Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life – When Characters Talk to Us
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Slice of Life – When Characters Talk to Us


Hey, that book is just like that other book, the one with the pigeon. Both books talk to us like we are in the book. I love those books that talk to you.










It was day 15 in a kindergarten classroom. I was modeling an interactive read aloud lesson. I had only read the first page when this young friend shared his thinking. Once he shared his thinking, the entire group erupted into a conversation about how this book was the same and different from the pigeon book. These kindergarteners were doing the work of standard 9 of the CCSS.

So many teachers are talking with us about standard 9 of the CCSS:

Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors takes.

 How do we find text sets?

Do you know pinterest boards with good text sets?

Are there catalogues to buy text sets?

Which topics or themes should we buy text sets for?

 While we love thinking about text set possibilities and perusing pinterest boards we are continually reminded by our young friends that if we create the space they will do the work. We blogged about this idea previously – Text Sets – To Buy or Not To Buy? – And we continue to think that it is far more powerful to involve the students in the process of creating these sets.

The kindergarteners in this lesson were thinking beyond theme and topic, they were comparing text structures. They were noticing that some books are structured in a way that has the characters talk directly to the reader. This group is ready to move into a conversation about why an author might write this way? How this type of writing changes the story? How you read it differently? How it changes your thinking?

I am not sure I have ever thought about how this style of writing impacts how I read or comprehend. I am not sure I ever would have thought about it if it were not for this young reader. It has made me stop and think about how this text structure is designed to support the comprehension of our young readers. Monitoring for meaning and metacognition are such abstract concepts. Texts like these make the “in the head” processing interactive and concrete. The reader shouts back at the characters, makes suggestions, answers questions and provides warnings. The reader laughs, sighs and whoops with joy. They literally become a part of the text through thoughts, actions and dialogue.

When the narrator speaks directly to the reader it invites the reader to construct his understanding of the text and add his own point of view. It becomes interactive and provides opportunities for story play and drama. When our young readers act, speak and dramatize “as if” they are the character then we know they understand how the characters are feeling and what the characters are thinking. It provides a hands-on way for our concrete-operational readers to think inferentially. It allows our young readers to respond to text and express their comprehension without writing. We know that talk is the major motor for comprehension. If our young readers can talk the response we know we are building the foundation for them to write the response.

This group of readers inspired us to make a pinterest board in their honor! These are the texts we have found so far:


  • Avatar
    Michele Knott
    Posted at 09:59h, 23 September Reply

    what an astute learner you have! And kudos to you for recognizing the connection – I feel like this was an example of that natural connection between CCSS and learning. Sometimes what I do is so forced.
    I have been enjoying your pinterest boards, they have been helpful to me as a coach, as a resource. My goal is to put together some boards of my own!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 20:32h, 23 September Reply

      Glad the boards are helpful — we find them helpful as well. We love when teachers give us ideas to add to the boards and when students give us ideas to create them. The natural connections are always the most powerful.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 10:47h, 23 September Reply

    It’s so exciting when kids naturally do something we didn’t expect! The trick is to recognize it and build on it, just like you did. As teachers we have to truly be a part of the learning community and let our students take the lead sometimes.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 20:33h, 23 September Reply

      We have been thinking and talking a lot about noticing and naming what are students are doing. When we allow ourselves the time to listen, truly listen, we can learn so much from them. We are encouraging our collegues to slow down, listen and let them lead us. Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 13:10h, 23 September Reply

    Oh I love how you heard these kindergarteners. As young readers, maybe they are seeing things we as “proficient” readers just don’t. Talk about close reading. Or perhaps it’s just from the perspective they are sitting in? Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 20:35h, 23 September Reply

      I agree they are closely reading and making connections between authors and structures. If we give them the space to think, respond and lead — they can do this work in a developmentally appropriate way. They are such fun!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 15:10h, 23 September Reply

    I’m off to check out that Pinterest board right after I leave this comment. What a great resource that will be (for me to find books for my own daughter).

    Keep up the amazing work with those Kinders!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 20:36h, 23 September Reply

      It is a fun board –let us know if you or Isabelle find titles to add. We love those Kinders –such insight and so much fun!!!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 19:01h, 23 September Reply

    It’s so exciting to see students run with ideas and create their own learning. How fabulous to create a board to honor these eager learners.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 20:37h, 23 September Reply

      It is so exciting to see the connections happening and thinking growing as we talk with them. We told them the board was in their honor and we started off their collection with a copy of Don’t Push the Button! Thanks

  • Avatar
    Posted at 09:12h, 24 September Reply

    Thank you for sharing this experience and highlighting all the good thinking that can happen when we follow what the kids are noticing instead of our own plan. I love this line: “if we create the space, they will do the work.” The Pinterest board is great!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 14:57h, 24 September Reply

    You are so right that allowing the kids speak will bring unexpected ideas. Some of my third grades love Elephant and Piggy We Are In a Book just because the book does exactly what you described – they feel as they are with the characters and as part of the story. They wish to please the Elephant and reread the book several times, making sure to say Banana out loud. Some others have loved Kate DiCamillo’s voice in The Tale of Desperaux. I love both.

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