Category Archives: Book Reviews Grades PreK-2

Are we reading aloud enough nonfiction in PreK-1st?

Beginning in the primary grades, our students need to hear us read aloud A LOT of nonfiction. This helps them develop an ear for what it should sound like when they read independently and when they write nonfiction as well. Below are some new titles students will enjoy hearing read aloud – again and again. I’ve included reviews, suggestions for classroom use and Next Generation Science Standard connections. If you visit my Goodreads page, I have a shelf of nonfiction read alouds for PreK-2nd!

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Good Trick, Walking Stick by Bestor

Engaging introduction to the walking stick with a rhyming, reoccurring phrase, “Good trick, walking stick!” The main text could easily be read aloud to preK-1st grade students and then an additional read might include information provided in the captions. Onomatopoeia (“drop, plop, drop,” “wiggle wiggle wiggle Pop!”) in different color, larger fonts beg children to engage in acting out or contributing sound during an interactive read aloud. Well written with clear illustrations to support the text. Might go well with NGSS  K-ESS3 Earth & Human Activity and 1-LS1- From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes.

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At the Marsh in the Meadow by Mebane

LOVED THIS!!!! Written in a rhythmic cumulative style like “The House that Jack Built.” The author starts with the marsh and the mucky mud, the reeds and the algae and then begins to build the food chain – mayflies eat the algae, water spiders eat the mayflies and so forth. The repetitive, rhythmic verse lends itself to young children jumping in to repeat phrases and act out some of the verbs – nibble, grasp, slurp, etc. The illustrations are vibrant, clearly support the text and worthy of looking at carefully before, during, and after reading aloud. Great for PreK-Kinder studying animals and food chains. Might go really well with the NGSS K-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes.

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Ouch! Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways by Genhart

Not just any book about bullying. The author targets “microagressions”—defined in the author’s note as “brief exchanges where an indignity, insult, or slight is expressed.” Well written. The content is clear, to the point with a kind (not patronizing) voice. Concrete examples of what children say when they are being microaggressive – “he’s so gay,” “reading is for nerds,” “he throws like a girl” and concrete kid-manageable suggestions for what to do in response. More importantly, the author addresses the idea that it’s hard to stand up to microaggressions and that “doing the right thing takes courage and it takes practice.” This would make a great read aloud as well as an opportunity for young students to turn and talk in small groups. This might be used at the beginning of the school year to launch problem-solving discussions, etc. At the end of the book, there is a helpful essay by Kevin Nadal, a psychology and professor, with more detailed information about what microaggressions are and what we can do if our child is the target or if our child is the enactor.

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Every Breath We Take: A Book About Air by Ajmera & Browning

Lots of potential for use in the classroom as part of a rigorous unit of study. Read aloud to PreK-1st grade students and pose questions for small groups to discuss. Let a small group of second grade students read to each other and then discuss, “Why is clean air important? What in the text makes you think so? What is your response to that?” Read aloud to 3rd-4th grade students to launch an inquiry—use information on specific pages in the book (including the last two that have more details) to help students generate their own questions. Use as a mentor for writing, for thinking about author’s point of view and how to convey that in their own writing. Lots, lots, lots of ways to use. Would go well with NGSS K-ESS2 Earth’s Systems-in particular ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems.

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Flying Frogs and Walking Fish by Jenkins & Page

Great for PreK-1 interactive read aloud that expands students’ vocabulary. Animals that “walk” also tiptoe, waddle, stroll, and march. Animals that “jump” also pounce, spring, rocket, bound straight up, vault, flutter, burst. And more. So much potential fun and learning. The kind of book kids will want to hear read again and again. For older students, this book might launch further research or serve as a mentor text for layout and design as well as focused content. Would work well as part of an integrated unit for NGSS 1-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes, specifically LS1.A Structure and Function.

Hope this helps.

