Read Aloud Schedule

Why have a read aloud schedule?

I taught 6th grade for a number of years when I first began teaching. I enjoyed that grade and was sad to leave. Now I am entering my second year of teaching 5th grade after bouncing around for a while. This will be the first time in a long time that I have repeated the same grade two years in a row. One of the things that I always loved about teaching the same grade consistently was that I had a progression of read aloud books (with enough copies for everyone to read along with) timed just right. My progression fit the year, what we were learning, and the messages that I wanted to get across in such a way that the year flowed very smoothly.

While I read a number of good books out loud last year, I want a much more intentional progression than simply looking for a new book when we finish the old one. My reasons for this are twofold. The first is that I want to books that we read to fit some of the lessons that we teach. When we are learning about Renaissance painting, it would be good to be reading or have just read Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald as it is a mystery about two girls who think they have found an original and yet undiscovered Raphael painting. When we begin to learn about the Civil War and slavery, I want to have just finished Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis so that some of the realities of slavery are in the front of their minds.

The second reason that I want a predictable sequence is that I am going to be using the strategies and signposts from Kylene Beers’ and Robert Probst’s book Notice & Note: Strategies for close reading extensively this year. The six literary signposts that they outline in their book are excellent ways to teach explicit thinking skills to all readers. The signposts are literary elements that most authors use in their writing and by teaching those signpost to our students, we are able to give them things to look for and think about as they read. Reading is comprehension, and for students who struggle with interacting with text (i.e. who think reading is simply reading the words) the Beers’ and Probst’s signposts are an excellent place for students to begin looking within text so that they can read closer and comprehend on a deeper level.

Quality reading instruction revolves around a complex ecosystem of elements. One of those elements is the idea of explicit instruction and modelling of reading strategies. By reading aloud with the six signposts in mind, I am able to demonstrate, isolate, and model finding them in a real and explicit way. To this end, my read aloud can become a direct part of my mini-lessons and explicit instruction. By creating a specific progressions and a set bank of read aloud books, I am able to locate, plan for, and teach the signposts in each of the books that we read aloud. Together, we as a class can have a common set of stories and experiences around both the joy of reading and the specific mechanics that make us better readers.

The List

  • Blubber by Judy Blume

    (September) This is an excellent book about the power of bullying, particularly among girls, and the perfect way to start off the year. Since the main character is actually one of the bullies who doesn’t see that about herself, this book lends itself to excellent class discussions around the subject. In 5th grade the social drama starts to get intense and this book gives us a great touch point to return to throughout the year when this subject comes up. My students get very uncomfortable and squirm a lot during this book which tells me we are just where we need to be.

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

    (October – Early November) This is the ultimate fantasy book and the book not only started but continues to define the genre. Given that the movies were just released in the last few years, this is an excellent lesson in reading the book first (it’s always better). Last year, some of my students used this book as an inspiration to begin playing Dungeons & Dragons during lunch, and I hope that I can inspire a similar group again this year.

  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman

    (Mid-November – December) Yes, everyone knows and loves the movie, but what they don’t know is that the movie is actually based on the book, and that the book makes the movie look like the worst thing ever put on film. This twisted fairytale is hilarious to read; full of action and excitement; and because it is so sophisticatedly written, gives us lots of signposts to look for. Plus, this way I get to RUIN the movie for another 30 people by showing it after we finish reading the book!

  • Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

     

    (January) This mystery is the perfect book to read in conjunction with our Renaissance artist slideshows and presentations, while still giving us plenty to explore in relation to the genre of mystery. Because the students will be learning all about Renaissance painters at the same time, they will have plenty of background knowledge to bring to bear on this book. Plus, it is a fantastic book!

  • Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

     

    (February – early March) This has quickly become one of my favorite books for this age. This book about the first child born to escaped slaves in a settlement in Canada is set in the 1850’s. It is the perfect story to bring the realities and horrors of slavery in a way that is appropriate for this age. The main character is charming and funny, and the story is extremely well told. The end is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Finishing this book is a guaranteed tear jerker and an amazing shared emotional experience that brings us together as a class.

  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

     

    (March – mid April) This is a classic, yet often overlooked book. This lighthearted tale of a boy who goes off to an imaginary and silly land is full of laughs and groans. Rest assured, the students will well understand the concept of the “pun” by the time this book is over. Even then, there is still an excellent lesson and moral that can be explored.

  • One or Two More?

     

    This leaves me approximately one, possibly two books short. There are lots of options that I could go with, but I am still missing that just right book that makes the perfect read aloud. Having looked up some other lists of read alouds for this age, I will be picking up and reading some of the following possibilities:

    A Year Down Yonder (Richar Peck)

    Out of My Mind (Sharon Draper)

    Tortilla Sun (Jennifer Cervantes)

    Schooled (Gordan Korman)

    Of course, I am always open to suggestions, so please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments section.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *