Thankful: A #Classroombookaday Reflection

Thank You(1)

In the fall of 2014 I read this great post written by Jillian Heise (@heisereads) about her plans to read a picture book a day to her students. I was intrigued by this because like her students, mine have often referenced read alouds as something they’ve wished I would do more frequently. Books like I Want My Hat Back, We Are In A Book!, and many others have always created such buzz and have contributed to a positive classroom atmosphere. I couldn’t help but wonder what a #bookaday read aloud might look like in my own classroom.

Our class schedule had recently changed to provide more time in the classroom, and so I knew time wise, I could make this happen. In January of 2015, I decided to take the dive. My plan was to try daily read alouds for a month and go from there. Students’ feedback at the end of the month was essentially unanimous: “Mr. D., we love this! Please keep it going!”

And so we did, save the month of April, when my awesome student teacher was full-time teaching and working to meet her program’s requirements on an already tightened schedule due to state testing. To my surprise, at the end of the year, daily read alouds were voted the most popular common reading experience, beating out other class favorites such as The Outsiders and The Giver.  In an attempt reflect and to share some of what I learned during this half year experiment, below I’d like to share some observations and a few of my students’ reflections about daily read alouds.

My Observations

  • Daily read alouds helped bring more laughter and built stronger relationships within our learning community
  • It created even more acceptance for each student’s individual reading identity
  • Daily read alouds inspired a few of my students to ask me if they could read aloud passages to their classmates, and the popularization of what I’m calling, “grassroots choral reading” of certain read alouds like Micheal Hall’s Cat Tales and Anna Kang’s You Are (Not) Small. Grassroots as in students were the ones who suggested the class all participate in the reading these texts.
  • It inspired unexpected projects, like drafting a letter to Mac Barnett & Adam Rex to request a Blue Whale for our school pet, and a student created wake for a wood tick which included an obituary, eulogy and over twenty students in attendance one early morning (Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, which in reality could be a blog post in and of itself), and a hilarious discussion on where Sam and Dave really end up. Please excuse these pun-filled theories:
“They fell into a… Pear-adox!”
“No, a Pear-allel dimension!”
“Are you sure it wasn’t Pear-adise?!”
“Well whatever THAT was, I bet they wish they had brought two Pear-achutes and more animal crackers!”
  • Daily read alouds also gave me lots of opportunities to connect back to our reading and writing lessons, something I hope do more of in the 2015-2016 school year.

Student feedback on their favorite common reading experience:

  • Daily read alouds because it helped me get ready and excited for class.
  • Daily read alouds because it let me and everyone embrace their inner childhood. (Different variations of this were mentioned 15 plus times)
  • Picture book read alouds! I have never laughed in a class so much.
  • Picture book a day! I loved the books. I even bought three books you read for my little brother.
  • Picture books at the start of each class. It just seemed to lighten the mood. It was also funny and made me happy.
  • Picture books because you never knew what might happen at the start of class.
  • I liked the read alouds, especially the one where we had to read using the big and little voices together. [You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang]

Jillian, thank you for your generosity in sharing this idea with us all! It has already brought so much joy, surprise, and positivity into my classroom. I’m so excited to see this project through an entire school year and to watch as this #ClassroomBookADay Community grows!

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Quick Review: Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing

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I knew nothing regarding Randolph Caldecott prior to reading this wonderful book by Leonard Marcus. Needless to say, I have learned a lot about this famous artist and namesake of the famous picture book award. I especially enjoyed how the author included many of Caldecott’s illustrations throughout the book and how he drew the connection between Caldecott and children book authors/illustrators who were greatly influenced by him, such as Beatrice Potter and Maurice Sendak.

This book would definitely be a great addition to a class study of the Caldecott Award. It would also be interesting to compare Randolph Caldecott’s story to Allen Say’s Drawing From Memory. The journey of an artist is one that takes courage and reading Caldecott’s story could certainly help provide one with a little extra courage for the long trip.

My Top 13 Reads of 2013

Two thousand thirteen has been a great year for readers. The variety and quality of books sent me down a rabbit hole of reading unlike any I’d ever experienced before.  I’d like to thank my colleagues, fellow nerdy book club members, and authors everywhere for the inspiration. As there were many books to love, I thought it would be fun to celebrate my top 13 reads from 2013. Continue reading

Quick Review: Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

15937108I read a lot of great books this summer, but none with the intensity in which I read Counting by 7s. Willow Chance made me laugh out loud and cry uncontrollably on at least seven occasions. I loved seven of the secondary characters and how their lives intersected and changed throughout. Of the seven books I read this summer about middle school students, this one was at the top of my list, and one I’ll be purchasing for classroom library this week! If you can find a copy of Counting by 7s, go read it right now! You will not regret it.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani

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Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas offers the readers a beautiful introduction to three amazing scientist who changed the way we look at primatology, conservation, and the very woozy line between the human animal divide. Jim Ottaviani does an outstanding job of tying the narrative arc of the story through anthropologist Louis Leakey, who helped all three women get into their fields of expertise. Maris Wick’s artwork is phenomenally vibrant throughout and compliments Ottaviani’s narrative nicely. I especially loved scenes where the scientist and primates interacted with one another. Continue reading

Review: Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

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Teaching abroad changed me.

Having spent my first four years out of college working in Japan, I came to realize that things were not always as they seemed. Behind most of the confusion that came with living in a new place were stories that shed light where I originally could not see. What’s more, I came to realize that cultural understanding takes time and an openness to seeing the world from a different perspective. Continue reading