Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Choosing Read Alouds

Well, now that the weather has turned cooler, I can use more rational methods for choosing read aloud books. (Teaching reading is so much easier when the kids aren't sweating!) Today, I used two very different processes to select books for my two reading classes.

My book selection process is very much on-the-spot. Well, not really; I am buying and finding books all summer long, so I have quite a store in my classroom. But the choice about which book to read on which day cannot be planned too far in advance. I need to know what the readers in my room are doing and thinking so that I can choose a book that will be best for them.

My first reading class, right after lunch, is having a tough go of independent reading time. In the three days that I've had to watch them, I've noticed a good amount of "flitting", readers moving restlessly from book to book. Of those who have sat down and finished a book, many have chosen picture books with highly supportive pictures. For this group, then, my main goal is to get them into chapter books. I want them to be able to sustain their attention through a longer text with fewer pictures.

But I can't jump into just any chapter book. Books like "Found" by Margaret Peterson Haddix or "Fair Weather" by Richard Peck are still beyond most of the readers in this class. So I chose "Wayside School is Falling Down." Louis Sachar's chapters are short and self-contained. Each chapter is entertaining, but they will add up to a larger story as well. With the support of our shared read aloud, students will be able to try out the other books in the series for independent reading.

What about my other class? This class has many readers, many students who bring their own books to class and eagerly scan my bookshelves. For this class, I've taken a different approach. I want to expose these students to a wider variety of genres and techniques. To do this, I've been choosing shorter picture books. Yesterday we read "The Scrimshaw Ring", a really interesting historical fiction book, and today we started "The King's Equal", an engrossing fantasy. (Side note about "The King's Equal": This is an amazing book. I have never had it flop for any class.)

So, there it is. Two different groups of readers, two different ways to choose a read aloud book. Oh, the joys of cooler weather!

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