Read Aloud Books In A First Grade Classroom

First grade holds a special place in my heart. During my college years, I always said I would never teach as young as first grade, I wanted a job in fourth or fifth grade. However, a long-term substitute teaching job for first-grade students fell into my lap after graduation and I absolutely felt like I had to accept. It was nerve-racking and pushed me to my limits some days, but overall I grew from the experience and loved every minute I had working with those kids. 

While I believe that every age of the student should have the opportunity to learn through read-aloud, I especially loved reading them to my first graders, because the majority of the time it was their first experience hearing these books. Also, whether it was their first time or the 100th time hearing the text and seeing the illustrations, they still were full of excitement to sit down and read every day. 

Oftentimes I found myself reaching for picture books for these students, almost as if I was underestimating their ability to take in a more complex text while being read to because of their current reading level. There were a handful of students reading easy chapter books in my classroom, therefore anything longer than 20 pages seemed outlandish. It’s also a time commitment to read any book that takes longer than a day to your students. I was very wrong, and I am thankful for the day I came to this realization because after finishing the first chapter book I read out loud for them, and watching their excitement come to life for this book with their want of more information once it was over made me realize I should have been reading them chapter books from the start. Here are a few chapter books we especially enjoyed in that first-grade classroom, both whole class, and small groups. 

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White 

Wayside Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar 

Amelia Bedilia by Peggy Parish 

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborne 

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

The day we finished Charlotte’s Web in our classroom, I had a handful of students crying silent tears for Charlotte the spider. Almost every student drew pictures of the animals and we hung them up throughout the classroom to remember this book that we shared together. We even had a movie day to watch the book come to life! Having a great read aloud in the classroom can be so rewarding and empowering to your students. 

What ways have read aloud books benefitted your classroom? What are some of your favorite read aloud books for younger grades?  

Photos by goodreads.com

Fun Ways To Read Wordless Books

Wordless picture books are some of our favorites around here. Taking a little extra time on each page to study the beautiful illustrations and let your imagination run is a great way to switch up reading for teachers and students. 

Two of my favorite wordless picture books are Wolf In The Snow by Matthew Cordell. A book about a young child and wolf pup that both become lost in a winter storm, but eventually are led home with the help of each other and their families. Also, A Ball For Daisy by Chris Raschka which is a fun, light-hearted book about a dog named Daisy and her adventures of finding the perfect ball. 

What are some ways to read these books? 

A simple silent reading. Sit back, flip pages, and let the students figure out the storyline by looking at the pictures. Turn it into a writing activity by having them write out the story afterward. 

Use your own narration as you flip through the book. Explain what’s happening, point out fun details, and become the storyteller. 

Turn on fun music that goes well with each story. 

Have different students explain what is happening on each new page of the book based on the illustrations. 

Make up a song that goes along with each page for the students to sing while you read. 

It’s fun to watch how the same story can change the storyline just a bit with each new way it is read. Different interpretations and different emotions can come out based on different perspectives. Books with no words can be magic because of this.

How do you use wordless books in your classroom? What are some favorite ways you’ve used them?  

What If Inquiry-Based Teaching Isn’t Always The Right Answer?

Inquiry-based learning has become more of a common practice throughout schools. It encourages asking questions, thinking deeper, and applying the material to personal lives. Inquiry-based learning is flexible because the student is the leader for where the conversation and learning leads. It can have higher engagement because the student can take the material where they want it to go. 

This type of learning is so beneficial in some studies. However, are there times when inquiry-based isn’t best? What are the parameters for inquiry-based versus direct instruction? 

Teamwork and group projects are where inquiry-based flourishes, students can collaborate, ask questions, and use the skills developed in inquiry learning to look deeper into the subject. 

Science lessons based on experiment and discovering new ideas is also a great platform for inquiry. 

Discussions on subjects are where inquiry-based can blossom. Promoting questions with long or different answers can assist in deeper inquiry, instead of direct, one-word answer questions. 

However, are there times inquiry-based learning isn’t the best way? Where does direct instruction fit into the school day? Here is a great rule of thumb- throw out inquiry-based as soon as you see a student struggling. It’s important to note that struggle is good when using inquiry because it can lead to more learning breakthroughs for the student. The struggle that causes red flags is the kids who are constantly struggling, the kids on a lower reading level than their peers, or the ones who cannot seem to grasp the concept enough to participate in these discussions. This is where direct instruction needs to happen. 

Imagine a struggling child who is constantly poked and prodded with questions about letters and sounds in order for them to inquire more about it, eventually leading to them knowing what the letter names and sounds are. If they are already behind, more inquiring isn’t going to help them. It’s a powerful tool to directly tell them what something is and how it functions over and over until it clicks. Once they can grasp this complex concept, they can continue to move up and work on each concept until eventually, they can participate in inquiry discussions. 

Sometimes, kids don’t need more questions, they just need direct information. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for inquiry-based learning, and plan to write more on the subject matter. But I am also an advocate for doing what is best for the student. 

