Read aloud time is THE most important part of my day. Period. The end. I am lucky that I teach in a self contained third grade, so I can make sure it happens, every day. It is my morning meeting, my reading lesson and so much more.
This is my second go around with teaching third grade. I did a stint about 18 years or so ago for 6 years. However, this time things are different. I have a different perspective on teaching grade three, as I taught second grade for many years, then fourth and then I landed back in grade three. Also, in that time, the middle grade genre exploded!
Third graders are an interesting bunch. They are caught between early childhood and middle grades. That makes read aloud a very interesting time. At the beginning of the year, many (not all) responses to conversation are about themselves. If you are reading about a dog, they will tell you they have dog or their aunt has dog or their friend has a dog. Etc. This is very developmentally appropriate. As we delve deeper into read alouds and read more, slowly, their responses begin to change. They are able to begin to look through the characters eyes now. They can make predictions that make sense to the story and not what they want to happen. Because by now we have shared many good books, we are starting to make connections to other stories. I marvel as their responses grow as they mature as students and small humans.
Last week, an amazing thing happened. My read aloud at that time was the One and Only Ivan. This is one of my personal must read to student books. It is about a gorilla named Ivan and his friend Stella the elephant who live in a shopping mall. If you haven’t read it, you need to! It is probably my 5th or so novel this year so I am starting to see the change in responses from my students. Anyways, 3 girls asked if they could stay in for recess to work on something. I said sure. I noticed that one student took about 20 sheets of copy paper. She put them all out like a puzzle and began sketching. At the end, she handed everyone sheets to take home and work on it. At the end of recess, they told me that they were creating Stella the elephant. (See picture below). The story was so powerful that they felt the need to miss recess to get their ideas down.
So, I finish the story and then I read the picture book by the same name. The students were not happy about the treatment of animals. Also, at that time, my daughter Kelsey is in South Africa Home. And had been to safaris. She had been sending us pictures and information about animals that needed help. It was decided that we would “save” animals. We looked up the World Wildlife Federation and we decided to save a gorilla or an elephant. It was decided that the students would have to earn the money themselves. it cost $25 to sponsor one animal. I told them that if they raised $16, I would kick in the rest. Well, a very generous donation from our teaching assistant, Mr. Carroll helped us to adopt a gorilla. The students then worked to adopt an elephant. They were to do chores at home. Parents were not just give them the money. The money started coming in. Yesterday, I was able to adopt a gorilla, an elephant AND a rhino (which we had learned from Kelsey were in the most need). How fabulous is that?
My next read aloud which I started immediately (and am still reading) is Wishtree also by the same author as the One and Only Ivan. The same girls from before decided to make a Wishtree where each child created a wish for it. They also felt we should have a class wish, which is in the middle of the tree. These girls also played Wishtree at recess. Students who at the beginning of the year who were making connections to themselves are now seeing connections between Wishtree and Wonder.
I love to read aloud. I love to watch their faces as the story unfolds. Some books, I choose to read every year. Some books I mix up but every year, students surprise me with their insight. Every class takes read aloud in a different direction. I am so lucky to be able to watch it unfold. I can’t wait to see where this class continues to go..
This is our bulletin board mentioned above. On the sides is our personal reflections to the One and Only Ivan. The elephant is Stella. (The girls haven’t finished yet with the title). The sign in the middle says, We Love Katherine Applegate Book. Then the Wishtree. Our class wish is that We Wish everyone to be kind to each other.