*Please note that in order to protect the privacy of my collaborating teacher (CT) and my students, I will not mention the name of the school, students or the teacher. I will also avoid mentioning the grade level of my classroom. This is done to protect the rights and privacy of everyone that I work with.*
I performed my first ever read-aloud for my class on October 14th, 2013. I read the book The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam written by Angela Shelf Medearis and illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers. A read-aloud is when a teacher chooses a book, typically a picture book but chapter books can be used, and he or she reads this book aloud to the class. The teacher can either tie in this reading to a standard (such as the Sunshine State Standards or Common Core Standards) or an assignment. The teacher can also do an interactive read-aloud which is typically done for pleasure, meaning the teacher wants to inspire students to read. During an interactive read-aloud, the teacher can ask questions of the student based on comprehension or vocabulary; however, the focus is mainly on enjoyment. I have performed two read-alouds so far and I will document my experiences with both.
For my first read-aloud, I had previously spoken to my collaborating teacher (CT) Ms. Smith* (pseudonym) about doing a read-aloud for the class. I have to perform a read-aloud as an assignment for one of my college courses and I also wanted to try a read-aloud for myself after one of my college professors modeled read-alouds for the class. Ms. Smith and I went to the media center at the school and looked for a book that would work for the read-aloud. Ms. Smith wanted to choose a book that had a lot of “craft,” or literary devices, throughout the story because the read-aloud would be used as an introduction to a writing assignment. The writing assignment is Halloween themed and it is called, “The Night I Turned into a ________” of “Last Night I Turned into a _______.” So Ms. Smith looked through the books and I did as well. Ms. Smith picked out a few books that she liked, one of which was The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam, which I thought was a great choice.
On October 3, Ms. Smith introduced The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam and she read a few pages. When she read, she mentioned the various “craft” that she saw including specific descriptions and vivid verbs. I did my read-aloud the following day on the same book. I invited my college professor, who will be referred to by the pseudonym, Ms. Johnson*, to watch me and comment on my performance. I had taken the book home the night before in order to prepare for the read-aloud. I read through my two pages many times in order to make sure I was prepared. As Debbie Miller states in her book, “Proper planning prevents poor performance!” (70). As I read through The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam, I planned on taking about “tracking my thinking,” “monitoring my comprehension,” looking for when my “meaning breaks down” and then using “fix-up strategies” to fix my comprehension. I also pointed out phrases or words that I liked and wanted to use for my writing assignment (the “The Night I Turned into a _____” story).
This is a photo of the chart that is hanging up in the classroom to remind students to monitor their comprehension and use fix-up strategies when their meaning breaks down.
When I actually performed my read-aloud, I made sure that the example that I used for when my meaning broke down was actually authentic. Debbie Miller wrote, “Authenticity matters. I can’t fake it. My questions, inferences, or images—whatever the strategy focus happens to be—must be genuine” (73). In the book The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam, the word “fatback” is used and I honestly did not know what it meant: “Dan took a bushel of groceries, a slab of fatback, and a frying pan into the old house that was haunted by the ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam” (Medearis).
I actually used fix-up strategies to figure out what the word meant, or at least get an idea of the meaning, when I read the book during my planning. I re-read and saw that Dan was a chef so I assumed that “fatback” was a type of food, more specifically something you can probably cook in a frying pan. I assumed that “fatback” was a type of meat but I honestly was not sure. If I had not planned and read this book before I came into class, I would not have known what to do when I came across that word. If my students would have asked me what it meant, I would have frozen up. But thankfully, I was ready for class. During my read-aloud, I told my students exactly what I was thinking and exactly what I did to try to figure out the meaning of the word. Since the context clues on this page barely helped me, I decided to read on and I found the word mentioned again with better clues to the meaning.
