Enter Wayside School. I started reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School aloud to the group the first week of school, and was overjoyed when I realized that I could sit down in my chair, start reading quietly, and the kids would magically settle down, and even shush each other if conversations were continuing. They'd be silent almost instantly! Also, if I paused partway through because they were disruptive (and let me clarify, the disruption while I read these books usually consists of them getting over-excited about something I just read), they will immediately quiet down and wait expectantly for more. They will beg me to read another chapter. It is music to my ears. We just finished Wayside School is Falling Down, and I am excited to start book 3, Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger on Monday.
Sometimes, when things are hectic, Read Aloud gets pushed to the side. It's tough to make time for things that don't have an automatic correlation to ISAT testing when there is always so, so much to be done...I mean well, really, but when it comes down to it, it's often that thing that gets skipped when the schedule is tight. I know how beneficial it is to kids, though; listening to a novel teaches fluency, expression, helps with comprehension, and, #1, the most important reason...it gets kids HOOKED ON READING. (when done correctly with the right books!) Like I said, though, it's tough to see any immediate payback from an unstructured activity like this. Most of the time, it's crossing your fingers and hoping that these benefits do happen!
This week, though, I was lucky:
When I was absent Tuesday, my fabulous literacy specialist and fabulous friend Mrs. J was helping my class out with reading. She asked one of kiddos to read aloud to her a little bit, and she was pleasantly surprised that when he began, he was reading with expression and emotion, even doing voices for different characters! This is NOT typical of the average 5th grader, much less 5th grade boy! After a pause, she exclaimed, "Wow! Do you always read like that?" He responded, "I didn't used to, but Miss Teacher reads aloud to us, and she reads like that, and she does all these voices! It's so much more fun! So I started reading like that too, and it makes reading so much fun! Sometimes, at home I even close the door to my room and read out loud so I can do voices too." Big smile.
And that is why I will continue to make time in my crowded schedule for something that has nothing to do with test scores, but everything to do with what I believe in as a teacher. Maybe not every student is suddenly reading with fluency and emotion, but this ONE student is, and sometimes one is more than enough.
I teach for moments like this.