Studying and Thinking about Powerful Whole Group Instruction: Minilessons, Shared Reading, & Read Aloud K-3
See below for a full transcript of the chat
Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille
One power of reading workshop is the way in which instruction can move seamlessly from whole-group, to small-group, to individual and back again in the span of a class period. Certainly, a reading teacher’s best chance of really moving kids further in their understanding is while working with small groups and individuals, where instruction can be differentiated to meet the needs of the each student. It is not as possible to meet every student’s needs during whole-group instruction. Inevitably, there will be students who are beyond or not quite at the level of whole-group lessons. But these lessons serve a very important purpose, nonetheless. They serve to rally students’ energy around a single, worthy cause. They serve to create classroom community-wide goals for reading and common language to talk about these goals. They serve to get students jazzed up about a new line of thinking, or a new trajectory in their path of work.
The great Cynthia Rylant, author of Every Living Thing, When I Was Young in the Mountains, Poppleton, and so many more, has said this about reading aloud to children: “Read to them. Take their breath away. Read with the same feeling in your throat as when you first see the ocean after driving hours and hours to get there. Close the final page of the book with the same reverence you feel when you kiss your sleeping child at night. Be quiet. Don’t talk the experience to death. Shut up and let those kids think and feel. Teach your children to be moved."
Those who teach in balanced literacy classrooms can attest: there is no time in the day quite like read aloud time. This is a special time, in which a teacher gathers the entire class, reads aloud to them, and leads them in thinking and talking about the text. It is a time in which teachers invite children into the world of real, grown-up reading and model the multitude of reactions, thoughts, and feelings that reading evokes. A good read aloud can bring a group together like nothing else, can provide a foundation of camaraderie, trust, and respect in a classroom.