One consideration to do differently next year is rethinking the seating arrangements. I'm still trying to picture how I will arrange seating during read alouds; especially when I go into various classrooms. Some rooms have established areas (next year I envision more classrooms will set aside a reading area), but in the other classrooms, should I have the students stay at their desks?...should I have everyone come to my empty room? etc.?
Another idea I might try next year is creating a movie hand signal when there is a really good section that students are visualizing. Some of the times, after several students start making the hand motion, we could pause to act it out.
Raquel, I think I can picture the movie hand signal you're talking about. I have used something similar to tell (order) the students to make a movie in their mind. But your idea of the students making the hand motion to signal a significant part that he or she can act out is excellent! In a way it "puts the ball in their court" or in this sense, "the book in their hands." Very clever!
I like that idea of creating a movie hand signal, Raquel!
Comprehension, sequencing, inference and more. Key words everyone is working on right now. I have to remember to talk about and list these more prominently when when discussing the read aloud's importance with peers and in my lesson plans. I don't think I usually put these front and center. As the author states, reading aloud is instruction.
As a former first grade teacher I would let me students draw while I read aloud (chapter book). However, I was told they are to do nothing while I am reading. Glad to see Dr. Layne make the case for exceptions. I never gave the students an assigned topic (unless it dealt with the book). It was a free choice and usually evolved into a big doodling session. It relaxed the students and kept the fidgety ones engaged. When I stopped to discuss an event in the story, they were right there with me. I think teachers should have the flexibility to make it work for their classroom community.
I ran across the Guidelines for Reading on the RCPS English curriculum page. They may have to be revised after this book. Second part of #1 : Do not allow students to be working on other tasks simultaneously.
Specific Grade Level Expectations: Sixth-Twelfth Grades: Read a minimum of 5-10 minutes a day. Do not exceed this amount as a general rule since students need to read at the instructional level with the teacher and at the independent level on their own most of the time.
Hmm..a minimum of 5-10 but do NOT exceed this amount?
Carlene, I cracked up when I read about the Guidelines from our curriculum page for the upper grades. I think this book probably blows that whole 5-10 minutes thing out of the water!!
Carlene and Chris,
Would you believe? I was on the very same page today (RCPS Guidelines for Reading Aloud) and I, too, squawked when I saw the 5 - 10 minutes a day! Maybe some adjustments are in order for this guideline following the reading of this book?
The Summer Reading Institute came up with some new Read Aloud guidelines K-12. Pretty exciting!
There is a huge, impatient part of me that just wants to start reading aloud -- wants to jump into the story and completely engage students. I have come to realize that not every living soul shares my passion for words (gasp!), and that many middle school students need to be eased into the world of story. I plan to spend a chunk of time planning for, and conducting a successful launch of each book I read to students this year. I want to be intentional in my plans for nudging prior knowledge and creating new knowledge of possibly unfamiliar topics that the book will address.
I love knowing that there are folks like you and Marge and others that are making read aloud a part of the instruction at the middle and high school levels. Maybe had that been done for me I would perhaps enjoy reading more than I do.
Tammy, I share your enthusiasm of jumping right into a book. I really had to adjust my thinking a little to consider the importance of the book launch.
Wow! Chapter 2 was great! At times I felt very convicted of how many opportunities I have left on the table over the years, but I must say I felt better when I got to the section where he shared the emails he had gotten. I am definitely a step ahead of some of those folks! =)
I think for me the first step I need to make going into this next year is to make sure that "Story Time" is given the importance that it should be. That students (and other staff members) understand that it's instructional time. Often because of scheduling we have had to pull Title I kids from this time. I have never felt good about that, but even more so after reading this chapter.
Carlene, I agree that I also need to be more intentional in getting those vocabulary and skills in as a part of the instruction. I have done better in recent years with that, but obviously there is more than I can do. Raquel, I love the movie hand signal idea!
I agree with the struggle in choosing appropriate pull out times for speech, title 1....whatever! I am arrogant enough to think that EVERYTHING that I'm doing in the classroom is not only valid, but important! I also know that speech and Title 1 are important (and in some cases, regular 1 on 1 time with the guidance counselor or Big Brother/Big Sister), but how do we reconcile this?
