Friday, November 11, 2011

Read Aloud Reflection

I have to write a quick post about what happened today during our read aloud time. This is the first time I have done a read aloud with a class (I know, I know...what's wrong with me?!?!?)

I hate to admit it, but it was very wrong of me not to delve into the word of read alouds sooner. After only 3 days, I am wondering what I was so afraid of. I can already see the benefits of spending this time with my students has. It's great!

Today was a real eye-opening experience. We just started reading The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. I had read this book over the summer and immediately upon finishing it decided I needed to share it with my kids. I knew right then it would have to be my first read aloud. I just wish I hadn't waited until the second quarter of the school year to get started!

In order for you to get the real effect of today's event, I need to explain what has been going on in our classroom for the past few days.

To launch the read aloud, I spent some time discussing the time period in which this book is set. It takes place during the Vietnam war (1967 to be exact), a time when many Americans were at odds. Not only we Americans at odds with each other over the war, but we also were struggling to accept Vietnamese refugees as well. I wanted my kids to understand this. Thankfully, our class carpet is a map of the world so I could "hop around the world" as I explained the events leading up to the war. Once I felt they understood how the war began and how America got involved, we dove into how people felt at the time. It was great! They had such good thinking that I was blown away. 

In this story, the main character is Holling Hoodhood (my kids love his name because it's weird). He is in 7th grade at Camillo Junior High. He has just started the year and discovered on the very first day that his teach, Mrs. Baker, "hates his guts." This probably stems from the fact the Holling is Presbyterian and does not attend  Catechism or Hebrew school on Wednesday afternoons like the rest of his classmates. So, on Wednesdays, it is just Mrs. Backer and him. 

As a result of her apparent frustration over the matter (at least, this is what Holling thinks), Mrs. Baker give Holling a ridiculously difficult sentence to diagram. Much more difficult than one she gave to his peers: "I read a book." Holling's sentence reads: "For it so falls out, that what we have we prize not to the worth whiles we enjoy it; but being lacked and lost, why, then we rack the value, then we find the virtue that possession would not show us while it was ours." My kids' jaws dropped when we got to this, they really didn't get it. So we talked about it, picked it apart, and came to paraphrase it as "You don't know what you've got until it's gone." But this wasn't the magic moment, oh no, there was more.

A few more pages in we discovered that Mrs. Baker's husband was going to be deployed to Vietnam shortly, as the principal announced it over the P.A. system. In the story, Mrs. Baker doesn't show any emotion as this announcement is being made to the entire school. Suddenly, one of my kids' hands shot in the air. He was squirming around so much to get me to notice him, I thought he would pop! When I finally called on him ( a little exasperated because I was mid-sentence) he came out with this:

"Mrs. P.! I get it! I know why she gave Holling that crazy sentence! She was trying to express how she feels about her husband leaving, but since she's a teacher she can't get all emotional, so she put it in words. Maybe she thinks Holling will understand."

"Or maybe it's the author's way of telling us something really bad is going to happen to him," chimed in another.

Then my jaw dropped. Those ideas had never occurred to me, and this was my second read-through. 


What awe-inspiring moments have your read alouds brought about? What are some of your favorite books to share with your students through read alouds? Please comment below!


  1. Hi Mrs. P:

    Congrats on a great read aloud experience (I believe it's never too late to start anything!) Wishing you many more days just like this one...

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. Thanks, Joy! It's been great! We are also starting our reading response journals, too. I'm loving it!

  3. Goosebumps. I love listening to kids ideas about books. Wednesday Wars is such a great book! I'm glad there are more books set during the time period of the Vietnam War. I always felt like I never really understood it enough from school because in U.S. History there was so much time spent on everything else that it was briefly reviewed at the end of the year. My dad was in the Air Force in the Vietnam War and it was a really hard time for him when he came back because there were so many people who didn't support the war.

    It's amazing how perceptive kids can be sometimes and the things they think about that might not even cross our minds as adults. It's the power of reading and sharing books together. We learn so much from listening to what others are thinking as they read.

    I'm so glad you are reading aloud! Bravo!!

  4. Amazing indeed! The power of reading aloud, of lighting the spark in someone's mind is incredible.

    Increasingly, I become aware that it is us grown-ups who have so much to learn from the fresh perspective of our children.

    Reading aloud is a two-way street, we learn as much as we give!

    Thanks for this inspiring post!

    Read Aloud Dad

  5. Thanks, everyone! I am really enjoying reading with my kiddos. :)

  6. I am so glad you discovered the power of reading aloud. Kids love it no matter what the age. One of my favorites is Because of Winn-Dixie. I read it to my second graders and again when we all moved on to third grade because they wanted it.
    I will never forget reading to them on a Friday and we came to a crucial part of the story. I said we would finish on Monday. They began to cry and said they were willing to stay after school because they had to know the Winn-Dixie would be found.
    It is a wonderful tale about lonely people that are brought together by a stray dog. Another reccomendation would be The VanGough Cafe by Cynthia Rylant.
    Happy Reading!