What is your rule of thumb for direct versus inquiry learning? 

Looking into the Bond We Make with Literature

My daughter stared at a stack of library books with fear in her eyes saying, “No, mom. No!” as she grasped her favorite yellow book in her arms. How To Babysit A Grandpa has been on repeat over here for a few weeks now. I have a sneaky suspicion that it has something to do with the fact that her grandpa babysat for some time while I was out of town. 

I was annoyed with her persistence to continue reading the same book I’ve read at least 100 times today. Don’t get me wrong, I know the benefits of repeating text. However, we had Caldecott Medal books, Christmas themed books, and books about animals that go on wild adventures. How in the world could she not be excited about them? 

I attempted to pick up the books and briefly explaining what was happening in them. “Look! Santa is eating the cookies the kids left! I love cookies, do you love them too?” 

Nothing but fear came from her. 

“Oh! There is a puppy in this book! She looks like our puppy! Do you want to come to see?” 

Instead, she backed up, clenching her book even tighter. 

Why was she so hesitant about these fun books? We have a giant library of kid books at our house and she is very familiar with all of them. She’s well versed in Dr. Seuss, fairy tales, and how to babysit grandpas, so why was a few new books such a red flag on her radar? 

It took me a few days to understand, but finally, it clicked. She found safety in her books. She’s the kind of kid that thrives on predictability and sticks to what she knows. Venturing beyond brings anxiety, even in the form of books. She needed the comforting words of How To Babysit A Grandpa and she knew she could count on each different colored animal in Brown Bear, Brown Bear. There was no indication that these new library books would give her what she needed from them. 

So how did I eventually coax her into giving them a try? I stopped pushing. 

I left them to her access where she could see them always. We built up the predictability of these books by showing that they would stick around. 

I let her see me reading them. 

I referenced them often as we talked. “These cookies we made are yummy! They remind me of the cookies in the book about Santa!” 

When she finally did show interest, I didn’t push, I let her explore on her own. When she was ready, I joined her. 

We kept the books checked out for as long as the library would possibly let us keep them. By the time we had to return them, we didn’t make it through every page of every book, but we did read a significant amount. Then we filled our bag with new books and started the process all over again. 

This experience made me truly realize what comfort we can find in books. For the third-grader who is going through a really hard time with family troubles, Roald Dahl may hit right at home for her. The first-grade student who wasn’t quite ready to be away from her mom for a full day yet might be flipping through the pages of Goodnight Moon over and over because she can hear her parents voice reading it to her. Maybe a high school student continues to check out The Hunger Games from the library for the 6th time that school year because he feels confident in his ability to read the storyline and is intimidated by other similar series. 

Books can have a huge impact on anyone’s life, especially kids. They bring a sense of safety, security, and predictability into their lives. It opened my eyes to realize that books can be scary, and books can be comforting, it all depends on the situation. 

How do you encourage hesitant readers to try something new? Have you been a hesitant reader before too? 

Let’s All Remember Our Heroes This Veterans Day

Veterans Day is on Monday, and with any important holiday, a great picture book is a must. It doesn’t matter if your students are 2-year-olds in a daycare, or 18 years old in college, a powerful, informative picture book can always be applicable when used correctly. 

Veterans Day is now more widely known as, “Head over to our stores for our 50% off Veterans Day sale” It has become a commercial holiday used to boost sales and place the United States flags on their ads as if that honors the men and woman that served our country in some way. Veterans Day is so much more than a 50% off sale and needs to be treated that way as well. 

It’s a day to celebrate and remember those who gave their all, sometimes even their lives, so that we can continue to live in peace and comfort we have today. It’s remembering those families that suffered weeks and months without their dads, or the kids who attended their first day of school without their mom because they had parents serving across seas. It’s a chance to feel empathy for the families who have packed up and moved so many times in a year that they have lost track of what cities they’ve lived in. It’s a holiday all of us need to remember a little more. 

I have read multiple books on Veterans Day, and after all of my readings, one book sticks out to me because of the emotional pull it brought out as I read. America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven goes through everything placed at the White Table, the rose, the lemon, the chair, and more, then explains what it represents and why. 

Katie, the young girl in the story helping her mom set the White Table, is told a story of her uncle who served in the war and ended up as a Prisoner of War (POW) but eventually was able to escape and help a friend escape as well. Hearing his emotional story helped Katie see the importance of the white table. 

“It was just a little white table… but it felt as big as America when we helped Mama put each item on it and she told us why it was so important.”

-America’s White Table

I was somewhat ashamed to find out after reading this picture book that I did not know what each of the items on the White Table was for, I just knew it represented a solider somehow. Let’s change this for our students that also do not know the purpose of the white table. Let’s not just teach out kids numbers and letters, let’s teach them about our heroes of this country this Veterans Day. 

A few other great Veterans Day books: 

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara Elizabeth Walsh

H Is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet by Devin Scillian

Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion by Jane Barclay 

How do you honor Veterans Day in your classroom? 

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