Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Read-alouds in the Library

Because I am now gainfully employed (at least for the next two months), I have a lot less time on my hands, and most of what I've been reading lately is to share with my students. And now I'll share them with you...

Duck on a Bike by David Shannon
published  April 2002 by Scholastic

So, I'm doing a David Shannon author study with first grade students. Last week, we read Too Many Toys and The Rain Came Down. Eventually, I'll get to the David books (though I'm not really a fan), but today was definitely a Duck on a Bike day. Sometimes I just want to jump for joy at how a great book can captivate and inspire a group of students.

If you don't know the story, Duck rides a bike around the farm, and on each page he encounters an animal who reacts to Duck's unusual activity (Dog is excited, Mouse is jealous, Sheep is wary, etc.) with an animal sound and an exclamation. In the end, a group of children conveniently leave their bikes outside the house, and all of the animals on the farm get to ride a bike for a short time.

There are many factors which contribute to a great read-aloud - many of which have nothing to do with the reader or the book. Time of day, weather, lunch, recess happenings, etc. Those seemed to all be in my favor today because my students came in quietly, sat down in their neat, little rows, and listened to the story. I asked them to raise their hands every time a new animal was introduced, and they did! With enthusiasm! They asked good questions, gave thoughtful answers, and were just wonderful. We got a little silly at the end of class; I read the book again, but this time I asked them to contribute the animal sounds. Yeah, they love that.

Hansel and Gretel retold and illustrated by Rachel Isadora
published April 2009 by Penguin

Grimm's tales with fifth grade = a lot more fun in theory. I was so excited to share these gruesome, scary versions of everyone's favorite fairy tales - except that kids today don't know the fairy tales at all. Last week, I read Cinderella, but before I did, I asked students to retell it for me, just basic plot points. Yeah, that wasn't happening. I got the Hillary Duff A Cinderella Story version, with a cell phone left behind at a high school dance. Really? Really?! Do I have to suck it up and admit that fairy tales are on their way to being obsolete? Am I supposed to thank Disney for keeping them alive as long as they did? I digress.

This week, I read this AMAZING retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Rachel Isadora stayed true to Grimm's story, but she set it in Africa with bright, bold colors in a collage style - and a green, nasty-looking witch. I immediately fell in love with this book. There's nothing in the text that specifies setting, so I'm thrilled that Isadora just made it up and stuck with it. I hear that she's quite good at this. I hoped that my excitement would be contagious and that students would really get into the story and especially appreciate the illustrations. Not so much. What can I say? Grimm's tales are repetitive (in keeping with the oral tradition) with some interesting morals, and well, a little boring. It takes a lot to entertain these students, and they just weren't having it with this story.

But the point of the lesson was to compare two retellings of the same story to see how time and perspective can introduce many variables to essentially the same text. But I need more than 30 minutes for this. And I need students who care. I don't know how to make them care. They just see it as something they need to get done - another worksheet to fill out (or not, as the case was for many of them). Is it just that it's spring and they're tired of school and perhaps a little jaded and ready to leave elementary school behind? I sure hope so.

What Happened to Marion's Book? by Brook Berg, illustrated by Nathan Alberg
published September 2003 by Highsmith

Kindergarten is absolutely my weakness. With over 20 five year-olds and just one me, I have trouble reading a story and checking out books in just 30 minutes. This book is lengthy but a good review of how to care for a book, especially at this time of year when books are coming back sopping wet ("I left it in the rain") or chewed up ("It was my dog").

Marion the hedgehog loves to read and has lots of books of her own. When she starts school, she gets to borrow two books from her school library, and she decides that she wants to be a librarian when she grows up (yes, it's a little cheesy). One day, while Marion is reading her library book at the breakfast table, a big glob of jam falls on a page. Oops! Marion knows that her librarian will be disappointed if she brings back a dirty book, so she decides to clean it. Her dog licks it, she puts toothpaste on it, takes it in the bath, and puts it in the washer - until the book is completely ruined. Moral of the story - 'Fess up right away and all is forgiven (well, you know, except that fine you'll have to pay).

Students were truly shocked at the choices Marion makes during the course of the book (thank goodness!), and I think they'll remember to keep their books clean and dry. Now if I can get them to bring back their books at all...

That's all for read-alouds this week. Third grade is working on using the online catalog, and fourth grade is using magazines for information. More next week!



Jennifer said...

5th graders are TOUGH. I still haven't managed to connect with them when I do my summer reading visits. I did get a few little pops with some nonfiction and comics, and that one boy was really excited to tell me about his pig-racing but....a tough group. I've been trying more folk tales with my preschool and family storytimes. I always think they'll be too long, but they really hold the kids' attention.

Peaceful Reader said...

I love all your choices!! I'm reading Isadora's Rapunzel to second graders. I love the bold illustrations and how she stays fairly true to original tales.

NatalieSap said...

Jennifer - You know, I used to LOVE folk tales, and now, I'm just eh. I feel like I have to really play them up in order for them to be successful. :/

Michelle - I need to go to the library and pick up all of her retold fairy tales. I can't believe I had never seen them before! They are just gorgeous.

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