Category Archives: Read Alouds Grades PreK-2

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

tiny creatures

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.

Thoughts – CC Appendix B Exemplar Grades 2-3 Read Aloud Informational Txts


Below are thoughts – including notes of caution & outright rejections – on the “exemplars” listed in Common Core Appendix B for Grades 2-3 Read Aloud Informational Texts. At the bottom is a link to a PDF with more extensive notes about the texts’ topics, central ideas, structure and coherence.

IMPORTANT to remember about exemplar texts –

  • The authors of the Common Core only share very general guidelines they used to choose these texts – educators in the field “have used successfully with students in a given grade band” and “qualitative and quantitative measures” that indicated the texts were of “sufficient complexity” for this grade band, “texts of recognized value” and “as broad a range of high-quality texts as possible.” (CCSS, Appendix B, page 2) As I have complained in a past blog – I don’t think the authors of the CC took into consideration the 5 A’s of good informational texts – authority, accuracy, appeal, artistry, and appropriateness for audience.
  • This list is not complete and the texts only serve as examples in “helping educators selects texts of similar complexity, quality and range.” (CCSS, Appendix B, page 2)

My synopsis –

  • In general, a decent range of texts as far as complexity – but not as far as range of appropriate topics and informational text structures for grades 2-3.
  • The quality of these texts is hit or miss. (See attached notes.)
  • I would reject the following titles as exemplars for grades 2-3 reading aloud –
    REJECTED – POORLY WRITTEN- The Museum Book: A Guide to Strange & Wonderful Collections by Jan Mark – poorly written, lacks coherence, not appropriate for these grades (see linked notes for more details).

REJECTED – TOO EASY – The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles – I know this is a classic, but, in addition to being dated as far as accuracy and authority,  I think it’s way too easy for 2nd/3rd grade listeners. ALTERNATIVE TITLES AS EXEMPLARS –  My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King by C. King Farris (2nd grade) and Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges (3rd grade)

REJECTED – AS READ ALOUD – too hard for students to see imagesAh, Music! by Aliki. There are too many small illustrations for this to be a good read aloud – to a traditionally large group of students. Even putting the text on the document camera – there is just too much going on – on each page. You want to avoid using these kinds of books – “illustrated guides” as texts for reading aloud. Not a good example.

  • I would PROCEED WITH CAUTION when considering these next three texts as exemplars. This means I would absolutely read aloud texts like these to students – but not in a traditional read aloud way. You know how we pick up a good book to read aloud to students before lunch or at the end of the day? I think the authors of the CC had “instruction” with these texts in mind. See my blog on reading aloud Freedman’s Lincoln: A Photobiography for more of what I mean. PROCEED WITH CAUTION – Lincoln: A Photobiography by Freedman; If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World’s People  by David J. Smith; What the World Eats by Faith D’Aluisio.
  • Actually…those I haven’t rejected would be best experienced as part of an integrated unit of study. All of the texts require some kind of student background knowledge (see my attached notes in PDF link below AGAIN :)) that would make it easier for students to get the fullest amount of information/learning during the read aloud experience.

Okay…more to come. I’m working my way through all of the exemplars as part of my next book…hoping to have better set of exemplars to recommend in general somewhere along the way. Remember – see PDF link below :).

Appendix B 2-3 read aloud chart

PreK-Kinder Read Alouds – Observing the World Around Us

As you start the school year, consider making half of the texts you read aloud to preK-Kinder (and even 1st grade) students informational texts. One new text I’d recommend is Step Gently Out by Frost & Lieder (2013). Frost’s lyrical text invites our youngest learners to slow down and watch and listen. Lieder’s photographs are worth sitting quietly and contemplating with students. Step Gently Out is an easy invitation to looking and listening to nature that surrounds us – but also to any of our everyday surroundings and it’s worth reading aloud to students multiple times. The Next Generation Science Standards for kindergarten focus on students’ ability to observe and this book could launch and anchor a related science unit and even a literacy center where students can look through the book again and then observe a class terrarium or aquarium and draw their observations.


Another book that comes to mind for reading aloud to PreK-1 students to launch the school year – and that can be used in so many ways – is Green (Seeger, 2012) which I’ve reviewed in a previous blog. Again – this book lends itself to thinking about how we can look more closely at the world around us.


Other PreK-1 informational texts to read aloud because they –

  • introduce science content
  • begin gently to pull students into reading and learning from informational texts
  • tap into what it means to “observe” and notice our surroundings
  • have just enough content to hold students attention (as the kids develop stamina for sitting through longer, more complex texts read aloud).

Swirl by Swirl

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman (2011)


In the Tall, Tall Grass and other books by Denise Fleming


Truck by Donald Crews

I Read Signs

I Read Signs and lots of other titles by Tana Hoban


Shoes, Shoes, Shoes and other titles by Ann Morris

Hope this helps. Would love suggestions for good informational texts to read aloud to preK-kinder at the beginning of the year!

