I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic training last year where we learned a lot about read aloud with accountable talk, and I picked up some great ideas! One thing that has been very powerful for me is to pick a text and stick with it for at least a week. I have learned that it takes some time to dig into a text and really appreciate it. This is also a very powerful way of teaching students that readers often read texts more than once.
My favorite part of this work is always our “questions” day. I usually read the text aloud once as an introduction. This allows for the pure delight of reading/listening, and the kids have an opportunity to make connections and just hear it.
On the second day I read the book again, but before I begin to read, I let the kids know that we will be coming up with questions at the end. I ask them to think about anything they are left wondering as we read. Sometimes I pause in the middle to write questions, and sometimes I wait until the end – it depends on my kids and how long the book is. I record all of their questions on something I can save (either a large piece of chart paper, or the SMART board.) This is only a time for gathering questions. Some kids might want to offer answers, but I redirect them. I want to give them some time to think.
Another important part here is to encourage deep questions that may not have clear or easy answers. This is also great practice for little ones in terms of coming up with questions (not connections or stories). Here is our list of questions (all child generated) after reading Mem Fox’s Koala Lou:
Day three focuses on searching for answers. The day in between gives me some time to think about how I want to approach things. Depending on the nature of the questions, there are some options. I might do an internet search, and share with the students how I did further research to answer a question. (Better yet, if you have a SMART board, do the search with them!) I might ask them to use the illustrations or text to help answer the questions, or ask them to consider why an author made a certain decision. In our work with Koala Lou, the kids loved doing a shared internet search for information about gum trees! We also had some very poignant conversations about why Koala Klaws won the gum tree climbing race instead of Koala Lou, and how the author made that decision in order to teach Koala Lou something.
I think one of the most powerful things is when we realize that not all questions are answered. We may be left wondering, and that happens to readers sometimes! The kids are often very surprised to find that I have questions about the books we read too, and we don’t always know the answers. I make sure to tell the kids that I am frustrated with Koala Lou’s mother, and I think she made a mistake by not telling Koala Lou that she loves her often enough. They often think the characters are “right,” and it is important for them to see that it is not always the case.
Far too often children are asked to answer low level questions that the teacher knows the answer to. We ask them to name certain characters or regurgitate events. I find that opening it up to their genuine, authentic “wonderings” not only elicits beautiful and deep conversations, but also gets at the heart of what authentic reading is all about.
Here are a few of my other favorites for read aloud with accountable talk at the beginning of the year. What are your favorites? How do you get your kids to think a little deeper during read aloud?