Reading aloud seems like a great way to engage the class no matter what their level of interest is. It’s an easy activity where they don’t have to do anything but listen, so they don’t have to feel like they’re being left out or singled out. It’s a great experience to share since all students are experiencing it in the “same” way. We can use it as a crutch for students who struggle with reading or have a hard time enjoying it.
I think in my own classroom, I’m going to use a lot of variety. I’ll be in a middle grades classroom, so I’m going to avoid picture books because I don’t really enjoy them too much. I will focus on a big variety beyond that though. I’ll use comic books, graphic novels, cartoon strips, and of course novels.
Below I’ve listed the books I would like to use. I’ve read all of them, but I’m not sure if I’d want to keep it that way. I think it would be interesting to read a book for the first time while reading it to the class, but I also think I might be able to get the class more involved in the reading if I know the book well. I’d know the better questions to ask and how to pace the book well. It would also be nice to be able to avoid a stinker of a book if I could. It’s fine to stop reading a book, but I would like to not have that happen with a read aloud book.
Calvin & Hobbes
Lord of the Rings
The Hunger Games
Bailey School Kids
This week, I read “Earthquake Terror” by Peg Kehret. I loved Peg Kehret growing up and read all of her books that I could. While I don’t remember reading this one, it’s very possible that I did! She had a series of books about Pete the Cat that were pretty popular in my school. Pete would find various ways of helping humans and being heroic in dire situations. I LOVED those stories. This book was great as well.
Jonathan Palmer is a 12 year old boy who loves adventure. His sister, Abby, loves it as well but she had an accident as a baby and has to walk with a walker. Our story begins with these two and their parents hiking in the woods. They make their way to a lake in the middle of the island they’re on. (This is set in California). While playing in the lake, their mom slips and breaks her ankle. They decide to leave the kids so that the dad can get the mom to a doctor quickly. Well, soon after he leaves, a huge earthquake hits. It happens to be the famous 1989 earthquake in California. With Jonathan and Abby stranded without help, they have to figure out how to best the elements and survive together.
Peg Kehret is a great writer. She conveys what’s important and writes in a way that would wrap up a younger kid in the story. Being older now, some parts I kind of rolled my eyes at, but I still really enjoyed it. It’s a “simple” book. There’s a tragedy and two kids have to make it out alive. Are all of their feats believable? In real life, probably not. But in the world that the book sets up, absolutely? You root for Jonathan and Abby and get scared when they find themselves in sticky situations. I’m going to read more of her books this semester. I really recommend her work.
Of the two articles I read, I learned a lot that was really encouraging and hopeful about the future of diverse books/libraries in America. There are considerable challenges, however, and they won’t be overcome easily. We can’t be passive in our integration and pushing of diverse books; we have to be active at all times. It’s so easy to fall into the attitude where you support diversity in literature, but you don’t really do anything concrete to bring it into your reading life, classroom, or library. As educators, we are on the front lines of being able to influence what kids read, and it’s imperative that we expose them to a variety of diverse styles.
Both articles emphasized how important it is for kids to be able to find a book and say, “Hey there I am!” It hasn’t been until quite recently that books featuring non-white characters really began to become prominent in popular literature, and we must keep the trend going by supporting it! Even if we have a classroom of kids that are all white, we still need to get them interested in diverse titles because this will help students build empathy and be able to put themselves into someone else’s shoes. If we only had them read books where white kids are the main character, then they aren’t going to think that there are different life experiences other than theirs. And then if they have kids, they likely won’t expose them to any diverse books either. It’s a cycle that can easily be stopped if we only make the effort to diversity their reading.
I had to try and add a little humor to my post this week. For any of you who have seen “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, this will likely get a laugh, but even if you’ve never seen it, you can probably gauge the mood this conveys. I’m really struggling this semester. My homework load is more than I’ve ever had and I feel like I’m always just barely keeping my head above water with my workload. However, I have been able to keep up with my reading challenge, tough as it may be.
I set a goal to read five picture books a week, mainly because I just don’t enjoy them that much if I’m reading them by myself. I end up just going to the library and knocking them all out at once. Then I try and find a junior novel to read. One particular issue that I’m struggling with is that I easily fall into the trap of reading a book that I’ve read plenty of times. I peruse my bookshelves in my hometown when I go back (I live an hour and a half away so somewhat frequently) and it’s so easy to pick a book I read a lot as a kid and have read recently. I did that last week when I read “Maniac Magee” again. But what can I say? I was in a slump.
