So Interactive Read-Aloud is probably my absolute favorite time of the day. We start our morning with an SEL check-in, getting planners signed, doing our morning jobs, etc. That takes about 15 minutes, and then we have another 35 minutes until we have to clean up and leave for specials. At the beginning of the year, I spent a few days reading the synopsis for several chapter books I have that are all pretty high-interest for 3rd graders. One of them, though, was a new book and a new author to me. - The Blue Witch by Alane Adams. Typical girl coming-of-age pubescent witch story, didn't seem all that interesting. However, it was chosen for whatever reason (there's a cool illustration on the cover). As we read, my kids became hooked on the story of Abigail and why she has blue witchfire instead of green, like the others.
We followed the typical read-aloud format - summarize what we read yesterday, discuss and predict what we think will happen today, read, and then discuss with a partner and share with the class. HOWEVER! One day, back in December, let me tell ya'll - my kids became wholly invested in Abigail, her author, and this story. One of my students found her on TikTok. She had created a few videos to advertise her newest book in the Witches of Orkney series, Mermaid Queen, and in them, she was walking around Target making ridiculously hilarious puns about various products. So, when my student mentioned it (and after I vetted her videos), we watched them as a class, and my kids fell in love with their first author love. To make it even better, we got to do a video visit with Alane after we finished the first, second, and third books! Her challenge to us as we signed of was this: she needs a name for an antagonist in her last book in the series to be published in her next book, and WE needed to come up with names! Of course my kids took the challenge and came up with all sorts of ridiculous names as well as some brilliant ones. They are as follows:
Were any of them selected? We have yet to see - the book is currently in the editing stages, and we can't WAIT for it to be released!!!
Now - what does this have to do with interactive read alouds? Let me explain. We followed a simple format for the first book - predict, read, summarize. However, when my students elected to continue the series, I saw their brains making connections they hadn't with any other book we've read, working harder to understand the characters, their motivations, and more accurately predict what they would do. It was incredible to see.
So let's speed ahead to our Interactive Read Aloud this week. We read chapter 18 of Mermaid Queen. As I read out loud, my students have a blank booklet that is just stapled papers folded in half that they can write notes in, draw what they are visualizing (especially helpful for my low readers and ELL students to build a more concrete visual of what we're reading), whatever they would like to remember from the story! Our routine now begins with turning and talking with a partner - a strategy that we have discussed and practiced since the beginning of the year - about what we read the day before, any connections we made to previous readings, and make at least one prediction for today's reading. They are then welcome to share their predictions out loud. That's when we get to the good part.
As I read, we have worked as a class to come up with a system for when they made a connection or an observation and want me to pause reading. Just as I notice things, stop reading, and mention it to them in most of my other read-alouds, students are welcome to interrupt our story to do the same with Mermaid Queen, our current read aloud and the fourth novel in the Witches of Orkney series. Their signal - raise a 1 for an observation, a 2 for a connection, and a 3 for a comment. I will finish the sentence I'm reading, and then everyone looks at the speaker, listens to what they have to say, and we go with it. These discussions are not led by or even started by me - it is entirely student-lead. On Thursday during our read-aloud, one of my students raised his hand with a 2 as we were reading about the Mermaid Queen steering her sea serpent, Jormungand, towards Asgard, where she intends to face Odin, one of the Gods in this series that follows Norse mythology. I finished the sentence, we looked at the student, and he shared his connection - The Mermaid Queen leading the sea serpent to Asgard was like Loki leading the Dark elves to Asgard in Thor. Alright, random connection, but then the students start making other connections - when Rubicus lead Vertulius to attach Balfour Island in the previous Witches of Orkney book, etc. Seeing the lightbulbs go off and the synapses firing was a thing of beauty to watch, as a teacher. You could see their brains working and strings going from one idea to another in their head. They were making better connections than I ever could have asked from them, and I was SO proud! Did I guide their discussion? Not in the slightest. They simply followed the procedure we'd set in place and, because it was a high-interest book that they had a lot of background with, they did the work for me.
Honestly, every day my students impress me, but the metacognition and connections they make when they are put in the driver's seat of their learning never ceases to amaze me. Little brains are so incredible if only given the proper tools to build upon.