UCDS Resident Teacher, Maggie Ruisi, reflects on her enjoyment integrating read-alouds into the 1st and 2nd graders’ curriculum. -Ed.
I don’t know about you, but I have always loved read-alouds with my students. Whether it’s a picture book or a long chapter book, the act of reading aloud and sharing communally in a story harkens back to our roots–to our very first ancestors. However, as much as I enjoyed the concept, it was always a challenge to find the time and so I would only loosely tie read-alouds into discussions of whatever else we were studying.
When I arrived at UCDS last fall, I had not yet used a read-aloud as the backbone and platform for an interdisciplinary curriculum. I first began to understand the cultural importance of the read-aloud the day we introduced our choice: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot. We had our 95 first and second graders use a treasure map to locate our book. When the students finally uncovered Magic Marks the Spot (hidden inside our sandbox) there was an eruption of cheers and excitement. The mood was electric and that energy sustained itself as we read the book and explored academic concepts across the subject areas.
The academic importance of the read-aloud unfolded as the year progressed. We explored, math, writing, and social studies while assisting our new-found friends; the characters from the book. Our daily Math Vitamins focused on specific skill sets using story problems which, in turn, centered on the book’s main characters. For example, while exploring fractions, students manipulated fraction tiles to create “balanced meals” for our main character, Hilary, and her sidekick, the Gargoyle. Children carefully planned meals of spiders and cobwebs for the gargoyle while making sure Hilary had foods she too would enjoy. Students also wrote letters to Hilary empathizing with her struggles. Hilary had a difficult time achieving her dreams in the face of the long-standing traditions of pirates who were reluctant to allow a female to join their ranks. We created mock electoral maps for pirates that paralleled our mathematical and social studies focus on the presidential election. Students even reflected on their personal character traits, highlighting them in self-portraits stylized as wanted posters.
As we reached the end of the year and our sharing of Magic Marks the Spot, I came away with a deep appreciation for the UCDS model for read-alouds. Not only is it a treasured school tradition but also, it provides a seamless way to create relevancy and buy-in from our students while creating a platform for interdisciplinary studies.