What does it mean to read?

I recently got an email from one of our preK teachers, Ms. Kelly, asking if I would join her class during small group time for a library lesson.  She sensed that some of her students were feeling frustrated with reading books because they couldn’t read the words on the page.  Like many teachers, she wanted to model doing a “picture walk” for her students so that they could read the story from the pictures.  I happily agreed and the two of us did some ping pong collaboration via email where we batted our ideas back and forth until we had a plan.

Ms. Kelly’s observations made me start thinking about the many ways that we read, and I decided to open our lesson with these thoughts.  We started by learning about oral traditions and how people tell stories aloud and others read the story by listening to the storyteller.   We talked about reading the words in a book.  We also looked at a book called The Black Book of Colors and thought about how someone who is blind might read a story by feeling the pages of a Braille book.  We could have kept going and talked about e-readers and smart phones and more, but I left the ideas at that.  I wanted students to know that there wasn’t just one way to read a story.

With this seed of reading planted in the students’ minds, they selected a book from a selection of books in my cart around the theme of families, which was the topic Ms. Kelly is focusing on right now with her students.  They checked out with me at my laptop and returned to the floor.

Next was one of my favorite kinds of collaboration where each adult in the room takes a group of students and works with them in their own style using the same topic.  Ms. Kelly, Ms. Clarke (the parapro), a parent volunteer, and myself each took a small group of students.  Each of us shared picture walking in our own style.  In my group, we used the book Chalk, a wordless picture book, and practiced reading the pictures very slowly until we gleaned every detail we could before turning the page.  My hope was that students would notice this slow way of looking at the picture and replicate it in their own reading.  I quickly learned that they did notice the slowness, but many still flew through the pages without pausing to “read” what was there.  Next I worked with each student to picture walk slowly through a few pages of his or her book.

Ms. Kelly invited us all back to the floor and each group shared something that they noticed or learned about how to picture walk.  It was so much fun to support our youngest learners in the school with a strategy for reading.  It was also fun to get out of the library and interact with students in their own classroom environment.  Finally, it was such a treat to work with three other adults with different ideas and expertise.  I look forward to many other experiences where adults bring their expertise to support a classroom of students.  Thank you Ms. Kelly for this great idea and finding such wonderful adult support for your students.

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