S

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New Book – Water Can Be… for Reading Aloud in 1st-3rd

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Water Can Be… by Salas (Millbrook Press, 2014) has a lot of potential for enjoyment and instruction in the classroom. This book is a “poetic exploration of the many roles of water throughout the year.” When I first read it, I had to let go of making complete sense of the content and just enjoy the rhyme and rhythm, the beautiful illustrations, and the general messages of the author–which is what I would recommend doing with students. Then I reread the book to make sense of the content.

I struggled a little bit with the difference between water being a “picture catcher” (with an illustration of a young girl looking at her reflection in the water) and a “tadpole hatcher” (with an illustration of tadpoles swimming in the water). A child’s reflection IS the water. In the case of tadpole hatcher, the water is not exactly that–but instead is the environment needed for tadpoles to hatch. This is the case with the various “names” for water or “roles of water” that Salas uses in this verse. She also has roles that end with the suffix -er/-or (meaning “a thing that does something”)  and roles like “salmon highway” – which is an object versus a thing that does something. This might be confusing to some students. (An another note–Salas also explicitly addresses states of water in “spring” and “autumn,” but does not explicitly refer to summer and winter–it’s implied though.)

BUT this is what makes the text complex and worthy of rereading to grapple with the content (versus discarding and choosing another). What about stopping as you reread the text a second or third time and saying, “What do you think the author means by that? By ‘salmon highway’? Let’s look carefully at the illustration and think about that.” Be prepared to provide wait time and to model with your own thinking if needed. (Common Core Reading Info Text standard 1.4, 1.7, 2.4, 2.6, 2.7, 3.4, 3.7) With students, refer to the author’s note at the end, where Salas lists each role in the book and describes this role (CC RI.2.8). You might refer to the particular description in this author’s note when you discuss “bruise shrinker” or “eagle flyway” – after looking carefully at the illustration.

She also gets at the idea that water comes in many forms – gas, liquid and solid – without saying that explicitly–“Water is water–it’s fog, frost, and sea. When autumn comes chasing, water can be a…” (no page numbers). This might be an opportunity to apply some of what students have been learning in a unit of study on water. You could reread the book with students –a third time maybe–and ask them to identify the state of water for each role Salas names. (CC RI.1.3 & 2.3)

Salas’ text might also be a mentor text for writing…what are the roles of fire (e.g., house destroyer, forest renewer)? of soil (e.g., nutrient provider, nature protector)? of trees? of earthworms? (CC W.3.10)

Lots of possibilities.

Hope your transition into the new year was peaceful!

New Book – Accessible Intro to Microorganisms for 1st-3rd

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LOVE THIS BOOK. An accessible introduction to microbes for 1st through 3rd grade. Definitely read aloud to students, pausing for space to “oooo” and “aaah.” I’d even be tempted to use it with older students as an introduction to more complex texts on this topic. Davies, the author, talks to you, the reader, in a conversation-like tone, with clear descriptions and explanations and simple analogies. The pace is gentle, providing the reader time to absorb the ideas–in other words the text is not dense with a lot of facts like so many texts on this topic. I learned a tremendous amount–maybe as a result of the the pace, and the layout and design. The illustrations are magnificent, supporting the ideas in the text but also leaving some room for thinking on your own. You could read this aloud and then leave it in the classroom library for rereading.

Next Generation Science Standards – this could be used to as part of units that integrate the 2nd Grade Biological Evolution–Unity and Diversity standards and the 3rd Grade From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes standards.