The hardest issue I’ve encountered is finding the motivation to read when I’m already doing a lot of reading in other classes, but that reading is fairly boring. My brain just wants a break from the monotony sometimes. I really kind of hate that this semester is starting to affect my enjoyment of books. I haven’t read an actual book on my own time since the summer, and that’s hard for me, since I love to have a book going.
I’ve been in another rut recently with finding a book that grabs me, so I reread a book that I read last semester for another class. I read Maniac Magee for Adolescent Literature, and once I thought about it, I realized it might not be such a bad idea because I think this book applies to both ages. Also, I am indeed reading five picture books a week, but I just don’t have a lot to say about them. I will try to get more into them in future posts.
Anyways, Maniac Magee follows Jeffery Magee as he lives his life. His parents died when he was young, so he moved in with his aunt and uncle. After a short time, he runs away and ends up in the town Two Mills. Here, Maniac gains a reputation as a brave and wild kid. There is a lot of racial tension in the town, but Maniac is oblivious to it. Several town challenges and myths also prove no challenge for Maniac. As he completes these challenges and gains more fame, he begins bouncing around from house to house, with no real home. He befriends almost the whole town, so he gets taken care of in one way or another. Often, his meals come from luck or good will.
I think this book applies to older children in a few ways. There are a lot of themes like kindness, acceptance, empathy, and I think that these are important for children to see in their stories. They might even feel motivated to be more like Maniac, and since Maniac is a near Christ figure, that’s not a bad thing at all. Maniac is the pinnacle of human goodness, so i think it’s a great read for all ages.
I have listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts in my lifetime. A gigantic chunk of these hours is from podcasts about movies. Another chunk is from one podcast where three guys just shoot the breeze. Anyone who knows anything about podcast can tell from this that there’s a huge range as to what a podcast can be. There are plenty of podcasts that act as book reviews and interviews. People fire up a microphone and share their thoughts and opinions about a book, and often interview various authors about their work. This got me thinking, why couldn’t a podcast be used as a teaching device?
I obviously did my presentation about book podcasting, so I won’t rehash that information. Instead, I’ll go into more of my personal beliefs about why it would be effective instead of trying to describe what a possible lesson plan could look like. Everyone loves to talk, but the situations in which individuals feel comfortable to do so vary greatly. Some kids love to talk in a group. They thrive from the dynamic shared when multiple people join in the conversation. Others prefer to talk to one other person. They love having the full attention of a friend and love listening to their thoughts. Still others prefer to go it alone and talk, not necessarily out loud, to themselves. A podcast gives an opportunity for students with any preference to shine. They don’t have to stand at the front of the class and perform for while all those eyes watch them. They can record it in the comfort of their home, a coffee shop, a park, or anywhere where they won’t bother others.
I have learned a lot about the universal design of education that we as teachers need to strive for, and while podcasts won’t work with everyone (some students have problems with language), it will be a great way to learn for many kids. I would make necessary adjustments for other children, but this is one assignment that would work with almost anyone to some degree.
One of my main struggles this semester is finding the willpower to get through all of my homework, especially the reading for all of my classes. I think a lot of this angst can be attributed to the fact that I didn’t switch my major to teaching until fall semester of my senior year. Knowing that I was behind everyone else was rough, and that is multiplied by the fact that I’m getting sick of college in general. This is my fifth year, and I’m super jealous of my friends and those younger than me graduating and being out of the college cycle. Along with that, this semester is by far my most homework heavy. That being said, I’ve had to make some adjustments in order to get all of my homework done on time, which has made me think of how my future students might feel in their own situations.
I forced myself to use a timer to read and work on assignments. There just wasn’t any other way that seemed to work. It was too easy to play video games for an hour or more without even getting five minutes of work done. For example, I would be playing Fortnite and then after a match, I would set a timer for twenty minutes and do NOTHING other than work on homework. Once that twenty minutes was up, I finished up my passage or section and played another round. Rinse and repeat. I figured I would find it hard to focus switching between a video game and homework so quickly, but I was wrong. My brain welcomed the change, and then when it was time to do homework, I wasn’t dreading it. Knowing that it was only twenty minutes with the promise of another round of Fortnite after that, I was able to overcome some of the procrastination.
When I began to consider how I could use something similar for my students, I thought that it could almost be a one to one translation. There would already be time at some point in class for time to read independently, but I figured that if I was teaching a difficult lesson that day, or the material was kind of boring, I could have them take a break in the middle and read from their books. Maybe it wouldn’t work as well as I envision, but it will be worth a shot.