Happy Chinese New Year! There is a big blizzard on its way here in NS, so we have a snow day. A great chance for me to catch up on my gigantic to-do list!
Before I get started on that, I wanted to pop in and do a little post about using read-alouds in a second language classroom. While in theory, my school is a French first-language school, well over half of my students come from French families/ancestry but do not speak French at home. Since I teach K, I have a handful of students each year who begin with little-to-no French skills. It can be a tough balance to create lessons that are beneficial to my strong French students, but that don’t leave my language-learners in the dust! This year, I discovered “Close Reading”, and feel that I have found a great way to use French read-alouds to develop my students’ reading AND language comprehension, no matter their language level.
When close reading, the teacher selects a text that lends itself well to the strategies they wish to teach/practice. These books should be engaging, interesting, and not so long/complex that your students won’t understand the big idea the first go around, but complex enough to provide students with many opportunities to deepen their understanding. Here are a few of my favourites:
|*Fly Freddy Fly I purchased in French through Scholastic. It is called Vole Freddy, vole – but I couldn’t find a picture of the French version. It is great for teaching perseverance!|
These are not books that you will be reading once and then putting back on the shelf, so make sure that you choose books that you love, too!
I generally use one book for Close Reading per week, which works out to about 5 lessons. I try to conclude with a fun, hands-on activity and a craft. My typical weekly outline goes like this:
Day 1 – “Cold” read – I read the whole book cover to cover for the first time, pausing in the middle to either practice making predictions, asking questions, or visualizing
Day 2 – Check for understanding/retell key events – I read the book from cover to cover again. After we finish, we either retell the story by putting picture cards of events in order, or we identify whether or not specific events happened in the story
Days 3 and 4 – We work on two other strategies during these two days, such as making connections, inferring, analyzing, etc. Typically, I only re-read the part of the book that we need in order to practice this strategy. Our curriculum guide has a list of strategies students should feel comfortable using by the end of the year, so I choose from that list depending on what fits best with the book. Here are the strategies my students are expected to know and use by the end of the year (ones in bold especially):
Day 5 – We practicing stating our opinion/sharing our appreciation for the book. I find opinion-writing super tricky in kindergarten! So, I try to think of a fun activity that we can do that relates to the book that they can do hands-on to help them determine how they feel about something. I also try to end the week with a craft related to our book.
When I do close reading with my students, it is important to me that we do a lot of discussing and everyone has chance to talk and share their ideas. The outcome specifically states that my students should be able to do this in a GROUP. I don’t want discussions where the same two students are answering all of the questions. So, each of my students sits with a partner, and when I ask them to practice their strategy, they discuss their answer with their partner first. Everyone talks! Then, I ask them to raise their hand and share their PARTNER’S idea. This holds them accountable for listening to what their partner has to say. We pick one idea and draw and write it together. It is also important to me that their brains are free to do the thinking work – therefore, when we do a shared answer, I do the tricky decoding when we are writing words. I call on students to come up and write sight words or sounds that we are working on (that they should know without difficulty), but I write in the rest. After we have done an example of a great answer together, students go and record their own answer in their notebooks. I don’t try to cover or hide the one we did together, and rarely have students who “copy” what we created together. However, if they do, it doesn’t bother me a whole lot – we all worked together to come up with and write the answer; it’s not as if they are really copying someone else, in my opinion. People often have similar ideas in life, and again – the outcome that I am evaluating is whether or not they are able to do this in a group!
Here are a few examples of student work following activities that we did with the book La vie secrète des bonhommes de neige by Caralyn Buehner. Hopefully they will inspire you and give you some ideas of the types of questions you can explore with your own students and your favourite books! I like to save on paper, so I bought a bunch of 25 cent 4-packs of scribblers as part of my students’ school supplies. I type up 6 questions to a page, photocopy them, cut them out, and my students glue the question into their scribbler and draw their thinking below.
I love how one student pictured a whole bunch of snowmen, and another student pictured just one. They both also remembered that the snowmen would be skating at night, and included those details.
We also always do a share with our partners after we are finished our work. 1-2 students share their work to the class, and then they all show their partners. This helps them stay true to their own ideas – they should have drawn the same idea that they had told their partner the first time around. It also helps me quickly check for understanding and assess their ideas. Sometimes their drawings aren’t that evident ;) For example, had we not done a partner share on this day, I would not have realized that the swirling lines coming out of the snowman above are supposed to be depicting the snowman melting!
I love this one, where the snowman just dropped dead while drinking hot chocolate ;)
For La vie secrète des bonhommes de neige, we took the hot chocolate vs. cold chocolate inference question a bit farther and wrote our opinions about which we liked better. I brought in some refrigerated hot chocolate and made a fresh, hot batch while they were at lunch, and we taste tested. The tiny cups came from Walmart, but you could also ask your students to bring in their own (that was my intention, but forgot to send the note home. Can you say thankful that Walmart is 1 min away from school? Oops!!!)
We still need some practice writing strong reasons for why we like/dislike something, but we are getting there! I love his drawing haha – he added quite a few more marshmallows than me ;)
We ended our week with a super simple arial-view snowman. I had seen the idea floating around on Pinterest, and just traced 3 different sized circles and a scarf pattern for my students.
It was our first time using pastels! They just traced around the edges of each circle with blue/purple pastel and rubbed to make the colours blend together. They coloured in their scarf pieces as well, then cut them out and glued them all onto a piece of blue construction paper. They added eyes, a nose, and arms with pastel and stamped or painted snowflakes in the sky. So simple, but they look so cute on our bulletin board!
There are SO many craft ideas on Pinterest. We did the most adorable penguin when we read Vole Freddy, vole, but of course I forgot to snap pictures. The crafts don’t have to be super complex, but are a really nice way to finish off the book and cover some art outcomes/work on fine motor skills.
If you are already doing close reading in your classroom, what do you do differently or the same? What are some of your favourite close reading books? I love hearing about other ways I can improve my teaching! When I discovered close reading, it was like a light bulb turned on for me. I wish I had thought of it or heard of it much earlier! I really find that, through reading the same book over and over, even my students who struggle the most with French comprehension are understanding the book by the end of the week. Each of the activities we do really help them cement their understanding of what is going on in the text. They are hearing new vocabulary over and over, and are learning how to infer meaning from words they may not have understood the first time around. My strong French speakers are also given ample opportunity to deepen their understanding and language skills, as they learn and use new vocabulary and are given many chances throughout the week to both speak and listen.
If you want to get started close reading in your class but still aren’t quite sure where to begin, I did package up the questions and activities I used for La vie secrète des bonhommes de neige and put them on TPT. You can check it out by clicking on the image below.
You will of course need to own or borrow the book in order to be able to complete the activities :) I also included full-page response sheets in case you don’t use interactive notebooks, and an actual template for the snowmen so that you won’t have to search your classroom for three right-sized circles like I did, ha! You can check it out by clicking HERE. The only other close reading pack I currently have in my store is for the book Gédéon va à l’école, that I did with my kiddos back in the fall. That pack has a LOT more detail and explanations, as well as warm-up activities and phonemic awareness activities that go with the book. You can grab that one by clicking HERE, or on the image below. I had planned on making a whole bunch, but you know… life got in the way! However, let me know if there is more interest for other packs, and I can put some more together based around the activities I have done with my students :)