Common Core Standards

  • First just enjoy the book with students! Read it aloud providing time for students to look closely at the illustrations and just wonder or be in awe of this amazing creature, the microbe.
  • Then–reread and think about the author’s main topic/idea–what is the author trying to tell us that’s important? There are tiny organisms everywhere. Some are bad, but most are good and have important roles in nature. Engage in shared writing of a main idea and then ask students to elaborate with illustrations and additional details. (RI 1.2, 2.2, 3.2)
  • Take time to look closely at one of the amazing illustrations – what does Emily Sutton do in one of these illustrations to contribute to and clarify the text? How do both the text and illustration convey a key idea? (RI 1.6, 1.7, 2.5, 2.7, 3.5) Copy one of the illustrations (once, for school-use only) and ask students to write their thoughts on a sticky note and then post the illustration and the sticky notes for all to view. You might do this for several pages or several books and make a display over time. You could also turn this into a reading response center.
  • Use this book as a mentor for writing – pull excerpts that describe, or excerpts with comparisons, engage in shared writing to “try out” what Davies does, and then coach students to try this in their own writing – on whatever topic they are studying.

This book is a gem. I didn’t want it to end.

Supporting Emergent & Early Readers/Writers with Read Alouds

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Emergent and early reader texts are frequently about animals and include action words like swim, hop, and jump. The trade books we choose to read aloud to students can serve to build, reinforce, and expand this type of vocabulary. For example, in Nic Bishop’s Frogs (2008), frogs wriggle, grip, burrow, climb, catch, swallow, blink and prey — all within two pages of text.

I don’t shy away from reading more complex texts like Bishop’s to kindergarten and first grade students. They love books like these and are hungry for the knowledge they gain. But I also don’t read aloud the whole book – they don’t have the stamina for that.

Here’s a rough outline of a lesson for kindergarten and first grade with Nic Bishop’s Frogs that includes reading aloud, shared writing and reading, and independent or partner reading

  1. Show the book cover and several pages in the book to the students. Engage in a dramatic “ooo” and “aah” as the students look at these fascinating photographs.
  2. Read aloud 4-5 pages from the text (that you’ve chosen in advance or that students choose)- or more depending on the students’ stamina. These pages do not have to be from the beginning of the book or in consecutive order–that’s the beauty of informational texts!
  3. As you read, keep an eye out for action words and alert the students to do the same. (I’d definitely read the book in advance and know where these words are most prevalent–like the two pages I mentioned earlier). During a lesson with kinder, when I read aloud a sentence with an action word–I made my eyes big and slowed down. This signal cued the students that we’d read an action word worthy of stopping for and acting out After doing this a few times – they were ready and recognized when I’d read a word we could act out. I don’t stop and make up an action for every single action word — just the ones that seem worthy of attention.
  4. Make up actions – on the spot and/or with the students – for the words that pop up. For example, with a group of kindergarten students I was reading aloud to – I made up actions for burrow, climb, pounce, leap and so forth. I don’t spend a lot of time on this – I just quickly make up an action–impromptu.
  5. Each time you finish a page, review “What have we learned that frogs can do?” And go through the words and actions with the students as though reading off a list. “We know frogs can swim [action] and burrow [action] and pounce [action].”
  6. Engage in shared writing–writing a series of sentences–“What did we learn frogs can do?”
  7. Engage in shared reading during shared writing. After composing and writing each sentence, reread the previous sentences as well as that one.
  8. If possible, manageable, feasible, include having the students read with a partner from emergent/early level, even Pre-A, texts. Have the books ready in the students’ book bags or ready to be handed out. I go to the school’s leveled library (if there’s one) and just start pulling books about animals so that we have enough for everyone (at their level). Or you can create boxes of these books and students sit in groups and pull one at a time to read independently or with a partner. Below are two examples of the kinds of texts I pull out. (Love National Geographic Windows on Literacy books!!!)
  9. You might also engage the students in independently writing one fact they learned and illustrating for a class book. “We are authors just like Nic Bishop!” You might include a sentence frame or take dictation to support particular students.

