This morning, the line of fifth graders seemed to be on vibrate.
Fidgeting and talkative, students settled for moments of instruction, attempting bits of work, then the nervous energy seeps out dissolving any possible focus.
Ah, the end of elementary school. Worry permeates their writing. Talk bubbles all around, and the drama rises.
I asked students to come to the carpet for read aloud, and a sense of calm takes over. As we move into the world of the story, the shared reading experience shuts out stress. It offers an opportunity to take a break and live through another’s eyes.
Today before we read about Salva Dut’s first air flight, I ask my students how many of them had ever been on an airplane. Half of the class raise their hand.
With this in mind I said, “For those of you who have been on a flight before, hear Salva’s words and live this experience alongside him. Your memories will help you. For those of you who haven’t been on an airplane, you must work a little harder, let his words create the experience you haven’t had yet. Let the language move your body and mind to be there with him.”
Students close their eyes, and I read A Long Walk to Water:
Salva stared at the scene outside the small window. The world was so big, yet everything in it was so small. Huge forests and deserts became mere patches of green and brown. Cars crawled along the roads like ants in a line…It landed with an alarming thump, then breaked so hard that Salva was thrown forward in his seat; the strap across is stomach caught him hard.
I reread. Students write and draw in their notebooks. Then they talk.
I’ve been pushing my students to fill gaps in knowledge by looking things up. I’ve reasoned with this approach to reading, students might understand literature at a deeper level and at the same time build knowledge of the world. Just like they might look up a word’s definition, they might google an image to help them understand a piece of text.
But there are times in books when we can’t do this. Google images can’t get readers to feel. For this, we must take in the author’s words, put our hearts into the character’s experience, and let the emotions rise inside.
When we experience a story together, we set our personal worries aside and let the words fill us up to venture into the emotional and physical world of our read aloud.
The opening of a book is communion.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more or contribute your own slice slices here.