Read-aloud handbook

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The Read-Aloud Handbook – What have I learned?

Published August 17, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

I finally finished Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook.  It was nice how he finished the book, and wrapped everything up by telling his own story.  There were two things I highlighted in this chapter.

Personal interest can be a powerful driving force with boys, whether that interest is sports, auto repair, model racing, war, music, or computers. (page 169)

A California professor, once tol me that girls tend to be extrinsically motivated in their reading (favouring the choices of their peers, mom, and teacher), while boys are intrinsically motivated (favouring what they themselves are interested in).  Call it selfish or pragmatic, but guys are drawn more to what interests them, not what interests the crowd.  (page 169)

When I think about this and my class last year it kind of makes sense.  We have a treasure chest in our class and every time I read aloud a book it goes into the treasure chest for students to revisit later.  It is usually the girls who go here to get books.    The boys are less frequently looking for books independently but if I can find a book on something they are interested them, they will spend a much longer time ‘reading’ that book, and usually come to me for another.

So now that I am done reading what have I learned that will affect my teaching practice this year?

  1. I NEED at least 1 read-aloud every day.  I have gone through and taken a long look at my daily schedule.  My ECE and I decided last June that there are some changes we need to make so this is a great time to switch things up.  In the morning we will start with some brain exercises / DPA as we give everyone time to enter and prepare for the day, and then we will go straight to a Read-Aloud.  Sometimes it will connect to a lesson but sometimes it will just be a read-aloud for the fun of reading.  There may be read-alouds at other times throughout the day but we will ALWAYS have one in the morning.  I would like to try and use one book from Trelease’s treasury per week.  Later in the year I would really like to introduce chapter books to my class but we will see how the year goes.
  2. This year we are going to have B.E.A.R. time.  I love this acronym from Pre-K pages that stands for “Be Excited About Reading”.  We have a large class (27 students) so this will take some work.  Our school is on balanced day so we are going to have BEAR time at the beginning of block #3, right after second nutrition break.  I am going to introduce the concept on the very first day by reading Otto the Book Bear by Katie Clemson.  Otto is a character in a book with a special secret – when no one is looking he comes to life.  This is a cute story of how Otto gets accidentally left behind one day and his journey to find a new home.  After reading aloud to the class I will introduce them to our book bear (I am still looking for the perfect stuffed bear).  We will discuss what B.E.A.R. time will look like everyday.  Everyone will get to select a book from the class library and read at their seat.  Because the class is so large we are going to start with everyone reading at their table but hopefully as the year progresses they can select a quiet place in the class to read.  We will also put a bin of books on each table.  If they finish their book they can read one from the bin but not get up and walk around to find a new one, hopefully this will reduce chaos.  The student who is the ‘Star of the Day’ will be able to read with our class book bear.
  3. One of my main goals is going to get the parents to read to their children daily.  I am going to use Trelease’s phamplets that he has available on his websites and send them home at different times throughout the year for the parents.  During September interviews I am going to stress the importance of reading to your child every night.  For the entire first term I am not going to have any homework sent home with my students.  Instead I am going to have families log time that they read-aloud together.  I have read aloud record sheet in their communication folder for parents to record ever time they read aloud with their child.  I found an awesome idea at theteacherswife to use dog tags and beads to track how much each child has read.  I really like this idea, and I could display these in the class using minimal space (wall space is a premium).  I have already started looking for dog tags.
  4. When choosing books to read-aloud I will now be looking at them in a different way.  In the past my primary concern was how the content connected to what we were learning or what I wanted to introduce to the class.  Starting at the beginning of the year my goal is to select books to hook my students and build their attentions.  Next we will work on building vocabulary and background knowledge.  Later in the year I hope to expand into longer picture books and short chapter books.  There is an excellent example of the progression on pages 58 an 59 of The Read-Aloud Handbook.
  5. As students are tracking their reading at home we are also going to track the books we read-aloud in class.  We will make a ‘book worm’ who will curl around our wall/door (haven’t figured out exactly where he will go yet) as a new circle will be added with the title of each book we read.
  6. Finally I would like to create a Newstand in our class to highlight magazines and newspapers as forms of reading.  To help build our collection and create variety I am going to invite families to send in their old/used copies of magazines and newspapers (appropriate ones of course).

I blogged about all this to share my thoughts but also to give myself a check in.  Every couple of months I intend to reflect on how our literacy program is running an I will share our successes and re-thinks.

I really enjoyed this book study, but now that I have spent most of the summer focusing on reading and my literacy program I am going to switch gears.  My next book is Christine Moynihan’s Math Sense as part of the book study hosted by Math Coaches Corner.  I love following her blog and seeing all the ideas she posts so I am looking forward to this book study.

