Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Magic of a Read Aloud - Slice of Life 3/8/17

I'm ashamed to admit this in some ways, but I've already written it elsewhere. Until about a week ago, I did not have a chapter book read aloud in my 7th grade classroom. While this might be the norm for some, I've always been a huge champion of the read aloud. I know, from Richard Allington's work, that children need to be read to. That they need to hear a fluent reader on a regular basis. I also know that having a read aloud with no grades tied to it provides joy and excitement around reading.

Yet, no chapter book read aloud in my class.

See, in elementary I read aloud every day - sometimes for as much as 45 minutes a day depending on our schedule. This was sacred space with my homeroom, not part of my reading/writing class.

Moving to middle school, there aren't those random read aloud spots anymore. If I wanted to have time for a read aloud, that meant I had to give up some precious language arts time. What to do.

For most of the year I have reconciled myself to picture book read alouds each day or every other day. It was the same, but it wasn't. I love a picture book. They are beautiful works of art. But I longed to dive into a chapter book with my students. To grapple with plot, characters, predict what would come next.

And then, one of my former students made a comment that stopped me in my tracks. It was simple, really, but one day as he walked out he said, "I really miss read aloud with you.

That did it, it was all it took. Knowing that two years after being in my class he still remembered read aloud time, I searched for a book.

I selected Rebecca Stead's Goodbye Stranger for multiple reasons: three story lines, three points of view, middle school protagonist, complex issues we should discuss, humor, etc. Also, I thought we could finish it in four weeks or less.

See, I'm blessed with 88 minutes (two 44 minute periods) to teach reading and writing. To have read aloud meant something else had to give. Now my first block (44 minutes) would look something like this:

10 minutes Independent Read
5 minute book talk
15-20 minutes Word of the day/ Grammar study/ Quick Write
10 minute read aloud

The second block, in case you are curious, is half mini-lesson/ half workshop time.

The real test was what would the kids think.

No exaggeration, the first day I told each class, they cheered

Today I read the part where Bridge is learning to make a fist from Adrienne at her dad's coffee shop. Adrienne is giving Bridge directions on how to fold her fingers, where to place her thumb, etc. In every class I watched out of the corner of my eye as each of my giant seventh graders did the same steps Bridge was, making a fist as they listened to the book. I've watched kids lay on the carpet with a pillow as I read, twirling their hair as they did when they were small. There have been gasps, laughs, and comments begging me to go on. 

What I know is that for 10 minutes, we come closer together. We experience joy and it doesn't need to be assessed. In truth, I have all of the assessment I need when I see their faces. 

I can't believe I waited this long.

Slice of Life is a challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.