Pick-A-Stick Read Alouds

I’m starting something new this year! This pretty much happens every year. I get this great idea and it works so well with the perfect class that lives in my head in the summer. Three days into the school year, I realize that my grand idea is absolutely dreadful not going to work in real life.

I think this one’s going to be a keeper, though. I call it a pick-a-stick read aloud. Most days after snack recess, the kids and I gather on the carpet and I choose a stick from this cup:

Inside the cups are sticks that have a variety of genres or categories of books written on them:

For each category, I have mounds of picture books that will be read as the year goes on. The only category that is not really self-explanatory is the “serious thinking” one.  These are picture books that require the use of multiple comprehension strategies (making connections, inferences, or predictions, checking for understanding, asking questions, etc.) to understand what is happening in the story.

Last Tuesday, we picked our first stick — biography. I was pretty excited because I have been building my collection of picture book biographies and I’ve been looking forward to sharing them this year. Since it was so early in the year, I chose a simple one: Me…Jane by Patrick McDonell. This is a story about Jane Goodall, a scientist who studied chimpanzees in Africa. The book talks mostly of her childhood and her longing to live among the chimps in Tanzania. Towards the end, in one page turn, childhood Jane is now an adult whose dream came true. The kids loved the book and could easily relate to Jane’s love of exploring the outdoors, but they were wondering how it all happened. “She just woke up one day and was in Africa?” one of my cherubs wondered.

“Well, not really,” I said. “I have another book about Jane Goodall that tells that part of the story. Would you like me to read it to you?”

Twenty-two voices rang out…”YES!!”

I smiled to myself as I pulled out The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter and hoped that they would be able to make it through. I briefly thought about saving it for another time.

If you haven’t spent a lot of time with a large group of first graders, let me just tell you that at the beginning of the year, their attention spans are non-existent still developing.

I could not believe how attentive they were for the reading of this book! They noticed some of the things that were the same in both books and they loved how Jane started to make friends with the chimpanzees. They couldn’t believe all the notes she took about her interactions with the chimps and they were so upset when the forests were being cut down and the habitats destroyed.

I’m so glad I read these two books back to back. Shortly after the reading, we shopped for books to keep in our book boxes. Those two biographies were snapped up immediately, along with several books about chimps.

I think the best thing about all of this is that it happened on day 4 of school. Day 4, people! This is quality stuff for day 4…and I can’t wait for the rest of the year!

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  • Chris

    Way to go kiddos!!! You must be a great teacher to get their attention this early….keep up the great work.

    • Tricia

      Thanks! These kids must have great parents who have been reading to them for years! 🙂

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