Chris, I don't like pulling kids during your read aloud time either. Have you noticed how sometimes I just come in and sit down and listen for a while? You are an awesome reader! You class is always right with you while you are reading to them. Feel free to put up a Do Not Disturb sign on your door. I'll come back later :)
Rene, I can see you doing just that. I've also caught myself stopping to listen to teachers read aloud to their students as I'm passing by during a read aloud time. :)
I appreciated hearing more than once from the author that read-aloud time is instruction time. All the more reason to protect this time. Ideally, in the perfect world, on most days, by the 3rd or 4th week of the month, my read aloud time isn't jeopardized. But when asked by resource teachers "When can I take BLANK to work some more with him/her" I confess that I usually respond by saying, "Well how about when I'm reading the (planned) Language Arts, Social Studies, Science book?" If the student has a half hour with me for guided reading, a half hour with the assistant for guided word study, a half hour with the TLC person and then a half hour with the ELL teacher, the speech teacher may need to take him during one of the read aloud times. I don't want to say this too loudly but I think we need instruction time added to the day. Sorry, I'm digressing! This year, thankfully, I know that my administrator wants to prioritize reading aloud and is working on the schedule to facilitate that. So, to prepare to launch, I need to work on seating. My room is small and that necessitates some students sitting at their desks during whole group time. That tempts them to play with things in their desks. Also, to be better prepared, I will pre-read the book (even if I know it already) so that I know at which places I need to stop to predict with the students, discuss, comprehend, etc. If I remind myself that reading aloud IS a time of instruction, I will keep it sacred... as it should be.
I hear you, Kathy, and feel your frustration. I think that those types of pull outs may be more problematic for the elementary folks. Don't get me wrong, however, we have interruptions as well - other teachers wanting students to finish a test, make up work from an absence, practice with the band for an upcoming event, as well as speech and other things sometimes. All the more reason for that "Do Not Disturb!" sign, huh?!
Hmmm...how will I conduct read-alouds differently in the coming year? Well, to begin I'll quote Steven Layne from the book:
"The launch, in my mind, refers to the actual beginning of the read-aloud. Anything up to that point that a teacher may have done to build interest in an upcoming read-aloud title (book trailers, reviews posted in the classroom, visit to the author's website and that all-important thorough preview of the book) would be considered 'prelaunch' in my mind. Think of it in terms of a rocket if you like. When the rocket is 'launching,' it's hitting the air. When you are launching your read-aloud, you're starting to actually read it."
So, I have been mistaken with all the "wonderful" things that I have done in the past prior to reading! I thought I was launching the read-aloud for my students when actually I have simply been preparing them for the real launch! In the coming year I will work more in the actual launching of the read-aloud. In those first chapters I'll try to work more to consider things like genre and creating a greater purpose for their listening by building scaffolds - and maybe even allowing more time for reading aloud during the launch until their interest has been well secured.
Marge, I agree with you! Spending more time in the actual launch of the book is one of my goals. When I thought about the read alouds that I have done in the past, many are along the same genre paths. I want to broaden the types of genres that I expose my children to during read aloud.
I guess I have been woefully negligent in thinking about our physical space. Read alouds have generally been with everyone on the floor in front of me. At times, I have allowed them the luxury of turning their chairs over (have you seen this on pinterest?) and reclining on them, BUT that leads to "Can I get my coat to use as a pillow?" and general disruption. So, for next year......(have I mentioned that I'm changing grade levels?) I am previewing many of the books listed in the chapters. I'm thinking that this summer I will map out the read alouds I want to use and the skill reinforcements at the stopping points in each book--kind of make a master plan for those NOW while I feel like I have some time to do so. I'll continue to ponder the seating aspect of it. I do like the idea of them flipping their chairs over to recline on IF I can figure a way for them to be more comfortable with some padding in a way that won't take up more than about 90 seconds to set up and put back.
Generally, during read-aloud time I invite students out of their desks to sit on the carpet. I think if we really worked at it, we could push a table out of the way and provide some room to stretch out on the floor. And if I get those large pillows that I haven't used in three years out of the closet, we could really be comfortable like Layne suggests. I'd like to be more deliberate next year about the launching phase of the read-aloud, particularly with the fantasy titles I read. I like Layne's idea of asking some students to demonstrate the action they hear or allowing them to draw what they visualize. Both are good ways to emphasized the idea that we see a movie in our minds when we read. I'd like to add some new read-alouds to my repertoire next year and I'm hoping to get some ideas from future chapters. I'm already interested in reading Gooney Bird Greene from the way Layne describes it and the excerpt I read on Amazon.
