Slice of Life: Read Aloud Communion

This morning, the line of fifth graders seemed to be on vibrate.

Fidgeting and talkative, students settled for moments of instruction, attempting bits of work, then the nervous energy seeps out dissolving any possible focus.

Ah, the end of elementary school.  Worry permeates their writing. Talk bubbles all around, and the drama rises.

I asked students to come to the carpet for read aloud, and a sense of calm takes over.  As we move into the world of the story, the shared reading experience shuts out stress. It offers an opportunity to take a break and live through another’s eyes.

Today before we read about Salva Dut’s first air flight, I ask my students how many of them had ever been on an airplane. Half of the class raise their hand.

With this in mind I said, “For those of you who have been on a flight before, hear Salva’s words and live this experience alongside him. Your memories will help you. For those of you who haven’t been on an airplane, you must work a little harder, let his words create the experience you haven’t had yet. Let the language move your body and mind to be there with him.”

Students close their eyes, and I read A Long Walk to Water:

Salva stared at the scene outside the small window. The world was so big, yet everything in it was so small. Huge forests and deserts became mere patches of green and brown. Cars crawled along the roads like ants in a line…It landed with an alarming thump, then breaked so hard that Salva was thrown forward in his seat; the strap across is stomach caught him hard.

I reread. Students write and draw in their notebooks.  Then they talk.

I’ve been pushing my students to fill gaps in knowledge by looking things up. I’ve reasoned with this approach to reading, students might understand literature at a deeper level and at the same time build knowledge of the world. Just like they might look up a word’s definition, they might google an image to help them understand a piece of text.

But there are times in books when we can’t do this. Google images can’t get readers to feel. For this, we must take in the author’s words, put our hearts into the character’s experience, and let the emotions rise inside.

When we experience a story together, we set our personal worries aside and let the words fill us up to venture into the emotional and physical world of our read aloud.

The opening of a book is communion.


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more or contribute your own slice  slices here.

14 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Read Aloud Communion

  1. I have chills: “The opening of a book is communion.” What a gorgeous sentence that perfectly captures what I’ve always felt about read alouds too. I love how you say that Google images can’t help you feel a feeling. This post is exactly why I love being part of this TWT community and getting the chance to read what teachers like you have to say.

  2. This is just lovely. Reading aloud isn’t just a means to quiet their minds and hearts but a means to deepen them as readers too. Kudos.

  3. Such a beautiful way to capture the magic. And it is magic. Those moments that bring us together in a common text. Enjoy these last few days. It gets harder and harder and then they’re gone.

  4. Julieanne,
    I was in fifth grade yesterday and saw the drama. Wow! what a great reminder for me.

    So important for kiddos to be “thinking” as they read. You are a master at creating the environment that entices students into a thinking world . . . not a passive world! THANKS!

  5. Reading aloud and sharing the story is a powerful way to community and learning what words can “be”. You’re described it beautifully, Julieanne.

  6. I love the way you describe the students at the beginning, the bundle of energy and how the reading brings a calmness to their active bodies, but yet their minds are fully engaged in the thinking required. Your final line is the bow on a perfect package.

  7. I know what you mean. You had the marvelous experience of magical read aloud, the words filling the room and the listeners.

  8. I love all of the things you’re doing to help your students build background they may not have. Yet, it is so hard to feel when we don’t have that prior knowledge.

  9. I love the way your kids responded to the read aloud – their calm shows that they have learned, from their year with you, that reading time is to be treasured, and held close.

  10. Love this, JulieAnne. I saw Ellin Keene do several demo lessons on how readers can build their schema as they read, and it was simple, yet fascinating. Talk to each other, reread, visualize, ask questions, and more talk, talk, talk.

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