From the Classroom: The Perfect High School Read-Aloud
By Christine Soring
I was thrilled when asked to write for the PAWLP blog and immediately knew that I wanted to write about my new passion: children’s books. It wasn’t until I participated in grad school and the Writing Institute that I discovered a new love for children’s books. Why didn’t I think of this before? The versatility of these books is so powerful and something that I have been regretting not using before. My new goal this year: use children’s books as mentor texts for all aspects of writing.
I recently began a suspense writing unit with my 10th graders and I struggled to find books of a reasonable length that could be used to demonstrate the elements of suspense. I visited my local library and found one book in particular that had every element of suspense that I needed to teach to my students. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems details the adventures of a young girl, Trixie, her Knuffle Bunny, and her Daddy on a trip to the laundromat. The story takes a dramatic shift when Trixie realizes that her bunny was left behind. The only problem is that she is too young to explain what happened, so her Daddy is not aware of the horrible problem. Willems uses images, dialogue, punctuation, and variations in text structure and style to create a true-to-life tale about when things go terribly wrong. Willems’ craft is so captivating and original, every page adding suspense and leaving the reader itching for more—perfect for my high school students.
While reading this aloud to my students as an introduction to our lesson, I immediately noticed the various reactions the students had when being read a children’s book. Excitement flooded the room, but also looks of disappointment and bitterness. I knew what some of the students were thinking—why are you reading us a children’s book? We’re in high school. As soon as they heard Willems’ tale, gasps and stares of wonderment arose, and I knew that children’s books were my new best friend. In today’s environment, children are reading less and less. With the amount of standardized testing that needs to be prepared for and the amount of curriculum that teachers need to get through, I think that bringing children’s books into the classroom may help spark that light in students’ eyes again. Although short, sometimes juvenile, and at times looked down upon, children’s books like Knuffle Bunny can serve as some of the best read-alouds for our students.
I have always loved reading, whether it be a children’s book or a novel. Sometimes, students don’t have access to reading materials and their only sense of reading is in an English classroom. Reading aloud children’s books is something that I have seen students enjoy. I am slowly trying to bring the love of reading back to students and I hope to start with this. As an educator, it is my passion to inspire students and to bring life to reading. I truly believe children’s books will help me get there.
Christine is a lacrosse coach, high school English teacher, and has been a PAWLP Fellow since 2014. She began her teaching career in 2011 and has continued to find ways to incorporate mentor texts and promote reading and writing in her classroom. Christine loves seeing her students visit her classroom library, choosing a new book to read every week. Writing daily is something she aspires to bring to her students’ lives as well as her own with the help of Ralph Fletcher. Information about Christine’s classroom can be found at mssoring.weebly.com.