Collier, but perfect for the topic. I was worried that today's students wouldn't have enough background knowledge of the Beatles or their music to understand how the lyrics work with the text and the illustration, but I should never second guess -- the details in the illustrations pull a reader in and slow them down to think, and the change of font and size for the text and the lyrics clearly sets them apart. Every page is an opportunity to make connections (and to wish for a soundtrack).

It's even interesting to compare the backmatter of the two books. Rappaport includes a Selected Discography, paying homage to how important the music and lyrics are to the book. And with a publication date of 2004, it's historically interesting that she does not list specific websites, simply cautioning the reader to be careful about sites that aren't official Lennon, Beatles or history of rock and roll websites, "...for information and and lyrics may be inaccurate."

Here are the other pairs in the "Pair Share" tub (because I know enquiring minds will want to know!):

Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale
The Story of Buildings by Patrick Dillon

The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown
The Dust Bowl Through the Lens by Martin W. Sandler

Sacred Places by Philemon Sturges
If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche

Love, Mouserella by David Ezra Stein
Postcards From Camp by Simms Taback

The Lion and the Mice by Rebecca Emberley
Mouse and Lion retold by Rand Berkert

Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeys by H.A. Rey
The Journey That Saved Curious George by Louise Borden

A Call for a New Alphabet by Jef Czekaj
Al Pha's Bet by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Maybe a Bear Ate It by Robie H. Harris
The Woods by Paul Hoppe

The 13 Nights of Halloween by Guy Vasilovich
Little Goblins Ten by Pamela Jane

The Tiger Who Would Be King by James Thurber (illustrated by Joohee Yoon)
Louis I: King of the Sheep by Olivier Tallec


  1. I love the idea of a "pair share" tub! And I don't know very many of the books on your list, so it looks like I have a whole new batch for my TBR list!

    1. Carol, you bring up an interesting point. While I would never discourage anyone from checking out books they're not familiar with, I would recommend that rather than replicating my "pair share" tub, teachers comb their own collection for pairs they already own! There is absolutely nothing magical about my particular choices!

  2. This is a great idea. I often try to pair nonfiction with fiction and ask partners to figure out which part of their fiction book is nonfiction by fact checking. They love it.

  3. Thanks for the link love! Haven't read Rappaport's book but will definitely look for it now. Love the Pair-Share idea :).

  4. What a great idea, Mary Lee! Love the pairings, some for not-so-obvious reasons!

  5. There is always magic in your sharing. Thanks for this fun idea I am thinking the students could pair and then share.

  6. So clever! I love your "thinking outside the box."

  7. It's been a while since I visited and catching up is so much fun. I love the ideas you have for your paired reading activities, and I love this book! I am thinking it will be a great Christmas gift for grandchildren, and I may pull out an old record to play when they open gifts! Fun!


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