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.
- 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:
- 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!