Always Finish the Read Aloud

We got to the point in Tom Angleberger’s The Strand Case of Origami Yoda last week, where I had to make an executive decision as a teacher. Our read aloud was progressing magically, but we were approaching a point in the story where I either had to wait until the next day to finish the book, or I had to move some things around so that we could go all-in and read the rest of the book before the day ended.

One of the things that I love about read aloud is how we can use it as a vehicle to teach kids about the habits that live in the hearts of readers. I do not know any reader that hasn’t loved a book so much that they haven’t stayed up way past their bed time finishing a book. This was a staying up past our bedtime moment. Instead of giving up sleep, we were going to give up some of our math block.

Sorry, Math.

Watching the kids cheer for Tommy and Dwight as the book came to a close, I knew that I had made the right decision. We not only got to finish a wonderful story, but the kids also saw that readers sometimes need to find a way to keep reading.

With about an hour left in the day Ms. Allen, a retired teacher, came into my room and let me know that I needed to head down to the office for a meeting with my principal. Ugh. I hate unexpected meetings. I tend to avoid meetings whenever possible. Right before I walked out of my room Ms. Allen said, “I hope you’re not in trouble.” Famous last words.

When I got down to the office, I realized that this wasn’t about me. It was about our school. I wasn’t the only one at the meeting. My principal, Ms. Haney found someone to cover each classroom, so that we could all meet together. It was eerie. She let us know that we had some positive COVID-19 cases in our district. We one hour left with our students, and then the next two weeks of school would be 100% virtual. The look on the faces of our staff was of heartbreak. We were all completely in shock. I think that we had developed this false sense of security during the first nine weeks of the school year, and on some level I think we felt like the year would just sort work without any interuptions.

We were wrong.

I got back to my room after the meeting, and took my kids outside for our afternoon mask break. It was weird knowing that we were about to be virtual. The kids had no idea.

Once we got back to our classroom, I was able to tell them the news. For some dumb reason, I thought that they wouldn’t think it was a big deal. It’s just two weeks, right? I was wrong. They were shook. Lots of tears. I didn’t really know what to say, so I said, “It’s okay, fifth graders. It is only for two weeks.”

That was the wrong thing to say. A fifth grader looked me dead in the eye and said, “That’s what everyone told us in March.” Her words just hung in the air. She was, of course right. We hope that it is safe to return in a couple of weeks, but the truth is nobody has any idea what is going to happen.

I’ve been thinking a lot the first few days of distance learning about finishing The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. Some of my readers have been reading the second book in the series Darth Paper Strikes Back. I feel drawn to sharing stories with them about kids in school. I’ve always loved “school stories”, but the normalcy they bring right now feels important.

We’ll continue to find extra time to read, and I’ll continue to be the teacher that tries to get them to fall madly in love with books. In a year of unexpected endings, I’m thankful that we were able to finish our read aloud together, on our own terms.

I hope everyone out there is doing well. These are some pretty wild times. Please stay safe, and always finish the read aloud.

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