Saturday, July 14, 2012

Interactive Read Aloud: Dwelling, Talking, Feeling & Thinking

When I designed the Newark Public Schools' summer school literacy project for children in primary grades, I gave a lot of thought about how to infuse high quality text into that experience and decided to emphasize the daily interactive read aloud as one important component of the daily learning.  Because I am also teaching and coaching in the project, I have the satisfaction of not only designing, but also seeing that work interpreted and enacted with children.  I knew without a doubt that I would learn so much and that this partnership would give rise to questions, wonderings, and theories about teaching and learning. I have not been disappointed as I have seen super work being done with regard to vocabulary and text response and this work has prompted my thinking.

Because most of the read aloud texts are meant to be read across multiple days as well as reread, I imagined that teachers might chart the wonderings of students as they talked and might let sit a question of two across several days:  a question that the teacher and students would revisit as they reread a given text.  Unfortunately, I failed to make that clear in the guide I wrote and so I might be most responsible for what I perceive as an absence.  It is the dwelling in ideas that matter so.

Child's response to what happens at the beginning of The Firekeeper's Son.
In correspondence with coaches who are supporting teachers and students in the project, I asked them to be mindful of the presence of student talk and to support teachers in ensuring that children have lots of opportunities to talk about what they are hearing, seeing, feeling and thinking.  Whereas there is a good deal of turning and talking among the youngest children, there seems to be less of this being done with the older children.  Alongside this emphasis of student talk, I also wanted to convey to coaches and teachers that interpreting and evaluating text often requires enough space for learners to dwell, not to simply respond.   In many ways that space is a placeholder for Louise Rosenblatt's concept of poem: the transaction a reader and text create.  A challenge with text-dependent questions is that they are often efferent and can be 'answered' definitively.  Whereas understanding literal details is important, so too are interpretive and evaluative queries and certainly text dependent questions can also lead to interpretation and evaluation.  It is these latter ways of thinking about text that I want to suggest make for good potential places for dwelling. When I rehearse teaching in my mind,  I imagine saying to children: "This is a question we may not answer and one that we will need to think about across the next few days. I'm going to leave it printed here on our chart so that we can think about it when we're not reading the book. Then when we revisit the question we can see if we have any new ideas and questions." 

I am going to be paying attention to dwelling in text as I make my way through the next week with the teachers and children.  I hope to post another blog in which I follow children's lines of thought that happen apart from the read aloud text and yet is connected to it.

Thinking beyond the read aloud time about the text is an important goal.

Here are some of the texts children are hearing and interacting with this summer.


First Grade
Illustration by Edel Rodriguez from Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx.

Second Grade
Claire Nivola's illustration from Life in the Ocean.
Ida B. Wells by Stephen Alcorn from Let It Shine.

Third Grade

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