Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Wait For It … #SOL19 #TWTBlog
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Slice of Life: Wait For It … #SOL19 #TWTBlog

I slowly turn the page.  I look at the page. I look at them.  I look back at the page. I read the words as I shift the book towards them so they can see what is happening with their characters.  I watch their faces and listen for a response.Wait for it.  Wait for it. 

I continue reading adjusting my pace and modulating my voice to match the scene unfolding. I turn the page, this time letting them see it first.  And there it is.

I pause making certain they are experiencing what I am noticing.

Readers do you feel it, do you hear it?  Right when I turned this page there was a ripple of conversation.  You are bursting to talk to each other.  That’s what readers do.  You seem to have a lot to say, turn and talk it out with your partner.

Reading aloud is one of my favorite things to do with elementary students.  It is magical, fun and rigorous at the same time.  In my partnership work with schools, we often think about how to choose books, how to layer books, and how to use a book to nudge students’ understanding of an element, device or craft.  We spend time choosing books that will resonate with our students and help us teach our curriculum.  While we plan how we might use each book, I urge teachers not to overdo it.

When it comes to read aloud in elementary school, I prefer not to plan out where I will model or the pages I will have them turn and talk.  As I read the book to myself, I am certainly aware of my responses and my thinking and I use this to think about how a conversation about the book with the students might go.  But that is as far as I go.  I plan the books I will read aloud, but I don’t plan the conversation.

I want elementary readers to experience authentic response and a purposeful need for a partner.  I don’t want turn and talk to be simply part of a lesson, something we plan by placing a post-it note.  I want turn and talk to be something students want.  Last week at the TCRWP reunion, Annie Taranto reminded us that it is a human trait to need each other. We need a community of others when we do hard things.  Turn and talk is not part of a lesson it is what readers do – we think, feel, wonder, and strive to understand with other readers.

I hear again and again …

the turn and talk is boring

they are simply reporting out not growing ideas

-they are not talking long

-they seem to just be going through the motions

As I observe what is happening, I am wondering if the problem is the talk or the need to talk.  It is hard to have something to say if you don’t have anything to say.  It is hard to talk about what you are wondering if you are not.  How can you grow an idea if you don’t have one yet?  I worry we are spending so much time planning how we want the read aloud to go and teaching students how to have more accountable talk, that we are missing a big part of the equation – the readers themselves.  They are the ones who have to have a need to talk, wonder, think and feel with other readers. 

For me, the first step is making sure the opportunity to talk is purposeful and meaningful.  Getting in the moment with a group of readers and waiting for them to respond.  I know they will let me know when they want to talk to someone.  Typically, they just start doing it.  Rather than calling their attention back, I notice and name what they are doing and let them do it.  As the teacher, I need to give up control so they can drive the process.  If they are in a habit of turning and talking on command, then I think we need to break the habit of reporting out before we worry about their level of talk.  I think kids need at least four weeks of experiencing authentic opportunities to think with other readers. 

I do this by finding books I think are talkworthy.  Then I read them and let the students lead the talk.  If I don’t see, hear, or feel a moment during a read aloud, I don’t have them turn and talk.  I wait for the next book.  I wait for them to send me a signal that they want to talk about the book.  Once they know I am going to let them talk when they need to, they begin to anticipate authentic, meaningful conversations.  They become active participants rather than passively waiting for me to tell them they should be thinking or talking. The talk becomes more natural and fun.  Once we have them talking with purpose, teaching them conversational moves to grow thinking is so much easier … and more fun! 

Clare

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here

10 Comments
  • Avatar
    Darlene Andre
    Posted at 12:15h, 23 March Reply

    I agree that a read aloud ” is magical, fun and rigorous at the same time. ” Finding books that are talk-worthy is important.

  • Avatar
    Mandy Robek
    Posted at 12:21h, 23 March Reply

    When I read your title I was hoping your thinking would be just this! Let’s stop over planning to foster enjoyment and natural authentic reading!

  • Avatar
    Achaiteacher
    Posted at 12:28h, 23 March Reply

    Yes!! This is how I feel! When I plan Read alouds for a sub it feels forced. If you choose a book with high interest, they’ll talk the way you’re hoping they will!

  • Avatar
    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 12:37h, 23 March Reply

    While you are reading the book, you are also reading the children, responding to what you see, hear, and feel that they need.
    Planning will not take the place of the empathy required to read an audience. That takes noticing and practice and yes, courage, too.
    Thank you for reminding us of that and for giving teachers a sound illustration.

  • Avatar
    Rose Cappelli
    Posted at 14:55h, 23 March Reply

    Such an important reminder, Clare! We can guide and set up opportunities, but in the end it is the children who should take the lead. We need to be open to those signals.

  • Avatar
    Franmcveigh
    Posted at 15:08h, 23 March Reply

    So true! “Turn and talk is not part of a lesson it is what readers do – we think, feel, wonder, and strive to understand with other readers.”
    Important reminders for all teachers!

    And wow! That was just a week ago!

  • Avatar
    Peg Bruno
    Posted at 15:45h, 23 March Reply

    This resonates so much with me right now. Teaching 6th grade our units now have read aloud of short stories only. We read a few pages, then wait a few days for the next few. It’s hard. I’m struggling with it and so are the kids. The joy of reading to them and engaging them is so critical in the love of books and of reading. I miss it.

  • Avatar
    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 21:44h, 23 March Reply

    Yes, they need to be bursting with something to say, and they also need time to think and plan what they’re going to say. In addition to sometimes being asked to speak on command, they are also asked to speak RIGHT THIS SECOND without gathering thoughts and planning words which is really hard for many people (maybe me!). Talk is SO Important and we don’t teach it as well as we should given how complex a skill having a meaningful conversation really is. Love this line: Turn and talk is not part of a lesson it is what readers do – we think, feel, wonder, and strive to understand with other readers.

  • Avatar
    Meaghan
    Posted at 02:52h, 24 March Reply

    Students leading the talk – so so important to authenticity. Thanks for the reminder that it doesn’t have to be so planned.

  • Avatar
    Susan Kennedy
    Posted at 11:36h, 30 March Reply

    We need a community of others when we do hard things. So great!

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