Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Partnership of Two Continua: Interactive Read-Aloud + Word Study

By Lisa Patrick, Primary Trainer
            I am passionate about picturebooks. I read them to my college students, and I read them to my Kindergarten students. I read them to my teenage daughters, and I read them to my co-workers. Therefore, it won’t surprise the reader to learn that the section in my Continuum of Literacy Learning (Pinnell & Fountas, 2011), Interactive Read-Aloud and Literature Discussion, is the most dog-eared in the guide. Because I love reading aloud picturebooks, I am constantly seeking ways of integrating interactive read-aloud with each component of the literacy framework. For example, what better way to write about reading than to respond to a beloved picturebook read aloud by the teacher? But when it comes to partnering interactive read-aloud with word study, I wish to offer a few caveats.
            To begin with, I’d like to share a few criteria for selecting powerful interactive read aloud books. Diane DeFord (2001), in one of my favorite professional texts, Extending Our Reach: Teaching for Comprehension in Reading, Grades K-2, explains that the term “interactive” suggests “that during read-aloud there should be an intentional, ongoing invitation to students to actively respond and interact within the oral reading of a story” (p. 133, emphasis in original). Teachers are encouraged to select books for interactive read-aloud that have the potential to invite a high level of student engagement and to foster meaningful discussions (DeFord). However, not all picturebooks that support word study meet these selection criteria. Just because a picturebook portrays a word study concept does not automatically make it a high quality read-aloud choice. For example, the picturebook Night*Knight (Ziefert, 1997) has a fun lift-the-flap design for exploring common homonyms, but the text does not invite deep conversations about students’ thinking. On the other hand, Knight Night (Davey, 2012) is a story about a young knight who faces many obstacles as he gets ready for bed. While there are homonyms to explore for word study, the engaging bedtime story ensures that the text is well-suited to an interactive read-aloud experience.
Following, I present a number of picturebooks that I believe meet the above criteria for selecting an effective interactive read-aloud. I have organized the suggested titles according to the nine areas of learning found in the Phonics, Spelling, and Word Study Continuum (Pinnell & Fountas, 2011). These are books that embody a rich partnership between interactive read-aloud and word study; the stories are interesting and engaging and the books offer opportunities for students to study words. While these texts tend to be more appropriate for students in the primary grades, many are suitable for intermediate classrooms. At the end of the nine areas of learning, I have also included suggested books for collecting and playing with words. It is my sincere hope that readers will discover a “love of books, new journeys beyond the limitations of personal experiences, and the beauty of language…through the pages of wonderful books” (DeFord, 2001, p. 137).
  • In E-mergency! (Lichtenheld, 2011), the letter E has an accident. Chaos ensues as no words are allowed to use this vowel until she recovers. The letter “o” takes her place, creating confusion and hilarity. This book illustrates the difference between vowels and consonants.
  • In Al Pha’s Bet (Rosenthal, 2011), Al Pha bets himself that he can succeed in putting the recently invented letters in order. In an ultimate play on words, the King rewards Al Pha for winning his bet by naming his creation after him. This book introduces the concept of letters written in a particular order in the alphabet.
  • In Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words (Rand & Rand, 1957), a husband and wife team introduce the concept and power of words to readers: what they are, what they’re used for, and how they work. This book provides a well-rounded and creative introduction to the concept of words.