Sunday, June 26, 2011

kindergarten book club

Toward the end of May we realized we'd covered pretty much all of the content in two of the kindergarten classrooms I work in. We had about a month left of reading mini-lessons to fill, and realized this was the perfect time to simply dive into enjoying good, meaningful read alouds. The literacy coach came up with a fabulous forum for these. The children sat in a circle to listen to the book to take the focus off the teacher but make it seem more like a book-club setting. She'd read a few pages, stop and ask questions, and allow the children to talk to their talking partner about the answer. When she called them back and asked them to share out she had them call on one another.
When Johnny finished giving his opinion she'd prompt him to ask the next friend "Sally, what did YOU think?" again taking the focus off the teacher and putting it onto the students themselves.

It was amazing. We started this in Splattypus's class and I carried it over to my partner-in-crime's classroom. The kids loved it. Since partner-in-crime and I took turns leading the discussions we each got a chance to sit back and listen to the discussions happening during the 'turn-and-talk' time. It was beautiful. Even the shyest students who never seem to want to participate- to the point you wonder if they are paying attention- animatedly talked with their talking partner about their thoughts. Lots of excited predictions would be made, lots of connections, lots of speculation on how characters must feel. Many of them shared far more with their talking-partner than they ever would have shared whole group.

I loved listening to them ask one another "Sally, what did you think?" or, "Sally, what did your partner think?" (The ultimate kindergarten question...  sure you know what you want to share, but did you really listen to your partner, can you tell us what your partner said?)  They truly took on the discussion format and rose to the experience of being equal members in a book club. Sure there were some who had trouble with it. Pixie, for instance, was always able to answer the question "What did your partner think" yet as she spoke her partner's face would twist into confusion and then disagreement. Every time she made up what her partner had said, yet included such details that it sounded real. Sometimes kids would argue, "But I don't think I said that..."  seemingly wondering if in the span of 2 minutes they'd forgotten the very articulate answer Pixie was contributing to them.

In my class with my partner-in-crime it came to be that whenever I got up front to teach a lesson the kids would whisper, "oh good, book club!"  I hated to disappoint them sometimes to remind them that it was math workshop, or morning meeting.  But I loved how much they clearly enjoyed the experience. I think it showed all of us that kindergarten book clubs are something we can start much earlier in the school year.

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