Different Read Alouds for Different Classes

For the first time ever, I abandoned a read aloud with some of my classes.  I’ve always persevered through the ups and downs of read alouds, knowing that the payoff would be worth it in the end.  Some books do take longer to get into than others and I think it is important for my students to understand that you can’t quit a book after 10-15 pages.

But all of that changed last month.  I started out reading Also Known As Harper to all four of my classes. My morning classes were flying through it and really got into the story after about 50 pages. My two afternoon classes were an entirely different story- after 3 weeks we were only 60 pages into the book. I don’t think it had anything to do with the storyline- The kids were just not connecting with the story for one reason or another. I still haven’t determined why- maybe the fact both classes are at the end of the day, or the makeup of the classes themselves (my afternoon classes lean very heavily towards the male end). But for the first time I set the book aside and started a completely different read aloud with those classes.

I began reading All The Broken Pieces to those afternoon classes and it was a completely different mood! All of a sudden, they were engaged and begging me to read more. I have students who are looking up more information on the Vietnam War and bringing their research to class, just because they are interested in it.  I really agonized over abandoning a read aloud but now I am so glad that I did.  It was not worth dragging them through the rest of the book while they were disengaged- that would only accomplish the exact opposite of what my read alouds aim to accomplish.

It’s funny, because my morning classes loved Also Known As Harper.  I loved Also Known As Harper.  It’s a great book and one I really wanted to share it with my classes.  But I’m glad that I practiced what I preach and allowed us to abandon a book that just wasn’t clicking with the classes I teach in the afternoon.  I discussed the abandonment with the class and we hypothesized why it might not have been working.  A few students did ask to finish the book so they borrowed my copy and are reading the remainder of the story independently.  It was definitely a learning experience, but a positive one.  So don’t be afraid to abandon a read aloud that is not working!

5 Responses

  1. I’m so glad you wrote about this today – I’ve been tossing around ideas for our next read-aloud and wondering if I should try letting each class choose from a handful of books. Like yours, my four classes have very different group personalities. I’m glad to hear it’s worked out well for you (and I’m not surprised – I loved ALL THE BROKEN PIECES!).

  2. This happened last year. My 7th grade just couldn’t get into The 13th Reality. I had enjoyed the book, as had one of the kids in the class. I ended up abandoning it. In fact, I ended up abandoning read aloud with that class all together. This year read aloud is going much better with them. I’ve read Freak the Mighty and we are finishing up Blind Courage. Next I’m going to read The Hunger Games. Several of them have expressed interest in that book. There are a lot of boys in that class. My 7th grade class is all girls (literally) and we’ve done The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, Schooled, and now we’re reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. When I’m choosing a read aloud I definitely think about the personality of the class, where their interests are, and what I want to expose them to.

  3. I’ve occasionally dropped a read-aloud book; most recently was last spring when I started to read aloud The Magician’s Elephant, but quit when the kids complained it was “boring.” Sigh. Someone on goodreads later suggested it wasn’t cut out to be a class read aloud, but Lisa Von Drasek, librarian at the Bank Street School for Children, told me she had no trouble reading it aloud.

    I always feel that a la Pennac, we shouldn’t keep reading aloud books that a particular group isn’t responding to any more than kids need to keep reading aloud either.

  4. Maybe it’s a little like when a book doesn’t grab me, but I know it isn’t the book. Maybe I have too many interruptions. Maybe it’s the wrong time. Maybe I just read a similar book. I thought it was interesting how you tried to figure out the reason behind why this book appealed to one group of students, but not another.

  5. Being in a self-contained 5th grade setting, I’ve never had to worry about abandoning for different groups, but I have abandoned read alouds. I agree with you that it is a good model for students. It made me a little sad (they were always excellent books), but it was always for the best.

    Interesting about Also Known as Harper — a teacher and I just chose that book as the inaugural book for our GREat Discussions (a take-off of Bill’s Grand Discussions) for 5th grade students and parents. Will be interesting to see the reaction of readers. I personally love AKAH.

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