I had the honor of reading aloud STAY: The True Story of Ten Dogs (Muntean, 2012) to two classes of second graders this week. Wow – what a re-learning and learning experience for me. (I reviewed this book in a previous blog.) They have not had a lot of nonfiction read to them and while they were enthusiastic about the narrative-line describing how an injured circus performer, Luciano, looked for homeless dogs “that no one else wanted,” they were a tad squirmy and chatty!
I found myself looking for ways to get them involved – 32 students in each class, in an urban, low income neighborhood. So I took advantage of the layout and design of the book. Each page that introduces a dog has the dog’s name in bold, large print (see below). So I would call out the dog’s name and then, when I pointed to them, they would call out the name. When the author initially introduces each dog, she tells the dog’s sad story and implies that the dog was not wanted. At the end of each page, I would say “Does anybody want this dog?” and the students would say loudly, “No!” Then I’d say, “Do you think Luciano will want this dog?” and they’d say “Yes!” and give the thumbs up.This book also has several sayings (that require inferential thinking) like “No one is perfect” which I’d ask the students to repeat after me and then we’d discuss briefly.
These interactions engaged the students but they also supported the students’ understanding of the theme of this book – when we take care of others, we have to accept who they are. After I read aloud the first half of the book, we stopped and I led a shared writing of the theme. Then we looked for evidence in the text that supports this theme. I placed the book at particular pages on the document camera and we discussed facts in the narrative that supported this idea (see image above). This lesson was definitely rigorous, but I think with time and differentiated opportunities (guided reading with instructional level texts, centers, etc.) to engage with type of thinking the students will begin to synthesize and determine what’s important with less and less support. This was the first read aloud in a series of read alouds related to the theme of “taking care of members of our community.” These two classes will also be involved in a service project – making cards for patients in a hospital nearby and collecting cans of food for a local food pantry.