Wednesday, March 4, 2015

World Read Aloud Day

Happy World Read Aloud Day! In the past I have celebrated by Skyping with authors and classrooms from all around our country. This year I didn’t plan ahead for any Skype visits. The date snuck up on me and I wasn’t sure what my schedule would hold during our two week PARCC testing window. So last week I looked at my plans with dismay – how to celebrate WRAD with no guests via Skype? And then, I laughed at myself. Who read to my class wasn’t as important as what we did – we needed a read aloud. And so, I did just that.

As I mentioned, we’re in the middle of PARCC testing. In my 4th/5th grade building we are testing grade levels on alternating days. So, in the next two weeks my class will test every other day. On the days that we test, we cannot switch for classes due to the alternating times of the test. That means I can only have class five times in ten days. As I planned ahead and debated what to teach, I decided to make the next two weeks about celebrating reading and writing. If we have to test, let’s make the rest of the time together about books and enjoyment. The best way I can think to do that is to read aloud.

Flipping through my picture book bins last week, I selected 10+ picture books to share over the course of the next ten days. For today, I picked two wonderful books: Red: A Crayon’s Story and The Day the Crayons Quit. I picked them because I wanted to review point of view, but also because I simply love them.

Red: A Crayon’s Story is a newer book in our classroom. I wasn’t sure what the kids would think about it, they loved it. After I finished in each class we talked about how it would have been different if told from the crayon’s point of view. When I asked each class what the story was about, they blew me away with their insights. These fifth graders shared ideas like:

It’s about being who you were meant to be.

It’s about the way we label others and how they can break free.

It’s about finding confidence, finding your story.

It’s about our tendency to put people into categories.

It’s about judgment and blindness.

It’s about feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Have I mentioned I love these kids?

Then I read The Day the Crayons Quit. I love this book. The kids pointed out the use of personification. They discussed how they felt bad for some crayons. How each one had a distinctive voice. They discussed how this book in first person would have been different if told in third. They were fascinating to listen to.

One thing I realized mid read during my third class is that my students are anything but quiet when I read many picture books. Some do stun them into silence, but often  these kids have a running conversation about what they notice as I’m reading. It doesn’t seem to detract from the read aloud, if anything it adds to it. I love listening to their thinking as I read; they always go in directions I could never anticipate.

I ended our day with my homeroom in a perfect way. We read from our current novel read aloud, Fish in a Tree. I picked this book because I adore Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Her book, One for the Murphys, is still one of my absolute favorites. I don’t think, no I know, that I didn’t realize how healing this book would be. Reading about Ally’s difficulties in school, the way she visualizes things, the way her art comes to her, the way she feels when she cannot read – it is powerful. I have many students who connect to Ally. When I read Fish in a Tree aloud, you could hear a pin drop. It isn’t that my students aren’t engaged here; it is that they are almost holding their breath, waiting to see how Mr. Daniels will help Ally. Waiting to learn how to help each other, and themselves.

I looked up at the clock and closed the book to a chorus of groans. Kids filed out of the room, shouts of “See you tomorrow, Mrs. S.!” and then, it was silent. I thought back to all of the books I shared with them today and realized, I can’t think of a better way to spend World Read Aloud Day than just the way we did. Perfection.