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Other books on my shelf that I might use…in a series of similar lessons –

  • Additional books by Nic Bishop
  • Wolfsnail: A Backard Predator by Sarah Campbell
  • How Many Ways Can you Catch a Fly? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
  • How Many Baby Pandas? by Sandra Markle (this one has to be read from beginning)
  • What Bluebird Do by Pamela Kirby (this one has to be read from beginning)
  • Grandma Elephant’s in Charge by Martin Jenkins

I’d definitely read the books in advance and determine what might work. Feel free to skp to certain parts or just read the captions or whatever you need to do to help students access meaning from the text, you know?

Okay…just some ideas I wanted to share.

Sunday

New K-2 Read Aloud with Lots of Potential!

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Book review and instructional suggestions for Tooling Around: Crafty Creatures and the Tools They Use (Jackson, 2014). This is one of those books you could read aloud to k-2 students multiple times – in multiple ways for multiple purposes. There is a short rhyming text on each page that names an animal’s tool and its purpose and, in a different font, on the opposite page, there is informational text describing the animal and its tool use in more detail. You could just read the rhyming text – the first time around and have interesting conversations with students. You could read the informational text a second time around and deepen your conversation with students. (See my caution below about starting with second page of informational text.)

At the beginning of the school year when we are teaching students how to use the materials in our classroom – this might be an engaging read aloud that also highlights how tools have a “purpose,” how tools help us achieve particular “goals.” A discussion of the fascinating facts in this book could lead into a discussion of the “tools” we use in our classroom – scissors, pencils, crayons, paint, and so forth and the “purpose” of these tools and our “goals” when we use these tools.

If you are trying to think about integrating Common Core thinking into your discussions of texts you read aloud to students, consider the following:

  • RI.7 Describe relationship between illustrations and text. Put some of the illustrations on the document camera or project with Smartboard and ask the students to think about the relationship between the illustrations and the text. In this book – they clearly support each other, but the illustrations also take the reader deeper…providing more insight than the rhyming text. You might say, “When we look at the illustration, what else can we learn about how the Bowerbirds decorate their homes when they are looking for a mate?” or just ask “What do you notice?” (Students might notice the plethora of berries, flowers, nuts and the variety of materials and so forth.)
  • RI.9 – Compare two texts on the same topic. There’s a page in the book about chimps using sticks to pull termites out of a mount. I’d read the rhyming text and the informational text (very straightforward – even for kindergarten) and then watch the 2 minute National Geo video at – http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/jane-goodall/videos/almost-human-chimps-human-tools.htm. The video shows the chimps doing the same thing with a short commentary by Jane Goodall about discovering this behavior; towards the end of the video, though, we see a baby chimp trying to fish for termites with a blade of grass – unsuccessfully and then a sister chimp teaching him how to do it the right way. Really delightful to watch. (There is one statement by Goodall about redefining what we mean by “human” that will probably go over students’ heads, but it’s quick and doesn’t detract from what primary grade students can understand.)

I also found a set of short videos on animal tool use at http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/adaptations/Tool_use_by_animals including one about the finch using a cactus spine – which is also in the book. You could compare the two, but you could also use other videos in the set for students to watch independently or with a partner and to write a response. Their responses could be compiled into a class book. You could challenge advanced students to research one animal and create a presentation to share with the class. There’s lots of potential here.

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When you prep for using this book, a couple of notes—

  • The informational paragraph on the first page is a little dense for primary grade students. This is NOT a problem in the rest of the book. I’d skip that page and start with the informational text on the next page about finches and their use of the cactus spine to dig.
  • Read aloud the rhyming text to yourself first. There’s a couple of places that I tripped up – like the page about the octopus – you have to phrase and pause in a spot to make the rhyme work – just pay attention to the author’s use of a dash.

Okay…hope this helps.

Sunday

Nonfiction series for kindergarten-first grade read alouds

LOVE the layout and design, the size and spacing of the print, the just-right-amount of content, and the supporting photographs chosen for the Seedlings series by the publisher Creative Education. (Go to this link and you can “look inside” these books.) These books are perfect for reading aloud to kindergarten and first grade students – multiple times and then modeling how to identify the main topic and retell the main details (Common Core Reading Informational Text Standard 2). I think you could pick two titles within a group of subtopics in the series to compare – so Bulldozers and Diggers both by author Aaron Frisch or Elephants and Giraffes by Kate Riggs to “identify two basic similarities between two texts on the same topic” (CC RI.K.9). (I’m thinking “the same topic” would be “animals” or “construction machines.”)