Dad’s Job in Reading

Published August 15, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

This chapter was a bit out of my realm on familiarity.  My husband has very high expectations of our children (even though I am starting to realize mine may still be a bit higher).  As they get older, if their grades should drop sports and extracurriculars that they love to do, will be cut back.  Saying this our children are still young (3, 5, and 7).  The 5 and 7 year old are girls and both advanced readers.  My 3 year old boy loves books, but I think that sometimes it is because he loves to do what his sisters are doing.  Since reading chapter 5 on SSR we have been trying it at home and even the 3 year old loves to participate.  We have yet to have Daddy participate.  This is because it is summer and we are reading when he is not home but I wonder if he would be reluctant to participate if he was present.

Daddy reads to the kids when they ask but I am working on getting him to see the value of reading to them everday.  He is the one often saying it is the first thing to go if everyone is busy and tired but I am trying to get away from this way of thinking.  I am going to get him to read chapter 9, and will ask his thoughts, but I think that the beginning few chapters may be more important to him.  He very much already ‘gets’ many of the concerns Trelease mentions in chapter 9 of The Read-Aloud Handbook.  He is more than aware of the business changes in the past decade – he is a chartered accountant and news junkie.  The only sport that is frequently watched is Hockey Night in Canada, and that has even declined in the past couple of years.  The girls both played hockey, my 5 year old still does, and my 3 year old son is starting this year, but it is the the center of the universe.  At times we are a bit guilty of the girl’s dance over taking our lives but even on competition weekends we always take a few books with us for down time.

The one thing that he could improve on is letting the kids see him read.  He reads the newspaper daily, but only online.  I have looked into traditional subscriptions but we live in a rural area and the only thing we can get delivered is our small local paper.  He gets the Economist weekly but the kids rarely see him reading it.  If we can swing it in our busy lives I think we need to try and get daddy to join us for SSR (quiet reading time).  The other thing I would like is for him to sometimes pick books to read aloud to the kids.  He always asks them to grab a book but at times it would be nice for him to share his favourite books with them.

TV & Audio – Chapter 8 Comments

Published August 12, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

TV is a very big part of may of our student’s lives as they are growing up.  It is part of the environment my own kids live it.  It is our responsibility as parents to monitor and regulate their consumption.  We have three TVs in our house.  Our main one is in our media room, not our main living room.  This was a design decision when we built our house and I love it!  When no one is watching the TV it is off.  We never watch TV while doing homework, eating dinner or other tasks. In my opinion this makes it much easier to monitor usage.  Our winter routine is all on a schedule. My children have a number of extracurricular activities so for practicality we made a TV schedule.  They each get one night a week that they get to pick a 30 minute show.  Friday nights are family movie nights.  For 10 months of the year that is pretty much it (with the exception of sick days and the odd rainy Saturday afternoon).  Because they know the schedule, and can see it (we post it in the media room) they rarely argue.  We have two other TVs in the house.  One is an old one in the basement hooked up to the Wii and one is in our room.  I don’t usually consider Wii time TV time as the girls are usually doing very active dancing games on it and not that often (if it ever becomes an issue we will deal with it then).  I resisted getting a TV in our room but my husband really wanted to (especially for hockey playoffs) and I regret it.  Too often I fall asleep watching TV instead of reading, like I did before.  I am a firm believer that children should NEVER have TVs in their room.

I enjoy reading Trelease’s chapter 8 on Television and Audio: Hurting or Helping Literacy?  Often I hear in the news people saying children watch too much TV and some parents take that to mean they shouldn’t watch any TV.  I strongly feel this is unrealistic for us to expect of some parents.  With a bit of leeway, letting them know that a small amount of watching is OK – I think they would be able to manage it much better.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a limit of ten hours a week, and no TV for children under two. (page 148)

That is a fair amount of TV.  When you add up the hours my own children watch it is approximately 3 to 4 hours a week.  What do my children do – they play.  Today my youngest is a daycare  but my girls are home (as it is summer).  They are 5 and 7.   They watched one 1/2 hour program this morning. What else have they done today.  They played ponies, barbies, dolls, they planned a birthday party for a teddy bear, they read, they danced, they made their beds and tidied up a bit, they were kids!!!  I didn’t have to even suggest a single thing for them to do – and I accomplished a lot today!  A TV is not a babysitter – it is an excuse.  I love it when Trelease writes:

If there were a babysitter who interrupted your child’s natural growth that much, you’d never hire him or her again, right?

After reading this chapter I think I need to re-examine my own TV watching.  I am fine watching a show in the evening after the kids go to bed but the one thing I notice is that I often have the bedroom TV on throughout the day.  It is usually on CBC News or CNN but I forget that the kids are often walking around. I think that I need to make my tea in the morning, sit and watch the headlines and then TURN IT OFF!  I often forget that they might see something that they shouldn’t – even on the news.  I like to have background noise when we are moving around the house – so maybe I will just start putting on music in the morning.

