Why do they not teach you that time is a finger snap and an eye blink, and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment of its swift, breakneck circuit?
It is early in September, and Beth Lawson is reading the picture book What Does It Mean to Be Present? by Rana DiOrio to her fourth graders. The gentle, spare text and illustrations are about helping others, being patient, and enjoying simple pleasures like the warmth of the sun and the sound of the rain. The children are captivated by the words and images. As Beth reads the book, she pauses at almost every page, savoring each one. “What does this make you think of?” she asks again and again. Beth shares experiences of enjoying food (and her young son ever so slowly eating an ice cream cone). The children listen carefully, making connections in almost hushed voices.
As I watch, I am amazed at how much learning is going on so early in the year just from a read aloud. Why do we ever allow ourselves to get defensive about the value of read alouds? Maybe because someone peeking into the classroom would think an activity this pleasurable can’t possibly be good learning. But they’d be wrong. The process of listening and responding teaches children how to be kind, thoughtful members of a community. The cadence slows down the pace of the class just when the rhythm starts to get too rapid or stressful. And the content of each read aloud gives every child in the class a mentor text they share with everyone else, regardless of their reading level or mastery of the English language.
Five minutes here and there, every day in the first weeks of school, quickly adds up to dozens of shared texts and stories in a fledgling classroom community that can be used as touchstones all year long. It’s a paradox that the early days of school fly by so quickly, yet it is still such slow, hard work to build trust and respect. Taking time for extra read alouds in those first weeks of school, especially of picture books that require no more than a few minutes to share, is a way to slow down and enjoy some laughs together, or sigh with appreciation over beautiful language or a stunning image. Instead of talking about what it means to pay attention, respect your classmates, and honor literacy, everyone can live it. And what child doesn’t love being read to?
This week we focus on read alouds early in the school year. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
Free for All
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Tony Keefer is Planning a Read-Aloud Sequence to Launch the School Year:
Choice Literacy is celebrating our tenth year! In honor of the milestone, our Classics series will feature the most popular articles and videos on the site from our decade-long run. This month’s classic is Franki Sibberson’s The Quest for the Perfect First Read Aloud of the Year:
Now is the time to plan to participate in the Global Read Aloud, which begins in early October. You can download planning templates and get more information on the event at this link:
For Members Only
Katherine Sokolowski uses read alouds early in the year to help students reflect on how to be kind and thoughtful members of a classroom community:
In this week’s video, Gi Reed reads aloud Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. Gi continually checks in with her fourth-grade students, making sure they are visualizing, noticing new vocabulary, and making connections to earlier incidents in the texts — all without breaking the flow of the story:
Melanie Swider enhances read alouds and the entire reading workshop with Strategies for Using Reading Notebooks:
New PD2Go: Tony Keefer demonstrates how he makes his read alouds interactive, and explains why he selected Percy Jackson to use with fourth graders:
That’s all for this week!