My favorite Dr. Layne quote in this chapter.... "Kids don't take books home and read if they never have any pleasant experiences with books. In a world that is busier and busier, we need to be very mindful of just how important it is for our students to have some positive and enjoyable experiences with text." I love that aspect of reading aloud! As a reading specialist, I frequently use mentor texts to teach/model comprehension strategies with students in my various reading groups. But as I'm reading, I am very aware that I am fostering the idea that books are to be relished. It's such a win/win situation!
My thoughts on how to improve my instruction with read-alouds center around being more prepared before reading. While I am very familiar with the books, I could be more intentional with picking out my exact stopping places for discussing, visualizing, sequencing, etc. Sometimes I have a sense of a missed opportunity, but it was too late to go back. I'm sure the students would benefit more and I would be more satisfied if I pre-planned better.
I have used read-alouds in my classroom for years. One thing that struck me in this chapter was the importance of launching the book. Typically I have introduced the book by reading the title, author and discussing the front cover. Next year I want to make a concerted effort to incorporate book trailers into my introduction.
Two quotes by Henrietta Dombey caused me to ponder and reinforced my commitment to read-alouds. "...your listeners are transported to other places and other times and given other ways of seeing the world." Perhaps read-alouds have the potential for our students to become more reflective and to become more sympathetic and tolerant of others. Dombey also states,"...reading matters-that it can take you far beyond your own firsthand experience and show you other ways of living, other ways of thinking, and other values."
There were so many helpful hints in this chapter! I think I will use his idea of a 'do not disturb' sign - as there's nothing worse than being interrupted during a really exciting part of the story! In the past, I've just had students sit on the rug in their assigned seating arrangement for read alouds. I would love to make this time more comfortable and informal, by possibly adding pillows and allowing children a little more freedom in how they sit (as long as they don't disturb others, of course). As far as launching the book, I have not done a very good job of that at all, and that's one thing that hit me hard in this chapter. I need to activate some prior knowledge before jumping in to start reading - and with the youngsters, I need to consider some knowledge gaps that may be present before I read a story. Some students have far more background knowledge from personal experiences than other students, and I need to take that more into consideration, so that I don't lose some students before I even start!
Like Ashley, I found a number of practical (often hilariously described) suggestions in this chapter. One of key interest to me was the one Ashley was pondering above about how the gaps in various students' background knowledge affects the speed of their engagement in the book launch period. Because as a reading specialist I target those students who have less vocabulary and reading experience, I am considering pulling out that group of students for the launch of a new classroom read-aloud to do a highly-scaffolded launch with them. Even with realistic fiction, often the lack of exposure for some of these students prevents them for really getting the "movie" going. Another area I have been guilty in: finishing the book and only allowing enough time for the sigh before moving on; I want to be sure to plan time for students to "debrief" while the moment is ripe. Finally, I like the thought that book language is a second language--often highly descriptive and introspective--giving students the opportunity to learn more intentional ways of looking at the world and themselves. But that concept of "second language" reminds me of how critical the choice of books is as students are at different stages of grasping that special book language.
I agreed with so many of your comments! After teaching first graders for so many years and experiencing the joy of reading aloud to little people, I was so thrilled to see the interest and excitement that came in grades 3-5 during read-alouds this past year. I read aloud regularly to a fourth grade classroom that contained many of the ID kids. At the end of the year, the Special Ed. teacher shared with me the strides those kids had made this year. She had also taken the step to read aloud more to her students and enjoy books together. We both agreed the academic strides those children made were from a shift in attitude towards books and reading. I resonated with a quote from Linda Gambrell on pg. 45..."the central and most important goal of reading instruction is to foster a love of reading. As teachers, we need to remember that we can teach our students all the skills needed for proficient reading, but if they do not choose to read--if they are not motivated to read--they will never reach their full literacy potential!" I want to being more intentional about book choice this year and plan deeper questions ( including comp. strategies) but also affective life questions that motivate students to become life long learners and readers!
As I read Chapter 2 earlier this summer, I was impressed at the detail of and time and space given to "the launch" of the read-aloud. It should go without saying that the teacher should know his students very well and should also know the book very well in order to launch the book successfully and providing the necessary scaffolding. Certainly it is worth our time and the students' time to build prior knowledge if we sense it is needed for maximum enjoyment and understanding of the text.
I love the "Do Not Disturb" sign and the importance of the read-aloud that it communicates.
I appreciate Layne's critical thinking in regard to identifying skills during the read-aloud, planning the conclusion of the read-aloud, and his excellent reasons for not canceling a read-aloud.