The final thing I wanted to highlight was the study Trelease mentions on page 148.  The vocabulary used on the CBS Evening News was studied between 1963 and 1993.  It went from the level of a high school graduate level in 1963 to a junior school level in 1993.  To me this is very concerning.  Is the vocabulary decreasing because the viewing population has a lower vocabulary – or is the programming a cause of our lower vocabulary???  Food for thought!  Maybe even more of a reason to keep reading thought provoking and challenging material as adult!

Digital Learning

Published August 7, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

I am in Vaughan (near Toronto) for a couple of days for the Dr. Jean summer camp.  Today was awesome and I have so many new great ideas to take back to my class.  She actually mentioned The Read-Aloud Handbook during the session today (and the book study).  I find it fitting that I am blogging about chapter 7 after spending a day at a session that is reminding me of the low-tech ways I can reach my students.  My favourite quote from the day was “We are so busy trying to give our kids what we didn’t have that we forget to give them what we did.”  Dr. Jean

Chapter 7 discusses the good and bad of digital learning.  Trelease starts by highlighting the advantages of e-books.  These are all the same things that the advertisers of E-books use: lightweight, added life expectancy, multimedia, hyperlinks, and audio links.  I am definitely going to check out gutenberg.org.  Next he goes through liabilities: how do you stock a  classroom library, what if technology gets outdated, and we read more slowly from a screen than a paper.

One of the most interesting things that was in this chapter was that many of the private Waldorf, technology free, schools in Silicone Valley are filled with children who’s parents work in the big tech firms.  These are parents who make their living from technology yet they see the value in hands-on creativity and play exploration.

The last thing that struck me was that “Constant connectedness undercuts thinking and creativity” (page. 138).  Our kids need down time.  I know that I am really having trouble disconnecting so I can only imagine what is happening to my kids.  Ironically it made me think of a Big Bang Theory episode when Sheldon took a ‘menial’ job with Penny to give his brain a break so we would be able to possibly find a solution to his problem.  We need to slow down and for me that is the time I curl up with a book, just a book – no hyperlinks, no added bells and whistles – just a great read!!  I want to be able to ‘read between the lines’ and find deeper meaning in the authors writing.

 

Print Climate in the Home, School, and Library

Published August 4, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

At times it feels like Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook is repeating the same thing over and over again but I think that sometimes things need to be said many different ways, with many different stats for it to reach some people.  Chapter 6 really struck me in the differences between the ‘halfs’ and the ‘half-nots’.  I normally don’t like that phrase but it works many ways.  It is not just social economic status (however that is a big part of it) it is also about books, newspapers, magazines, libraries, and librarians.  If they are present achievement is higher than if they are not!

In my past life as a teacher-librarian read many articles, books and references on the impact of librarians and well stocked libraries.  It is nice to see many of these same stats it in a more popular and well read publication.  Trelease clearly sums up one such study on page 108:

A higher number of books per pupil and a full-time librarian meant an eleven-point advantage, and that a higher percentage of the student body visiting the library per week accounted for a twelve-point advantage.

There are many more studies just like this one with the same results, but I have seen first hand that it still doesn’t seem to make a difference in school programming and scheduling.

I loved that one section is titled: How many Books Should be in the Home Library?  I have a bit of an addiction to collecting children’s books.  This is a pet peeve of my husband who routinely says our kids have way too many books.  I think I may make him read this section of chapter 6.  I am still working on organizing and cataloguing all our books, I have barely started and have 220 cataloged.

Print in the home is a proven life changer worldwide.  Using data from seventy thousand families in twenty-seven nations, accumulated of multiple decades, researchers showed more books in the home led to a higher grade-leve completion rate.  (page 111)

Trelease has another great section where he comments on series books, often called ‘trash’ or ‘junk’ books.  I have never had a concern with this as a teacher or a teacher-librarian but I do love his quote:

Our job is to lead them eventually to the better books by reading aloud to them. (page 120)

Finally I just wanted to talk a bit about how this chapter is causing me to think about my own classroom.  I have a fair number of books in my classroom but I think I could do a better job organizing them and displaying them for the class.  I have three permanent sections: non-fiction, fiction, and concept (math, abc, etc).  In these three section the bins are labelled by theme (Clifford, bugs, colours, etc), but the books are not facing out.  In another shelf I rotate books that are relevant to current student interests or time of year and these are all facing out.  I am happy with both of these set-ups but think I need to take a bit more time specifically modelling how to use them with my  class.  After reading chapter 6 I want to create another section for other forms of reading: magazines & newspapers.  I am really interested in knowing how others use & display these types of media in their Kindergarten rooms.  In particular I would love to know what publications are put out.  Currently we get Chirp and Hightlights and I think I would like to get National Geographic Little Kids next year.  I am going to try and get copies of our local newspapers – weekly and daily but will have to make sure I check the content prior to putting them out.  I would love to hear what others are doing.