Nonfiction Author Study – Moving preK-1 Towards Close Reading

Kinder Author Study 1  photo-39

Last year I had the honor of working with two kindergarten teachers who immersed their students in nonfiction author studies. Late in the spring they led a two week author study – week one on Steve Jenkins’ books and week two on Nic Bishop’s books. Monday-Wednesday or Thursday, they read aloud a book and on Fridays, the students could choose their favorite to be read aloud again. The teachers and the students studied the structure of the authors’ texts. For example, Jenkins has three books that follow a question/answer structure  – What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?, What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You?, How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? And they also created writing-in-response centers for the students during the reading block of the day and used the books for mini-lessons during writing workshop. In week two, they contrasted the illustrations in Jenkins’ books with photos in Bishop’s books. (Just a note – What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? is listed in the Common Core Appendix B as an example of an appropriately rigorous read aloud for k-1 students.)

The teachers created writing center activities based on their discussions with students during the interactive read alouds. Sometimes the writing was identifying a fact from the book and then illustrating this fact. In the image below you can see how one teacher projected the response sheet with the document camera for all students to view when she was giving directions. The students are to choose the “true” fact at the bottom and then illustrate in the box above.


Sometimes the writing center was focused on using the structure of the authors’ texts. For example, the students wrote questions about animals they chose and then drew an illustration. I had the pleasure of working with the students at this center one day – they loved asking great questions! How does a jaguar run? Why do cats meow? AND they bugged their teachers to create a writing center where they could not only write questions, but (like Jenkins does) write the answers as well.

Bishop’s books like Frogs, Lizards and so forth are more difficult than some of Jenkins’. They are written in a descriptive text structure and there is a lot of content to grapple with cognitively. I wouldn’t shy away from read them aloud to preK-1st grade students, though. Studying Bishop after studying Jenkins just raises the rigor of the learning that happens – which is aligned with the Common Core.  I recommend teachers choose 5-6 pages to read aloud at one time from one of his books and that they allow for quality time spent looking at Bishop’s photos which extend the text in so many ways.

When we’re thinking about moving preK-1 students towards close reading, one of our objectives should be to help students develop an ear for what informational texts sound like – by reading aloud these texts to students – a lot! My recommendation is that when we read aloud an author like Jenkins or Bishop, we should read aloud several of each author’s books so students have a chance to master listening to and understanding these kinds of texts. Experience with the same author multiple times reduces the cognitive load of structure (because the students become familiar with the author’s typical structure and know what to expect) and allows the students to listen for content and glean main ideas. Then when our emergent and early readers begin to read informational text more avidly on their own – they will have these interactive read aloud experiences to draw from as they struggle with increasingly complex texts.

The pay off of immersing students in nonfiction author studies is amazing. Our youngest learners are enthralled with informational books like these. When the kindergarten students were interviewed at the end of the year about what they loved about school, they yelled out these authors names – “Nic Bishop!” and “Steve Jenkins!”

A big thank you to Colleen & Lauren for inspiring your students and sharing your work with us!


Frog Song – TINKTINKTINKTINK! – read aloud, close read, research mentor


Stunning illustrations and tightly focused text make the new book Frog Song (Guiberson, 2013) an ideal read aloud and independent read for k-5 students. On each two-page layout, Guiberson, the author of many many nonfiction books, describes the characteristics of a particular frog including –

  • in varied bold fonts, the frog’s sound (TINKTINKTINKTINK! the male midwife toad of Spain “clangs”),
  • how a frog takes care of the eggs (in Ecuador, the Surnam toad carries eggs in the skin on its back),
  • the role of moisture in the frog’s life or the moisture in the frog’s habitat (in Borneo, the four-lined tree frog “stirs up a foamy next to keep the eggs moist”)

The main idea of this book is that if the sound of frogs is absent from a habitat, there may be environmental problems. In the author’s note, Guiberson notes that 1/3 of the world’s frogs are “struggling to survive.”

There’s an additional two-page layout at the end of the book with a small picture of each frog featured and more details like the frog’s length.

I was surprised though – that with such a focus on the sound of the frog, Guiberson did not include details about how she researched the sounds of these frogs and determined an onomatopoeia for each – so I emailed her and she responded!

Clearly, Guiberson’s research process can be a model for our students.

  • To figure out how to write about the sounds, Guiberson relied on audio recordings of frogs she could not go hear for herself. Some of the links to these recordings are listed at the end of the book under “Frog Facts Online.” So for example, if you want your students to hear the wood frog featured in the book, here’s a link with an audio clip of the wood frog and several others.
  • For accuracy, Guiberson found “three agreeing sources to verify the information.”
  • She also found it helpful to know the scientific name of the frog (the Scarlet-sided pobblebonk is Limnodynastes terraereginae) and to search for links with this name for more scientific sources.
  • In addition, she looked for how others have spelled and described the sounds of these frogs.

There’s so much potential here for our students’ writing! Frog Song can serve as a mentor –

  • for the research process,
  • for writing tightly focused research with details that clearly support a central idea,
  • for refreshing use of language (word choice)  (toads clang, belt out, sing, zap, rattle their songs).

The latter two points are also good purposes for doing some close reading, writing in response to reading, and then thinking about students’ own writing and possible revisions.

And I’m neglecting to get into the beautiful illustrations by Gennady Spirin and how they serve to support the content of the text! Oh, the places we could go!

List of nonfiction read alouds mentioned in my book!

what we wear

See attached list of nonfiction books I recommend for reading aloud – exemplars. Also, you can friend me on goodreads where I have a bookshelf for nonfiction read alouds in k-3 and 4-8. This is the list I mention in my book!

sunday’s nonfiction book list