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March 03, 2009

Making Meaning from Reading

Read alouds are one of my favorite activities of our school day.  There is nothing quite like a group of three- and four-year-olds sitting in rapt attention trying to figure out what will happen next in a story, making connections between a book and their own lives, or even taking on the perspective of a character from a book.  I primarily use read alouds to teach thematic content (e.g. we read books about grocery stores during our Markets and Food unit), reading comprehension skills (e.g. making predictions), and vocabulary.  This year, I have designed my schedule to accomodate four read alouds per day -- one in the morning, one before lunch, one before nap, and one at the end of the day. 
I've developed a fairly good sense of what types of books will appeal to my students and encourage them to think critically about topics, however, my students still surprise me sometimes.  This happened just last week when we read Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin.  I was reading the book with a focus on the idea that different people can have different ideas about the same situation, and the following conversation transpired:

Text: "'Cows that type. Hens on strike! Whoever heard of such a thing? How can I run a farm with no milk and no eggs!' Farmer brown was furious."

Me: "Farmer Brown was so angry! He didn't want to compromise with the animals, he just wanted everything his way."
Suniah: "That's actually no way to solve a problem."
Aaliyah: "Yeah, you have to share."
Makiera: "Or you can trade." (pointing to our sign that says "Friends can...share, trade, and take turns")
We usually read the same book at least two or three times over the course of a week in order to focus on different skills and comprehension strategies, and I wasn't planning on focusing on problem sovling until the next read aloud, but my students were already attuned to the major problem and potential soultions in the book.  I took my students' insightful comments as an opporunity to touch on problem solving and why it is so important, while still addressing the underlying need to consider the perspectives of other people.  Ultimately, this read aloud encouraged my students to make connections between a book and their lives, think critically about problems and solutions, and build off the ideas of their peers.  It also provided a venue for a valuable lesson about social-emotional skills.  And in the end, Makiera was pleased to learn that Farmer Brown did indeed decide to trade with the cows.


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