On this page, as I thought before, I see that fatback is cooked and it is a type of meat. I used my background knowledge (and of course a little help from a dictionary during my planning) to guess that since the meat is cooked in a pan and it is cooked “to a sizzle” a “fatback” is probably a type of pork and it may even be like bacon (Medearis). During my read-aloud, I told my students that I remember my parents cooking bacon in the morning and how it sizzles so I used my background knowledge to figure out the meaning of the word.
Below is a picture of my actual notes from my planning. I had these in the book when I performed my read-aloud and I pulled them out as I turned to a new page so my students would not read them. I kept these sticky-notes in the book with me so I could refer to them at any time. My strategy for figuring out the meaning of the word “fatback” is shown in the picture.
During my read-aloud, Ms. Johnson took notes on my performance and afterwards she talked to me about my read-aloud. Ms. Johnson asked about the purpose for my read-aloud because I did not specifically state it before beginning. My CT; however, helped me by mentioning the purpose during my read-aloud (without any prompting from myself or Ms. Johnson), which was a great example of co-teaching. I noticed this as well. I was very nervous when I began reading because this was the first time I, technically speaking, had the full control and attention of the classroom.
I had used an ELMO and a projector to show the book to the students. The students remained at their desks while I read. Ms. Johnson noticed this and asked if it might be better for me to have the students go to the carpet. I said that I did what Ms. Smith did the day before when she read the book and that I wanted to be in sync with her lesson.
Ms. Johnson told me that she really enjoyed my lesson but it was not really a read-aloud but a writing lesson. She said that I did a great job of mentioning reading strategies (sometimes specifically by name) such as prior/background knowledge, fix-up strategies, text evidence, and noticing writing patterns such as rhyme. Ms. Johnson thought that I did a great lesson but she wants me to perform an interactive read-aloud that focuses on enjoyment, not a specific lesson/assignment/standard. Ms. Smith thought that I did a great job; however, when I called on students to answer questions, she suggested that I repeat what they say for the rest of the class. Ms. Smith was in the back of the room so she had a hard time hearing what some of the students said but she was farther away than any of the students. I think this is a great suggestion and I will try to keep this in mind later.
I performed another read-aloud today, October 18th, 2013. Ms. Smith wanted the students to have their “Last Night I Turned into a _____” stories finished by today. Some of the students have finished but they had to peer review their work and then they could “publish” it, which means writing it neatly on special paper so we can make a book. Today, I read the story that I wrote called, Last Night I Turned into a … Skeleton. I had two copies of my story and I showed both to my students. My first copy was my draft or “sloppy copy.” I circled and highlighted all of the craft that I used: onomatopoeia, vivid verbs, ellipses, purposeful repetition, all caps, dialogue, etc. I showed the students how this craft was weaved in throughout my paper.
I also showed the students my revisions and the reasons behind some of my revisions. These revisions are completely authentic and they are based on what Ms. Smith said the students should revise. For example, I took out one paragraph of my story because it was off topic. I also added in elements to the story in order to clear up certain parts. I also changed the order of my story because I wanted to turn into a skeleton earlier on in the story (I had basically changed in the end on my first draft). After I showed the draft to the students, I read my final copy to them. I was nervous but I got really into the story when I was reading. I did not pause besides for punctuation and I did not ask questions during my reading. I tried to use a lot of expression because some of my students are learning how to read with expression. At the end of my read aloud, Ms. Smith asked the students what craft I used in my story and to point out specific examples, which went very well. The students seemed to really enjoy my story and it felt great to read it to them.
Although this second read-aloud is not exactly an interactive read-aloud, it focused more on enjoying the reading rather than an assignment. The assignment was mentioned before and after I read my story; however, the students were able to see how the story flowed and they followed along with me. I really enjoyed the experience and I am glad that my students really appreciated my work.
- Medearis, Angela Shelf, and Jacqueline Rogers. The Ghost of Sifty-Sifty Sam. New York: Scholastic, 1997. Print.
- Miller, Debbie. Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades. N.p.: n.p., 2013. Print.