Most of my reading lessons are centered around a picture book. In my 4+ years of teaching fourth grade I have read hundreds of picture books to fourth graders. Last week, my class experienced the greatest read aloud experience of my teaching career.
Let’s rewind a bit. Last week my students had been taking the Michigan standardized test. It hasd been a long week filled with number 2 pencils, and desks in rows instead of groups. On Thursday, we took the writing portion of the test. It was a long day. Kids are not aloud to do anything, once they finish their test, until everyone is done. They sit in their seat and wait. Some kids finish sections of the test in 20 minutes, and have to wait 50 minutes until the rest of the class is done. It is very painful to watch. Not the test part, the kids work real hard on the test. The waiting is hard.
We finished with about one hour left in the day. Kids had recess breaks and lunch, but pretty much it was a day filled with writing assessments. I took them out for a long recess to celebrate where we played a super fun game of kickball (I am really good at kickball).
After recess the class gathered on the carpet for a read aloud. I wasn’t expecting this to go the greatest, with how tired the class was, but I did want to try and get some curriculum across. We had been studying setting and I had chosen Blackout by John Rocco as our classroom read aloud of the day.
From the first page of the book the class was hooked. They had watched the trailer earlier in the week and with the pages layed out much like graphic novel panels my class was immediatly lost in the story.
As the story unfolded we discussed our teaching point: how does the author use setting to create mood. The discussion went great, and I was excited that we had been able to have such a rich discussion after such a taxing day.
When I finished the story a kid asked if I would read the story again. Usually, we don’t have time to reread a picture book after a lesson, but I could tell that they needed to be read to again. They pleaded with me, and once they made the suggestion that we turn off the lights when the power goes out in the story I was sold.
I began reading again. The class was no longer spread out across the carpet, they were all hudled close to me. Our class of 25 students was only using half the amount of space we usually cover during read alouds. Twenty-four students in the palm of my hands on the carpet, and one student maning the light switch. When the power went out in Blackout, a quick flip of the light switch in our classroom and we were all no longer in Battle Creek, MI but on rooftops of New York City experiencing the blackout for ourselves. Lots of “oohs and aahs” as I read the story. The same student that flipped the switch off, without coaching, flipped it back on when the lights came back on in the story. He even managed to turn off the lights again when the main character in Blackout decides life was better with the lights off.
After I read the last page of Blackout, the class applauded like we had just won a big football game. Being able to have this shared reading experience with them, is one that I am sure we will all cherish, and we will come back to throughout the year.