Monday, March 17, 2014

When Teachers Innovate: Suzanne Capuano

A second grader participating in flashlight reading.
Suzanne turns off the lights and the children read by flashlight.
Robert Treat Academy, Newark, NJ. 2014.

Below is an email I received tonight from a second grade teacher who I have been working with (as a consultant) for the last three years. I so appreciate when teachers, like Suzanne, innovate. Suzanne is using a read aloud instructional collection that I wrote and have been trying out with teachers and students during the last year.  The text Suzanne is referencing is Tenzin's Deer written by Barbara Soros and illustrated by Danuta Mayer.  This text comes at the end of a unit focusing on the Himalayan Mountains.  Students have heard and interacted with three other texts: Jacqueline Briggs Martin's The Chiru of High Tibet (illustrated by Linda Wingerter), Steve Jenkins' The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest, and Jan Reynolds' Himalaya: Vanishing Culture.

Suzanne Capuano

6:04 PM (3 hours ago)
to me
So.. I read this story alone on Saturday.. made my teenagers listen to it on Sunday .. both times I cried at the end.
My students heard it today.  I cannot tell you how much they loved it.  I read the story straight through and I told them to write "Moment that caused me to wonder and 2 wonderings on their white board.. they love those markers.  I didn't know how often they would erase and what else they would put in its place but wow...
Right after the first page, I modeled my "Moment where I heard..." and "I wondered......"
I literally used a T-Chart and wrote those two headings with "The moment I heard .... that the Tibetan people live with "unity".. I wondered .."How do they ALL manage to get along with one another and keep peace where they live?"  We talked about how I came up with the word "unity" and used our knowledge from previous stories about how difficult it is to live in the mountains.  Then I read the entire story as they jotted down 2 notes on their white boards.  I just wanted to experiment with something similar to what they did on Friday.  I didn't know if they would understand the part "Moment where I heard, but wait until you hear what they came up with.

Moment where I heard...  Tenzin was talking to the flower... I wondered how do plants and items have a soul?
Moment where I heard... Tenzin tried to find a way to take out the arrow.. I wondered why does Tenzin care so much?
Moment where I heard...Jampa was feeling much better... I wondered ...since Tenzin loves Jampa so much.. is he going to let her go?
Sanaa Snead
Moment when I heard ....the boy didn't know what to do for the deer.. .I wondered .. how did the deer know that he would dream?
Moment I heard.. Tenzin talking to the flower.. I wondered how do plants have a soul?
Moment I heard ...Jampa went away and Tenzin could keep hearing him.. I wondered .. How .. from so far away?
When I heard.. he loved the deer.. I wondered why he had to let her go?
I was wondering how the deer looked when he grew up.
Moment I heard that Tenzin put tea on the wound and laid the flower on the deer.. I wondered why Tenzin put tea on the would that help?
Moment I heard that the tea was poured on the wound.. I wondered.. was the tea magic?
These Read Alouds are just so incredible... .thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Suzanne Capuano

I plan to update the ebook that contains this unit in order to include Suzanne's instruction. (She's given me permission).  You can see a draft of two of the units (Himalayan Mountains and Fables) in this ebook version.  The units currently have grown to nine and I hope to publish it via iTunes in May. The books focus on reading aloud, independent reading, and small group instruction. They are grade specific (K-4) and they are free. 


  1. Thank you for sharing this, Mary Ann. This is the type of unit I'll be working on this fall.

    1. Maureen, so glad the post resonated. Look forward to reading what you have to report next fall.


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