SSR – Reading Aloud’s Natural Partner

Published July 29, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

I know I am playing catch up but still wanted to post my thoughts on Chapter 5.  I am not new to the idea of Sustained Silent Reading.  Before I taught Kindergarten I was a Teacher-Librarian and for a course I took I did a Sustained Silent Reading project (click for attachment).  I know I have a number of great professional books on SSR but as one of my goals this summer is to catalog and organize all my books I was only able to find one: Building Student Literacy Through Sustained Silent Reading by Steve Gardiner.  I love the program and had used it with older grades but it never crossed my mind to use in my Kindergarten class (JK/SK split ages 3-5).  I was happy to read this chapter and it has given me a bit to think about on how I may be able to implement it in my current class.

Key Highlights:

  • “Until it is explained, silent reading is sometimes a mystery to young children.” (page 81) At one point in my education I remember learning about the developmental stage when children are capable of internal thought.  I can’t remember the age or stage but to me it connects to how young children feel like they always need to read out loud.  I need to go back and research a bit to see at what age they are capable of reading ‘in their head’.
  • My analytical mind really appreciated the ‘Fraction of Selection’ illustrations on page 84 and 85.  I thought it was really ironic that as I was reading about the difficulties of distractions my daughters were practicing their tap dancing – just a bit of a distraction!
  • I often see the summer slip with some of my student between JK and SK (they are usually in my class for 2 years).  I really appreciated the comment by Trelease on page 88 that “the better readers don’t take the summer off and thus the gap widens”.  As a parent I use the summer as my opportunity to work with my children myself, and even when we are not doing formal learning we are always exploring.  As a teacher I find it so frustrating that some parents won’t even read with their children over the summer.  Especially when it doesn’t take much: “reading of four to six books during summer was enough to alleviate summer loss” (6th graders)
  • “The teacher stands before the class and daily gives mini-book talks based on the classroom library” (page 101).  Another great idea I need to figure out how to fit in my day.

So I would love to hear how preK and K teachers use SSR in their classroom, please share your ideas.  I am trying to figure out how to implement in my class next month when school starts back.

Do’s and Don’ts of Read-Aloud

Published July 22, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

I am a few days behind so I am trying to catch up on my blog posts before we go to Boston tomorrow.  Chapter 4 is a short chapter that is a list of Do’s and Don’ts for Reading Aloud.  I thought I would just comment on a few that really resonated with me.

The first thing that I have really been thinking about for a few days now was sparked by reading the Managing Interruptions post on Teach Preschool from an interview with Jim Trelease.  Trelease discusses interruptions by both reader and listener.  I understand and agree with his comments on student interruptions – managing them is a skill.  It is interruptions by the teacher that I have more of a struggle with.  When we are learning how to ‘teach’ Read Alouds much of the focus is on ‘Thinking Aloud’.  In Ontario a lot of this is outlined in Guide to Effective Instruction in Reading.

In the think-aloud process, the teacher models reading strategies – that is, the teacher says aloud to the students what he or she is thinking in order to make meaning of the text.

I understand Trelease’s comments on maintaining the flow of the story and avoiding stopping but there are times when teaching that it is useful to stop and ‘think aloud’.  The goal for a teacher is to determine when it is more valuable to comment and when it is better just  to keep reading.  A few points in this chapter discuss this idea.

  • As you red keep listeners involved by occasionally asking, “What do you think is going to happen next? (page 74)

  • When you come to a part of the story that the audience might not sense is important, pause and then whistler, “Mmmmmmmm.  That could be important”.

I think that while considering this, often as a teacher I sometimes ‘Think aloud’ a bit too often.

Here are a few other Do’s that jumped out at me:

Set aside at lease one consistent time each day for a story. (page 73)

I need to work on this one in my class.  I think it may be first think in the morning but as I work on my daily schedule for next year I need to find a way to schedule in a time every day.

Allow your listeners a few minutes to settle down and adjust their bodies and minds to the story. (page 74)

In my class we sing a lot, and often our singing indicates transitions.  I have been looking for a while for a song to sing with the the class to signal that it is time for a Read-Aloud.

Create a wall chart or back-of-the-bedroom-door book chart so the child or class can see how much as been read (page 76)

I love this idea, I just need to find the way that works in my class.

Chapter 5 up next, if I don’t get it read today it will probably not be posted until next weekend.