Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nonfiction Read-Aloud

Last week, I finished reading aloud There's A Boy in the Girls' Bathroom with my end-of-day class. It was a wonderful moment--we had been working through the book since Thanksgiving, squeezing in five minutes of reading here and there. Despite the fact that we didn't have long blocks of reading time, kids were still able to really identify with Bradley and his emotional journey through the book.

They couldn't wait to see what we were going to share next, and had plenty of suggestions. But my choice surprised them. Instead of diving into another novel, I pulled out Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia.

They were not happy.

"I don't like nonfiction," one boy grumbled. "This doesn't look good at all," sighed a girl.

But I have a real purpose for sharing this book.  The Quest for the Tree Kangaroo, also by Sy Montgomery, is an exemplar Common Core text for grades 4/5. When I saw that Sy Montgomery also had a book about the snow leopard--a big favorite at my house--I managed to get 10 copies of the book for my classroom.

I wasn't sure of what exactly to do with the book, however. What would be the best way to use it? How would kids react to it? Instead of jumping in blindly, I decided to start slowly. A read-aloud is the perfect way to get us all thinking about the text. I can really attend to the words and how the text is structured. Kids can share their thinking. And I can begin to figure out how this book will fit into my classroom instruction.

It's so important for kids to start reading long-format nonfiction like this! Left to their own devices, intermediate readers gravitate toward short nonfiction books like world record books, joke books, or animal books. These are all fun to read and not without merit. However, kids need the nudge to get into nonfiction that unfolds over multiple pages--that uses a variety of different text structures to explain ideas.

To help us all feel immersed in text, I project the text with the Elmo (my first year with a document camera--it's wonderful!) and have a student hand out the remaining copies for students to share.

We're already discovering a lot. In the first three pages, we noticed several examples of similes and metaphors. (This was neat, as we have just finished our poetry unit!) Montgomery compares the snow leopards to ghosts, and we talked about why she made this comparison and how she supports it. Now in Chapter 3, we are looking at how she juggles chronological order. Within the broad chronological  structure of telling about the expedition's journey to the Gobi, she employs a kind of micro-chronology of what a meal at Nadia's grandmother's house is like. This is real text complexity.

As we continue with text structure, I look forward to finding examples of the different structures within this book. Sharing it together is a good first step!

I have some Pinterest boards! Here they are:

Text Structure Books

Books for Teaching Figurative Language

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