As I read Layne's book, I am reminded of another book, an excellent resource I have given to and recommended to various teachers and parents. It is "Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever" by Mem Fox (2008) It is a gold mine of skills for the reader to practice in order to make stories come alive for listeners.
So, since I've started teaching only reading, which mainly consists of remediation....I admit I feel I am forced to leave the "pleasure read alouds" up to the classroom teachers. I hate this! Reading aloud to my students is one of the things (among many) that I miss dearly about classroom teaching. I remember when I tried my first risk-ay read aloud with my first graders. I had toyed with the idea after talking with colleague of mine and decided to try it out. I read Sounder aloud to my first grade students. These were a special group of young people, most very mature for their age and able to understand things that many of my previous groups were not. It was hard gettting started at first - slow start due to frequent stops to have conversations that built their background knowledge and better understanding of life for this time period and economic status. After day 3 my students could not get enough. I always let students free draw during read alouds. Some choose not to but most whip out their free draw notebooks and lie their heads down to doodle. There was no verbal expectation to draw anything that had anything to do with the book , although secretly I had hoped that their minds would be so focused on the story that the pictures would magically turn in to something that the book had conjured up for them. And it did! I had so many touching pictures day after day of what the story meant for them. They couldn't stop talking and asking questions. I realized how much more they could handle than what I had given them credit for. It was by far the best read aloud experiences to date that I've had with my students.
One thing I always did during read aloud time with my first grade class is to dim the lights and let them get out their drawing notebooks. They would doodle as I read aloud. This seemed to really help them to calm down after picking them up from the "lunch room roar" each day. I started this because I had a lot of students that year who like to play with the contents of their pencil boxes or tap on their desks while I read. Giving them something to do with their hands seemed to help their mind to be able to slow down and focus.
I am guilty of using Read Aloud time as a time for relaxation. I am probably not as systematic as Dr. Layne would like for me to be during my read alouds. I don't have little sticky notes with questions at precise locations, I have read aloud a book that I haven't read first ( I know this is probably breaking some law), I have rushed to finish before Christmas break..... this list goes on of all the things I have done wrong. This chapter helped me see that if I am going to give read aloud the time it deserves, I am going to need to do a better job of preparation for it.
The past three years, I have had a read aloud at the end of the day prior to the bell. I always enjoyed this time with my kids but things were always a little hectic. Between afternoon announcements, impromptu pickups, fish tank kids (we have a guppy club!) and people poking their head in, our real aloud time is never as quiet and exclusive as I would like. Because we switch our classes around, I only have my homeroom kiddos for homeroom in the morning and during our science or social studies time at the end of the before the bell. This year, I think I will try to have a read aloud before getting started in science or social studies. This is after our specials so it may be nice to have the kids calm down and decompress before we start on a new lesson! I would like to bring in more Historical Fiction read alouds to tie in with our Virginia Studies curriculum. I have heard that “Blood on the River” by Elisa Carbone is a great one!
I really appreciate the importance that Layne places on the launching of a new book and the idea of a “do not disturb” sign. Kids associate the “do not disturb” signs with testing so why not change things up a bit? I would like to do a better job of providing a purpose for their listening which is why I think using “Blood on the River” might be a beneficial read!
Many of you have mentioned the "Do Not Disturb" signs. As one of the reading specialists in my building, I almost feel like it should be my duty to create these signs for my teachers. :) If I am to promote the importance of reading aloud, I feel like this is a simple gesture to help establish this reading community school-wide.
For this upcoming school year, I want to be more thoughtful in my book selection for reading aloud. I must admit, I have often grabbed a book right off the shelf to read without adequate preparation. I'm also a sucker for reading a book aloud that a student has requested that I read. I was shocked at how Layne discouraged this. He truly opened my eyes to book launch, and many missed opportunities for instruction.
Loved, loved, loved the "Do-Not-Disturb" mentality for read aloud.
I am guilty of many of the do-nots and appreciated the idea of launching a book and previewing it. I have been trying to figure out a way to make my classroom more comfortable for listening- middle school bodies get big so I have trouble figuring out cozy spaces.
My goal is to be more intentional in scheduling time for reading out loud- his comments on not canceling and planning ahead so the story stays cohesive and they don't miss the end were very helpful.
I am going to try to select a read aloud that goes with our lit circle themes. Hoping that students will see connections.
Kimber Tate, Coordinator of English, Reading and Libraries