The authors have included well designed, easily accessible text features – for example, a two-page spread of a bulldozerwith labels for its parts and a similar spread for other construction equipment as well as animals in the series. There is a table of contents, an index, and a glossary (termed “words to know”) in each book as well. The design choices make it easy to introduce these features to students and to teach them how to use the features to locate information (CC RI.1.5).

For both first and kindergarten students – I’d consider the following for instruction –

  1. Read aloud for the aesthetic appeal of the books, the enjoyment, student engagement.
  2. Reread aloud with the purpose for identifying the main topic and retelling key details from the book including you, the teacher, modeling (orally and in writing or sketching on a large piece of chart paper or the document camera or the Smart Board) how you might do this with one particular page or two-page spread.
  3. Asking and then coaching partners to think-pair-share (about details from a specific page that is projected or accessible visually to all students),
  4. Asking and then coaching students to respond independently – sketching, labeling, writing about the main topic and a key detail they learned.
  5. Putting these books in the classroom library for rereading by students or pairs of students or making these books part of a response center during guided reading.

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Hope this helps. 🙂

S

Flight of the Honey Bee – Recommended Read Aloud & Mentor Text for Writing

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Review of Flight of the Honey Bee by Huber (2013). I’m always a little leery of informational texts that humanize or anthropomorphize animals or non-human animals/things, but Huber’s narrative of a honey bee named Scout out hunting for nectar is conservative on this aspect. Huber doesn’t attribute feelings or thoughts to Scout in a human-like way, but instead has clearly used research to describe Scout’s actions as she searches for nectar, seeks refuge from a hail storm, and communicates to her sister bees through dance-like movements. The captions for the illustrations are non-narrative stating related facts about the honey bees. Primary grade students would enjoy listening to Scout’s adventure. Huber’s text could also be a mentor for intermediate grade students. He has clearly used research to create this narrative – and this could make for an important discussion with students who are “applying” the research they have done to a creative, but still informational piece of writing.

There is one aspect of this book that bothered me. On the very first page of the text – just inside the book cover and before the title page, there is a note about how the honey bee “may be one of the most important (creatures) for life on earth” and then another about “a honey bee can’t live alone” – it’s part of a family and has many jobs in its lifetime. As I read this – I developed an expectation about what this book would be about, BUT that’s not at all what this book is about. The book is simply about Scout’s journey to find nectar and return to the hive. The only mention of pollen is the pollen that sticks to her body when she visits a flower and she spreads the pollen as she “zigs and zags from flower to flower,” but there is no explanation of why this is vital. Perhaps this is why these notes were on the first page of the text – even before the title page. But then at the end of the text, there is a “save the bees” note focused on the critical role bee pollination plays in the world with tips for helping bees. In addition, the author’s info includes a note about how he wanted to write this book when he “realized how humans and bees are partners.” The main text does not explain pollination (adequately), colony collapse disorder, or the partnership between humans and bees. As a result, I think these points may be lost on the reader.

