Saturday, January 25, 2014

Reading in the Classroom: Our Current Read-Alouds

Even seventh- and eighth-graders like to be read aloud to. (Yes, I could have rewritten that sentence so that it didn't end in a preposition. But I didn't. I like to teach my students that writing isn't always about rules!)

I am currently reading aloud three different novels to my students, almost one for each class. I abandoned one (really, really good) book because my first period just wasn't that into it, so I'm reading the same book to both my first and fourth periods.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage: I already gushed about this book in my Best Books Read in 2013 post, and I wasn't kidding around. It was one of my favorites last year. I love mysteries and also "feel-good" middle grades novels; this book happens to combine the best of both worlds. Mo LeBeau is a fantastic main character. Bonus: I get to read in several different southern drawls, as the setting is the Carolina coast. Also, it's both humorous and deals with serious topics. A bonus when you're reading to middle schoolers.

Rules by Cynthia Lord: Although this didn't make my "best of" list, it was probably an oversight. I really, really like this book. I'm not the only one -- it's won awards (as you can see on its cover). It also happens to be on the Beta Club Battle of the Books list, which many of my students need to read books from in order to attend this year's convention. Twelve-year-old Catherine wants to have plenty of friends, but helping care for her younger brother with autism takes a lot of time and patience, not to mention rules. My students identify with her family issues, even if they don't have a sibling with a disability. They also identify with her inner struggles.

The Witches by Roald Dahl: You can rarely go wrong if you choose to read aloud a Roald Dahl book. This one is no exception to that rule. Although the other two books I'm reading might be "better" for middle grades (and they are definitely more updated), I think my second  period is enjoying their read-aloud experience with this book more than my other classes. For one thing, I have to read in a Russian accent when I'm reading aloud the Grand High Witch's dialogue -- and she talks a lot! They've spent countless time wondering if I could be a witch and discussing the various ways to spot a witch. They're proving to me that a good book can be just that, no matter your age or how mature you think you are.


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