“Giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!”

Linda Silverman~Gifted Development Center Denver

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Favourite Read Alouds

Ashley over at Teaching Happily Ever After has created a linky party for read alouds.  There has been a lot of debate over the past few years at my school about the actual benefit of read alouds.  Some teachers LOVE them and do them all the time, others think we don't have enough time to have students engaged in this practice.

I have ALWAYS made time for read alouds, in fact, I would rather make time for this than for DEAR or silent reading.  Why?  Because the students I teach DO read A LOT.  They are gifted students and most of the them read at home every day.  Ideally the students in my class get time to do both, but if I had to choose, I would not give up my read alouds.  

When I read aloud to my students it "stimulates their imaginations and emotions; models good reading behaviour; exposes them to a range of literature; enriches their vocabularies and understanding of sophisticated language patterns; makes difficult text understandable; models the fact that different genres are read differently; supports independent reading; and can encourage a lifelong enjoyment of reading."Annenberg Foundation

I have SUCH vivid memories of Mrs.Cash my fourth grade  teacher reading aloud each day.  In winter, she would make us hot chocolate, (Tang in the warmer months) give us all our own cup and she would read aloud while we had our special treat!  I distinctly remember "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" and "Voyage of the Dawntreader" by C.S. Lewis. 

My fantastic, passionate teacher brought the characters to life and sparked my imagination by exposing me to books my parents would never have thought of buying for me.  I lived in a house where both my parents read a lot, but they did not think about what to give to young readers. I was left to my own devices while they devoured adult novels and Time magazine! Many of my teachers, but especially Mrs. Cash, did an awesome job of steering me in the right direction.

Having taught junior grades for over 20 years, I still have my old favourites, but I have collected some new ones along the way too.  I try to choose a novel which matches the "theme" in my classroom.  If I am teaching about Space I try to choose a novel such as "A Wrinkle In Time" to encourage the students to think beyond the science, and to use their imaginations as we read about the mysterious "tesseract" and ponder what will become of Meg's father.

When I am teaching about  Canada's Links to the World, I often read aloud the story "The Breadwinner", part of a trilogy (followed by Parvana's Journey and Mud City) by Deborah Ellis.  The story of an 11 year old girl dealing with the Taliban and the effects of the war in Afghanistan open my students eyes to possibilities of a life they could never begin to imagine.

When I finished the read aloud, I make sure I have copies of the other books in the trilogy to "hook" students who are interested in following up the emerging saga on their own.

I always begin the year with reading Norton Juster's classic "The Phantom Tollbooth". It tells the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one day when he arrives home from school, "bored as usual".

This tollbooth takes Milo on a journey to a land called the Kingdom of Wisdom. Milo meets many interesting characters along the way and acquires a few special companions. He has many adventures, and eventually sets off on a quest to rescue some very special princesses. The novel is filled with figurative language, and puns. Some parts of the story, including Milo's jump to the Island of Conclusions, give excellent literal meanings of idiomatic language.  I find that I can refer to the book throughout the year and the students find the references to Milo's misfortunes to be very funny and memorable!

While teaching my unit on Flight, I either have the students read or I read aloud "Airborn" by Canadian author Kenneth Oppel.  "Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt's always wanted; convinced he's lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist's granddaughter that he realizes that the man's ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies." (Amazon.com). 
I personally love all the novels by Kenneth Oppel and recommend them highly to my students.  I was fortunate enough to take my class a few years ago to the International Festival of Author's at Harbourfront Center to a live reading by Kenneth himself!  I am not sure who was more in awe, myself, or my 28 students!

I realize that this post is getting a little long winded, but I am passionate about reading aloud!  I will post pictures of my two newest favourites.  If you choose, you can do a little research of your own or take my word for it, they BOTH are excellent read alouds for the age group I teach!


  1. I am starting my first year of teaching gifted students in two weeks and am really looking forward to it. I love the insight you have about read alouds and have it in my schedule to do it with my students everyday. What grade(s) do you teach? :)


  2. Courtney,
    Good luck with your first year of teaching gifted. If you are like me you will LOVE it. I teach grade 6 students in the Toronto public school board. I will try to post more about my program as the year goes along. I am planning to post more about HOW I teach gifted in the upcoming months. If you have any questions or need any advice, just drop me a line, I would be more than happy to help out! I spent over 10 years as a teacher consultant.

  3. Those are some GREAT suggestions!! Thank you for sharing the link with me!!

    Mrs. Mathis’ Homeroom