Pre-Game excitement – You know what I mean. You get dressed up, read up on stats, pump yourself up, maybe put on a little rock and roll and get excited about what’s about to happen on the field or court or ring. So what does this have to do with reading? Plenty. Our students need to feel that type of excitement when they are getting ready to read another story. Don’t laugh…I’m serious.
Yesterday my students were handed a new chapter book to read. For some, it made them smile. (Those, of course are the kids who naturally love to read.) But there were others who were less than smiley when I handed them their book. With those guys, I have my work cut out for me. For one thing, I have to pick out a good book. I go by what I know, what I’ve read, what my colleagues recommend and sometimes I judge a book by its cover. (I know you’re not supposed to, but…)
Once the book is selected, it’s time to sell the book to the students. Small group by small group, I bring students over to the “reading table” and we begin. When I first began teaching, I talked my way through the book’s introduction, telling the students what I knew about it, trying to get them hooked. But that has all changed. Now I lay the books out on the table, one for every student and let them do the work. I either sit and observe or walk away, observing from afar so they are left to their own devices.
By fourth grade, students are pretty adept at pre-reading strategies, one being the picture and text walk. With pictures, students focus on illustrations, photos, graphics, maps and with text students are looking at and reading titles, headings, captions, summaries, and other extra text in the book. During this time, I watch for and encourage on-topic talking. Students should naturally start to ask questions, make connections, draw conclusions and make predictions.
Just yesterday, I gave my students their newly assigned books and didn’t even have to say a thing. They were looking at pictures and talking about what they read from the back of the book and trying to figure out why there was a rubber ducky and a fish on the cover of a book with a title Rules. Some students were very animated as they discussed things they were observing, hooking other students into the conversation. I asked them to write down 4+ questions they had about the book and 2+ predictions they have and they were off – getting, dare I say, psyched to read the story. “Can we please start reading the book now?” asked a boy who months earlier dreaded the look of a new book to read. Wow! My job was done. (Actually, now I have to get them to sustain that type of interest through the duration of the story, but that’s another post.) I wish every pre-game, I mean pre-reading time was this good.
So if this can happen in fourth grade, imagine the quality of the pre-reading in upper grades if students are given some control over their time. And given the time in general. Often, just as with warm ups before a work out or quiet time before a busy day, we cut out the pre-reading so we can just get right down to it. Why are we always in such a rush? I’ve learned that taking the time to do quality pre-reading work is well worth it. And it gets everybody on the right track for a good reading experience.
Celebrate Music and Literacy by taking advantage of Elizabeth’s book Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that focuses on how to use listening experiences in your classroom to inspire all kinds of writing (including sentence and paragraph writing, poetry and narratives), reading strategies (including visualization and main idea) and even grammar practice; all while listening to music that you love.