Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: Our Last Read Aloud

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 13

Today, we finished our last read aloud of the school year.  It is always bittersweet to finish that last book.  Read Aloud is always such an important part of our days together and it's been the one time during this online/pandemic teaching that most students have shown up every day and we've rebuilt our community.  From what parents have shared, our daily 11 am read aloud was a time many students looked forward to. Which makes me happy. My big goal during all of this was connection and relationships and some sense of normalcy and joy and I think read aloud accomplished that for many students.

One thing I notice was that students were less willing to talk. They were far more passive than they usually were in the classroom.  They seemed to need a different experience with read aloud---one that was just about connecting and community.  One where they could just listen in mostly.   One student said midway through the book, "We know if we don't talk, you'll just keep reading and we just want to hear the story." (Something they never asked for in our classroom as the talk and thinking together was always as important as the story for most students). So, I went with that. And it seemed right.

Our last read aloud was The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate. I chose this as our last read aloud for several reasons and I think it was the perfect pick. Many students had heard The One and Only Ivan as a read aloud in 3rd or 4th grades so they were familiar with the characters. They had shared some excitement about this new book when I shared the cover reveal months ago.  I hoped going back to characters we already knew and loved might be comforting. I also hoped that some kids would want to reread The One and Only Ivan (which several did or are planning to.). And finally, I knew the movie is scheduled to come out soon and I figured this would be another great memory/connection in the fall when they watched the movie.

The book is fabulous, and I highly recommend it for a summer read or a class read aloud. We read it over a 2-3 week period but we could have read it in about 1-2 weeks as the chapter are short, and the kids just beg to keep reading more as there is some suspense throughout.  Students loved the story and the characters and the fact that we got to know this fabulous character Bob a bit better.  My students also say they'd recommend this to everyone as a summer read. Most liked pretty much everything about it.  And as a teacher, I took comfort in reading more about characters I've known and loved for years.  (I think this would also make a good first read aloud of the school year. Even for students who haven't read The One and Only Ivan, I think this stands alone and Bob is a fabulous character --there is plenty to think and talk about throughout the story.)

Katherine Applegate does an amazing job with this story and it was such a wonderful way to end our read aloud time together this year.

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