Poetry Friday: Reconsidering Read Aloud…Again…Still

Hard to believe that it’s been TWENTY years since my book, Reconsidering Read-Aloud was published! And here I am, still a teacher (kinda-sorta) and still thinking about the power of the books I choose for read aloud.

As the reading specialist for an after school program, I no longer have a classroom of the same-aged students every day all day long. No more chapter book read alouds that span weeks/months with conversations that evolve as our experience with the book deepens.

Now I have K-5 students in small groups or one-on-one for 15-20 minutes once a week. I try to make sure I see every child at least once every two weeks. My lesson plans are required to address information standards, literature standards, and functional skills/fluency standards. These constraints have changed the way I choose my core read alouds.

I’m still learning, but here are some successes I’ve had, and my thinking around my choices.

I have established a pre-reading ritual for each read aloud. First we look at the front and back covers to see if the image spans across both covers. If there is a dust jacket, we check to see if the dust jacket image and the cover image are the same. Next, we look at the endpapers and think about the reasons behind this design element.

WAIT AND SEE by Helen Frost was my main read aloud in October. This book is an informational text that I’m calling “lyrical nonfiction.” It has photographic endpapers which, in the beginning, show a preying mantis hanging upside down on a spikey leaf with a light background. At the end, there is a preying mantis upright on a rounder leaf with a dark background. The conversations about the reasons behind these choices of images were fantastic! (Day/night, light/dark, colors, shapes, position, etc.) The photo-illustrations also prompted lots of conversation both during and after reading. We didn’t read the back matter, but I pointed out to every group that it was there to satisfy any curiosity you might have for more facts.

AUTUMNBLINGS by Douglas Florian and HALLOWEEN ABC by Eve Merriam were my backup literature choices. (I’d forgotten how dark Merriam’s poems are, but luckily kids are kind of into spooky, so it was all good.)

Are you noticing the trend towards poetry? I figure poetry is one of the least represented genres in the classroom and so it will have the greatest representation in my work!

There were a couple of other books that made an appearance in October and November. I fell in love with CHESTER VAN CHIME WHO FORGOT HOW TO RHYME by Avery Monsen and tried it out with a variety of ages. Fourth and fifth graders had a ball with Chester. I was surprised that the younger students weren’t able to provide the missing rhymes. I filed that tidbit and will be doing some focused work on rhyming in the upcoming months. ON A GOLD BLOOMING DAY by Buffy Silverman was a great rhyming photographic book to pair with WAIT AND SEE. I waited until later in the fall to start working with my Kindergarteners. I wanted to meet them and read with them before I gave them their letter identification assessment, so I chose Z IS FOR MOOSE by Kelly Bingham. It has a different image on its dust jacket and its cover, and the story starts before the title page. It begins predictably, but then Moose causes chaos (which the Kinders loved!)

But the absolute best read aloud so far, the one that stood up to multiple readings with all ages, the one that kept surprising me all the way to the last reading, was 12 DAYS OF KINDNESS by Irene Latham. This book has everything! Cover and dust jacket are the same, but we had a chance to discuss the Big Idea that’s on the back of the book (“Kindness is a gift.”) The end papers are different illustrations and foreshadow the story that’s found in the illustrations, and the arc of that story (morning to night). The story begins in the illustrations before the title page. The text has repetition and rhyme and is cumulative. It can be sung to “The 12 Days of Christmas,” and I had one group of 3/4/5 girls who did just that! All the way through! So fun! Without being didactic, Irene Latham shows the reader that there are lots of small ways to be kind to those around us. There is much to discover about the way the illustrator (Junghwa Park) contrasts the new text on the left page of each spread and the cumulative text on the right page of each spread. The illustrations tell a story that doesn’t match the text, but rather extends the meaning of the text. There’s lots to infer about the characters in the illustration’s story, plus so many fun details! I didn’t notice the kisses in the last spread until one of the final readings! This is the book I’ll use as my gold standard in choosing all future read alouds!

Karen has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Karen Edmisten*.

15 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Reconsidering Read Aloud…Again…Still”

  1. What a joy to read your post, Mary Lee! You (almost) made me wish I was still in the classroom. Love your choices, and I will definitely be checking out the ones I’m not familiar with.


  2. I always come away from your posts with ideas about what I’m going to share in my school. Thank you. Thank you, so much!


  3. I’m so happy you are teaching again. It’s what you are meant to do. This post is witness. You have such a wonderful depth of knowledge about how to share language with kids.


  4. Oh, those lucky students! I loved reading about the work you are doing and the great books you are sharing. Happy Holidays!


  5. I can’t decide whether to bless or curse you! lol I now am itching to buy all of these titles and trying trying trying to hold down the spending. The struggle is real…as is my appreciation for your thoughtful comments on each of the books. What a great post! (By the way, I’m pretty sure I’ve given up the struggle and will order at least two of these in the next few minutes!)


  6. This is so fun to read and I appreciate the time and trouble you took to write it. It’s satisfying, isn’t it, when you can apply your expertise in new situations and enjoy the learning process all over again! Thanks for sharing about each book in detail-glad you are finding ways to make those little slices of time work for poetry.


  7. I revel in any and all information and stories about reading aloud. It’s been such a huge and wonderful part of my family’s life. I love your pre-reading ritual, acclimating the kids to the time you’re about to spend with a book.❤️


  8. Thanks for this sneak peek into your after school teaching work, Mary Lee. Z Is for Moose is one of my all-time favorite picture books. I love the chaos spread. It’s wonderful that you continue to connect kids and poetry.


  9. Thanks for sharing On a Gold-Blooming Day with your after-school kids, Mary Lee. I love that you paired it with Wait and See. And wow, that is surprising that younger kids weren’t automatically filling in Chester Van Chime’s missing rhymes–I thought that one was so clever and would be a great read-aloud.


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