It has been a funny old 6 weeks of Term 4. A lot seems to have happened, and at the same time, nothing much at all seems to have been achieved.
This year I tried the Global Read Aloud in my new position as Resource Teacher of Literacy in the Horowhenua. A strange choice perhaps, as I no longer have a class of students at my disposal, and only see my students for small periods of a time each week. But, I love the Global Read Aloud and believe that it can benefit lower level learners just as much as those who are more able in literacy.
Read Alouds for me have been a way to get students more engaged with literacy, to make it more authentic for them, and to build comprehension and vocabulary in a deliberate and scaffolded way. It is also fun to connect with others around the country or the world, and also just to know that others are reading the same book as us. In this case, I think it was 1,000,000 students involved this year! What a powerful way to know you are not alone.
My set up was 4 or 5 students in 3 different schools. I decided on the BFG because I thought it had opportunities for aspects of decoding as well as comprehension, due to all the funny BFG-isms in it. Also, I thought it was a simple enough story, good to read aloud and easy enough that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get through and be understood.
I found a collaborator in America – Mrs Hodges in North Carolina. It sounded like she was in a similar role to myself and it was good to spark further interest with my students by having students to connect with across the world. I would have been happy to do it alone, but it was nice to have someone else on board with us as well.
Along the way, I have had plenty of little bumps in the Read Aloud road, however, and, in actual fact, I have to confess, I have not been able to finish the book, and due to unexpected illness in my family, and not going to be able to! I’m planning on passing the text on to my students so they can read it themselves.
In spite of the hiccups, I felt it was a good experience for my students and one which I would repeat with some changes.
My issues were:
- As I only see my students at best for three 30 minute sessions every week, it was hard to get through as much as we needed to each week. Interruptions and absences made this very difficult for even a book with relatively short and sharp chapters like The BFG.
- Developing relationships with students is so important, especially in my job. This is hard when all you have time for is one chapter of a book. It is difficult to get into anything in depth with these time constraints. Students also got a bit restless when this was all we had time to do.
- Connecting with other areas, or extending the authentic situation into other investigations was quite hard, even into a writing project. More time and flexibility with programmes is really useful with a Read Aloud as it does (and should) become very much a BIG part of your literacy programme.
- Not all students had equal access to devices and some had not even used devices much, so that made connecting and collaborating together difficult.
- I did not always have access to things that would make things easy for a Read Aloud. A projector would have been awesome, but I’m slightly unlikely to get that everywhere. A big whiteboard would have been really useful, and when I had this, it was an easier experience.
- Unexpected events – elections, sicknesses, earthquakes, travel – you name it – we seem to have had it happen! This put even more pressure on what was already a short amount of time to finish our book and collaborate online.
That seems like a lot of issues! Why would I even think of doing this again?! Well, I believe strongly in the power of a good Read Aloud, and even more in the power of the connection between students. So, I am already thinking of how I can adjust things slightly to make them work better for myself and my students at GRA 2017 and the NZReadalouds prior to them.
So, what would I change? Time seems to make up the bulk of my issues. I just don’t get the luxury of every day with students. Next time I’m hoping to do the Read Aloud in the picture book category, or definitely shorter texts anyway. That would allow for more time to go in depth, as we could get through the book easily. It would also mean we could focus on aspects of the text better, yet not linger too long on it in our sessions.
In terms of devices, I may be able to get Edmodo up and running on my ipads (when I get the codes sorted out!), which would mean we could collaborate and connect with those hopefully. I know that the Year 1 & 2 section in the NZReadaloud put work on a blog, which would be fairly easy to achieve in my sessions.
Unexpected events can’t be planned for of course, and I appreciate how flexible my students were and how understanding Mrs Hodges in America was. This wasn’t an awesomely “successful” Read Aloud, but that is life, and that is teaching. We learn from the failures just as much as the successes.
I will simply…