That said – the gist (main idea at the text level) of the primary text is that a honey bee plays a vital role to the survival of the hive as she journeys alone to find nectar, spreading pollen, averting danger, and returning to the hive to communicate to the other bees about the location of the nectar. Like I wrote earlier – a good read aloud and mentor text for writing.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico – Perfect for Exploring Problem-Solution Structure

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I have been exploring “problem-solution” text structure for my new book. If you look up the definition of solution, there is more than one. There is the solution as the “final answer” to a problem, but there is solution as the process/endeavor to reach a perceived solution (final answer) or outcome. In the intermediate and middle grades, we need to discuss this latter definition with students because in the complex texts they read, the authors are trying to get at this whole idea of a problem is not easily solved and requires tenacity and perseverance.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico (Roth & Trombone, 2013) is a well-written chronology of the demise of the Puerto Rican parrots until the 1970’s when a concerted effort sponsored by multiple institutions began to attempt to save the parrots. (BTW – THE ART COLLAGES ARE AMAZING AND WORTHY OF CLOSE VIEWING – I WISH I COULD DO THEM MORE JUSTICE HERE…)  The beginning of the text is very much a chronology, a larger narrative of time moving from the co-existence of the parrots with peoples who came to the island around 5000 BCE and moving towards the establishment of Puerto Rico as a U.S. territory. Through this chronology, Roth and Trombone develop the main idea (gist) that over time, the parrots existence was put in jeopardy.

Then in the latter third of the book, while  still recounting the events that occurred, the authors shift to a problem-solution structure. They’ve established the problem – the near decimation of the parrot population. What occurs after this is continuous attempts and unexpected obstacles to save the parrots. So in other words, the authors don’t just say – there were 13 parrots left (problem implied) and a group established an aviary (solution) and they all lived happily ever after. The “solution” is an endeavor, a series of actions taken focused on an outcome – increasing the number of parrots. Does this make sense?

This is where I’m going – teaching the problem-solution text structure is more complicated than a box on a graphic organizer for the problem with an arrow to another box for a solution. 

This book could be read aloud in the primary grades (mid-1st grade and up). In the intermediate grades, it could be read aloud and then reread aloud with shared writing of the structure that evolves. Then students could read additional books like The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery (Markle, 2011) – in small groups, partners, and independently.

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Lifetime by Schaefer – Award Winning Read Aloud PreK-1st

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Recommended read aloud for PreK-1st Grade – Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animals Lives – reveals the power of numbers to make us go “oooh” and “aaah.” This book was named an Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12: 2014 by the National Science Teachers Association. The author focuses on “how many times one particular animal performs one behavior or grows one feature in a lifetime” (Schaefer, 2013). Love the first page where she explains how she came up with the numbers through research and estimation – while this might not be easy to read aloud to the youngest students, it’s important because Schaefer establishes authority and credibility.

Each two-page spread focuses on one animal and one number. For example – “In one lifetime, this spider will spin 1 papery egg sac” and “In one lifetime, this female red kangaroo will birth 50 joeys.” The one egg sac and the 50 joeys are part of their respective two-page illustrations – students can revel in the difference between 1 and 50, flipping back and forth between pages. (She counts 1, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 100, 200 and then jumps forward inconsistently with larger numbers from there.) Important move – the numbers are written as numerals and stand out in bold print. What I didn’t like was that on some of the spreads, there was a little almost “attached” sentence – like on the spider page, “Fragile! Don’t touch!” and on the kangaroo page, “So many hoppy birthdays!”  And there’s not an extra sentence on some of the pages. I couldn’t make heads or tails of how Schaefer decided what to write for those extra sentences. It’s almost a distraction – wandering away from the focus of the book. I’d be tempted to skip those sentences when reading aloud – unless you can figure out what she’s after and make sense of it for the students.

At the end of the book, Schaefer includes extra details about each of the animals featured – specifically naming the animal as “red kangaroo” or “eastern diamondback rattlesnake.” Read these aloud, too! I was disappointed that she didn’t use these names consistently in the main text. So, for example, she names the red kangaroo on the two-page spread that says, “In one lifetime, this female red kangaroo will birth 50 joeys” but she only refers to the eastern diamondback rattlesnake as “rattlesnake” on its two-page spread. The spider is just “spider” and not “cross spider” (as noted in back of book) which actually might lead to some misconception about spiders – because “most” web-building spiders create multiple egg sacs. I hope this wasn’t because she was considering the audience – because little kids can handle specific names of animals like this.

