Slice of Life: Student Owned Read Aloud

Most days I enter my read aloud with a post it free text and an open mind. This might get me kicked out of the interactive read aloud club that has post its carefully planted at strategic points to teach specific reading moves. But, I have found that my students find more and I find out more about them when I am open to their thinking. 

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of planning and thought that goes into read aloud.

I choose text that present opportunities for my students to think; titles that they could not have accessed on their own.

I plan for the process. I want them to know this is what readers do, and this is how it feels when they do.  I set them up to do the reading work, to know they are readers.

I plan for replicable approaches to text. I plan for conversation and writing.

Today we considered:

Why writers do things.

Chapter 34, “A Star is Born” in Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

I asked, “Before we start, what do you think this title might mean.  Why this title?”

Conversations started in partnerships and grew. I heard:

It’s like a star in Hollywood.

Someone famous.

Maybe it’s about space. Albert loves that.

Stars can mean hope.

Hope is born?

Could it be about Ally having hope now that Mr. Daniels is helping her?

With this replicable beginning to any chapter, students were set up to look for potential lines of thought.

We started. Readers stopped to add to and adjust their theories. They supported and changed their ideas that showed up in conversations.

It’s about Albert being a star.

But he doesn’t want to be famous, he said so, he didn’t want the limelight.

No, it’s about all of them Keisha, Albert, and Ally.

But Ally doesn’t think so. She doesn’t believe.

I still think it’s about hope.

We ended our read aloud and considered a quote from the end of this chapter:

Be careful with eggs and words, because both can’t be fixed.

I asked, “Why did the writer write this? Why did she end this chapter this way?”

To answer this time,  students wrote.

Five minutes passed.

I leaned over N’s notebook.

Eggs can break and they can’t be fixed. Words can be spoken and they can hurt that can’t be taken back. Neither can be fixed.

I said to N, “Hmm, that makes me think of Each Kindness!” I had not seen that connection. I saw it with his words.

Students offered up their thinking with their partners.

Then I asked, “I wonder why the writer used this image of eggs? Add on to your thinking.”

Over T’s shoulder I read:

Ally is like an egg. And connects to the title of the chapter – A Star is Born. It’s like Ally isn’t a star yet. She’s the egg. Like not born. If someone is  mean she could break before she becomes a star.

I could not have planned this. Students own this read aloud.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays: a place to reflect and share our lives. Read more slices here.

Slice of Life: A Book of My Own

This weekend, I went to our local Barnes and Noble. When I walk into a bookstore, I have the same reaction I have when I walk into a shoe store. Everything is beautiful, and I want it all.  I love the shelves stacked high with new, untouched books. I walked out with a bag full.

Yesterday at school, I placed some in the library bins and hid a few behind my desk.

Within seconds of the class coming to the carpet, they were spotted.  And forget about making a teaching point. Brand new never touched books. Everyone wanted them. And I don’t blame them.

Growing up, my mom took me the library every week. She raised me with the why-buy-when-you-can-borrow mindset. My mom pile of books on the checkout counter, and I’d try to do the same. It was hard. I didn’t find much. All I saw were spines on gray metal shelves.  I didn’t like the smell of library books. Someone else had used them. That bothered me.

But, I loved the school book orders. For some reason, buying books in this way was ok with Mom.

Books would come in paper bags with my name written in teacher cursive. Getting one of those brown bags at school was like getting an early Christmas present.

I loved biographies, mysteries, and stories of girls who lived in other countries. I remember their covers. I remember how the pages looked and felt. These were my books. Untouched by anyone but me. I could put my name in them and put them on my bookshelf.

I remember how they made me feel.

Owning books matters.  When you own a book, it lives with you. You need to find space for it. It becomes family.  It takes a reader to a higher level of commitment.

Yesterday we started our read aloud, A Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Lynda visited our classroom via YouTube and read the first chapter. I took notes along with my students. We stopped the video and talked. Backed it up a bit and had her re-read.  They were spellbound.

Afterward, a student asks, “Where d’you get the book?”

Students always ask me that question. They want their copy to hold, page through, put their name in. I don’t blame them. I’d want it too.

Thank you,  Lynda, for writing books we want to own. And, thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana Deb, Kathleen, Stacey and Tara for Two  Writing Teachers blog. Read more slices here.