Features of reading aloud and discussing literature I will introduce, demonstrate and focus on during the first few weeks:
· How to gather together for the read aloud – this includes where to sit, how to get there, when the read aloud will occur during the day, and what to bring. I create an area in the front of the class with enough room for everyone and a special chair, low enough to see everyone and be seen by everyone, that will be used for our read aloud sessions. I play a two minute song on a tape recorder to signal that read alouds are about to begin. Students are expected to put down what they are doing and find a spot in our reading area where they won’t be distracted by other students. I allow everyone to make the decision about whom to sit next to themselves until they demonstrate that they need more “help” choosing a better location.
· How to listen to a read aloud and when to share ideas – I expect my students to listen and attend to the story being read and be ready to discuss the book at appropriate times. For example, when I am reading a page from a picture book I expect students to listen and not interrupt the reading. When I have finished reading the page, and we are looking more closely at the illustrations, students are invited to offer ideas aloud before we move on to the next page. I don’t expect my students to wait until the book is finished before telling each other what they think. However, I do expect them to listen when I am reading and be polite when someone else is offering an idea.
· How to listen to other readers’ ideas and interpretations depending on the number of students in the class, during our discussions I try and have students face each other in a circle so they can see and hear each other when discussing a book. This shift in seating arrangements help signal that what students are sharing ideas with each other, not just with the teacher. We talk about what “good listeners” do and practice this procedure a great deal in the beginning of school. If we are going to take each other’s ideas seriously, we need to begin by listening to each other effectively.
· The literacy notebook – many times, I have my students bring their literacy notebooks, used for collecting writing and responses to literature, to the read aloud and discussion. I have them use this notebook to take notes on the reading lessons I conduct and to respond to the books we share. I cannot allow this book to interfere with the primary goal of reading aloud, namely engaging with the read aloud. However, this notebook is a place for readers reluctant to share ideas to write them down and share them later in a different setting.
When the read aloud is over, we move into independent reading, paired reading, and eventually strategy and literature discussion groups. Each of these components is introduced one at a time and procedures are established for each component as the year progresses.