Okay…I had minor disappointments, and I really do recommend reading this aloud to students and leaving it in your classroom library for students to “oooh” and “aaah” over and then engage in counting, counting, counting. It’s beautiful and has so much potential for teaching – introducing ideas, launching units of study and so forth.

Reading Aloud Rigorous Informational Texts to Kindergarten Students

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A few weeks ago, I had the honor of reading aloud Nic Bishop’s Frogs to kindergarten students on the south side of Chicago. When I visited the school initially, I engaged in an informal reading conversation with three of the students, reading aloud sections of a book about penguins to them and assessing what they were learning. I quickly realized they didn’t understand words like “diving” (penguins dive into the water) and “sliding” (penguins sliding on their bellies across the ice). I chose Nic Bishop’s Frogs for the lesson because it’s a fascinating text that reveals the diversity of frogs’ features and the photographs easily capture students’ attention (K-5). It’s a rigorous text for reading aloud to these students. My goal, though, was not for students to understand every single fact in the text, but to begin to develop an ear for what these texts sound like and to identify what they were learning about frogs. During the lesson (as described later), my objective actually narrowed when I realized how powerful Bishop’s word choice is in describing the frogs’ movements and this became the focus of what I wanted students to learn from the text.

I started by showing several of the photographs to the students (who were all seated on the carpet in front of me). They would give me a thumbs up or down if they thought the photos were fascinating. Then I asked if they’d like me to read some of the text with those photos. I never planned to read the whole book to the students – it’s too long and they need to develop stamina for that. The beauty of informational texts (non-narrative) is that you can skip around like this; this is even easier when you, yourself, know the book well.

As I read aloud the running text to the students, I highlighted the action words that surfaced – frogs climbing, pouncing, ambushing, gliding and we acted these words out with very simple, quick gestures. (Note: I’d read the whole page or paragraph and then go back to highlight the word.)  There was no getting up and making a huge fanfare of this because I didn’t want to stray too far from the time with text. Each time I introduced a new action word and gesture, we would repeat the previous words as well. The students started to recognize when there was a new action word and their eyes would widen, ready to demonstrate the new word with some type of gesture. By the end, we had a long string of action words, each with a physical action to describe frogs’ movements. The beauty of this is that these words will surface in other books describing animals as well – and, hopefully, the students’ conceptual understanding will transfer. Ideally, this read aloud would be part of an integrated unit of study on animals – maybe animal adaptations, for example.

We also engaged in shared writing and because of my focus with them on action words, these words surfaced in what they had to contribute to our conversation and writing. See the image below.

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The trick is to move students to sketching, labeling and writing on their own – facts they learned about frogs. My suggestions for this are sketched on the chart paper in the image below (as part of a conversation with teachers who observed and co-taught during this lesson). You can assign these responses (hand out response sheets) based on the needs of the child. It’s important to model at some point – how to engage in these kinds of responses. I actually did some sketching and labeling as part of this lesson – but it was misguided. I focused on sketching a frog and labeling its body parts – when I should have figured out a way to sketch and label movements – to stay true to the objective that emerged during the read aloud.

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There’s so much to say about this imperfect lesson. I initially thought I’d just be teaching for recalling details from the text – “What did you learn from the author? What is the author trying to teach you about frogs?” I thought I’d read aloud some and then demonstrate learning from one page, but the students had a hard time focusing on one page of text after discussing so many pages. So I followed their lead and also what I knew they needed to learn by focusing on identifying the actions or different types of the frogs. As I stated earlier, I felt like my sketching demonstration led away from what was the focus of the lesson as well. Oh, and a multitude of other points.

In the end, I observed the students using the words we’d focused on, acted out, repeatedly  – in the context of reading a beautiful informational text – in their conversations with partners, during the shared writing, and during discussions with the teachers who picked up the teaching with small groups (after my part of the lesson).