Over the 24 years of my career as a teacher, I’ve seen education fads come and go. Holistic language vs discrete skills. Top down vs bottom up. Direct teaching vs student inquiry. And through it all, I keep reading aloud to my students. Even when it’s not in fashion.
There are some books I read every year. I think I’ve read NO MORE DEAD DOGS by Gordon Korman to two classes per year for the last six years, which makes at least 12 times I’ve read that book, not counting when I first discovered it. How can I stand to read a book so many times? It’s the reaction of the kids. It’s always the reaction of the kids that makes reading a book out loud worthwhile.
I practice (even after 12 times) getting the comedic timing down perfectly when Wallace Wallace, football star of NO MORE DEAD DOGS, changes the words of the school play so that the maudlin line: “We must look deep within our souls to accept this tragedy.” becomes: “Your dog died. Get used to it.”
I also practice certain lines from THE TEACHER’S FUNERAL by Richard Peck, hoping to say them without my voice quavering: “You could have knocked us over with feathers. Flopears had captured us all in his notebook. And we were so real, we almost strolled off the page. We'd gotten him wrong. He wasn't a dunce. He was an artist. According to these pages, he saw us all a good deal clearer than we'd ever seen him.”
Okay, I never can manage that bit without choking up, just as there are always tears for the ending of A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO, also by Richard Peck, when Grandma lights up her house with lanterns so her grandson Joey, passing by on the WWI troop train, can see her waving from the doorway.
And it doesn’t go unnoticed, either. A parent once told me at conference time that her daughter came home and shared a story about Mrs. Salerni bursting into tears during read aloud. “Thank you for showing my daughter how literature can move you,” she said.
I’ll never forget the year I closed the final page of AIRBORN by Ken Oppel and a struggling reader in the class held out his hands for the book. He’d already asked me if he could take it home and read it all over again after I was finished. It was well above his reading level, but I handed it over with confidence. Because I’d already read it aloud, I knew he would have reasonable success trying it on his own – and he’d grow a little bit as a reader while doing so.
His mother hugged me the next time she saw me.
This year, I had the opportunity to read one of my own manuscripts out loud. My two classes had a sneak preview of THE EIGHTH DAY, and reading my future book out loud was an incredible experience. Terrifying. But incredible. I’ll have to share that in another post.
For now, I want to finish up by saying how excited I am to join the Project Mayhem team – as a teacher and a writer of MG literature -- and I’m looking forward to getting to know you all better.
Love this Dianne! As a fellow teacher, I totally agree. There's nothing like reading aloud with the kids - my favourite part of the day! The kids always end up loving books!ReplyDelete
Jemi, I often read the first in a series, just to get them hooked.Delete
Awesome that you joined this blog. Loved reading about your experiences reading to kids in your class. Didn't realize you have to practice it first.ReplyDelete
Just sometimes, when I want to nail a favorite line!Delete
For two years I taught fourth through seventh-grade social studies with one section of fourth-grade reading. (This was in a tiny private school). One of my reluctant readers in fifth grade saw I'd started The Phantom Tollbooth with fourth and begged to read along again. It is amazing what a shared reading experience can do!
I just have to ask: Have you read THE BOOK WHISPERER yet? If not, get a copy now! It is a gorgeous, gorgeous manifesto on student-directed reading in the classroom.
My boys and I love to read Gordon Korman together. Adding this one to the list!
I have heard of The Book Whisperer. A lot of my co-workers have read it. And NO MORE DEAD DOGS is my favorite Korman.Delete
I'm teaching fifth grade for the first year. I spent 13 years teaching in an alternative junior/senior high for at risk teens and at that school my favorite activity was reading out loud--novels, short stories, and yes, some I did almost every year. Thanks for the 5th grade read out-loud suggestions!! I'll take more if you have them. :-) No More Dead Dogs would be really fun!!!ReplyDelete
I also like to read EVERLOST by Neal Shusterman and A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR by Laura Amy Schlitz.Delete
As a parent, I love to hear that read alouds are still going on in school. What a great way to engage students in some great literature.ReplyDelete
Luckily, read aloud is back "in fashion" - but good teachers know love of literature should never go out of fashion!Delete
That's amazing Dianne! I am a huge literacy/read aloud advocate. For years, I have gone to each of my children's teachers and asked if I could come in and read to the the class, if that was OK. Every one of them has said "YES!" I bring a food and/or craft that goes along with the book and the kids just love it.ReplyDelete
Now, when I walk into the classroom, they know I'm going to read them a book, so the kids all jump up and down and cheer!
Read aloud can be a really powerful way to share and learn together! I'm glad your kids" teachers appreciate your contribution.Delete
When I was student teaching in college, I read "Shiloh" aloud to a second grade class, and it was one of my top 3 college experiences. :) Now that I have my own kids, I absolutely love reading aloud to them every day.
LOL, my first thought is that Shiloh is one of the few books that breaks Korman's "dead dog book" rules. It has a dog on the cover and an award sticker, but thankfully the dog doesn't die!Delete
Thanks! Read aloud is literally my favorite part of the teaching day.Delete
When I taught third and fourth grade, read alouds were my favorite time of day. Just time to share a book with the kids with no assignment, no expectations but to enjoy it.ReplyDelete
I, too, burst into tears once while reading. The kids were shocked, but supportive. :)
I am always surprised when a teacher does not include a read aloud during the school day. The kids (and the teacher) really miss out.
Just last week we had a great discussion, as students wondered who to root for in Artemis Fowl. Because, you know, he's kind of the villain, but he's also the main character and the series is named after him. Fantastic discussion! And I learned what my students already knew about series literature.Delete
I've taught grades 7, 8, 10, 12, but never done read aloud. I use the audio book for most class reading books to get us started, but never done a read aloud.ReplyDelete
Glad to have you aboard! Welcome, welcome, welcome!
I would think read aloud would be hard in the upper grades.
Oh Dianne! I'm sorry I missed this post at first, but I'm glad I came back for it.ReplyDelete
Personally, I'm super sentimental, and will cry at the drop of a hat, especially while reading, so I would be terrified to read aloud to students, but it's so inspiring to think about you sharing that with your kids, and knowing how deeply it must have touched some of them.
There is no greater gift, I think, than passing along a love of literature. Nothing has enriched my life more.
You are such a wonderful edition to the team here. So glad to have you!
The crying thing can actually be good: you're trusting your kids with your emotions, they see grown ups can be moved by story lines, etc.Delete
Books are powerful! I will confess I've had a student ask, "Are you going to cry again, Ms. Rose?" :)
Best part of my day yesterday? Reaching the climax of Everlost and hearing the gasps of students who suddenly realized the true identity of the McGill about 10 seconds before it was revealed. Yeah, I love read aloud!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the welcome, Matt!
My 5th grade teacher was my favorite teacher and he read aloud to us every day. I still remember and think about the things I learned in his classroom. What you're doing is so important and you're impacting your students more than you imagine. Welcome to the mayhem!ReplyDelete