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!