Announcer:

This podcast is produced by Benchmark Education.

Kevin Carlson:

Teaching during the Coronavirus pandemic is hard. So is learning, but there are always books and stories and songs. There is beauty in language and art and expression that can connect us. And when you read aloud with children, there can still be joy.
I'm Kevin Carlson and this is Teachers Talk Shop.

Dr. Adria Klein:

This isn't a new normal. This is a new opportunity to expand our learning.

Kevin Carlson:

That is Dr. Adria Klein, director of the center focused on early literacy intervention at St. Mary's College of California. She is a reviewer for the professional journal, The Reading Teacher, is a former president of the California Reading Association, and she has served on the International Literacy Association's board of directors.

Kevin Carlson:

Adria joins us today with author and educator Patty McGee to talk about read aloud essentials from any distance. Patty had planned to begin the conversation asking about the value of read alouds. And she did. But first, a little story about distance learning and how teachers adapt.

Patty McGee:

It's incredible that you have made it here. It's important to tell everybody before we get started, like the kind of mountains you just moved to be here.

Dr. Adria Klein:

Thank goodness for distance learning. Power went out about 20 minutes ago all over southern California. It's been storming since middle of the night. And I thought we were all set. The computer was set up. Patty and I had chatted on text and then beep and everything's out, Internet power, everything. So I used my phone that was fully charged. Good advice, friends. And we can do distance learning and share all about reading, all about literacy, in all kinds of conditions. And I want to be loud and clear about the value of read alouds during this time being one of our most important considerations within all lessons, all learning, all homes.

Kevin Carlson:

We'll get to the rest of their conversation after the break.

Announcer:

Looking for more information about distance learning? Benchmark Education has created resources to support teachers, students, and their families. All developed specifically with remote teaching and learning in mind. Learn more at benchmarkeducation.com.

Dr. Adria Klein:

When I think about the read aloud as the first experience most young children encounter, and that includes storytelling in all cultures. But the idea that we are interacting through language to lead to literacy, the idea that language is a propeller for kids, whatever form, whether it's sign, whether it's sharing art photos, whether it's telling stories, whether it's cooking like I did as a young child and hearing stories about baking bread from my grandmother. That's all part of what I'm going to call the umbrella of read aloud. It isn't always a book. It is media. It is sharing pictures. It's drawing a picture and telling about it. It's labelling with very young children and it is still interpreting, if you're an adult. So it spans the grade levels, it reaches to all cultures. It allows voice. And to me, those are the key values, and the reason read aloud isn't about minutes or time always. It's about connecting. It's about learning together. It's about sharing language.

Patty McGee:

And that connecting part, too, you know. Even as an adult, I love to be read to, whether it's live or on Audible, especially if it's the author who wrote the book reading to me, right? It's, it's like you said, it's ageless. So we're going to zoom into talking about books, even though we know that read aloud can be many things. But if we kept it to those many things, we would be here till your phone battery ran out. So, instead, let's just focus on books. How does a parent or a teacher go about picking a read aloud?

Dr. Adria Klein:

The opportunity to pick a book is as much about the child as the adult or the caregiver, or the brother or sister reading to the child. It is about the child's interests. So oftentimes I tell the story that my son loved trains and I wasn't a fan of trains. I ride in my life, train rides, but I didn't read many books about them. So I went to all the classics and then I found a lot of board books when he was young, hard cardboard books. And then I found more and more about the history of trains and about the people, the biographies of different people. And so I picked a book because of his interest. I picked a topic because of his interest. Now I have interests and I want to share my book joy. And that book joy is meaning that I pick and that opportunity for me to share a book because I love it, is also important. But you have to see it through the child's eyes that we experience a book, media, everything from our adult perspective with many more years. But through the age of whatever child we're working with, reading to, sharing with, talking with, it's about the language we share, Patty.

Patty McGee:

What are some important key techniques you use when you're reading aloud? And do these techniques differ from book to book? Or are there certain things that you always, always do and then maybe make adjustments for?

Dr. Adria Klein:

Well I like to talk about a before, during and after, but I'd like to talk about the even before. Even, even before is the preparation time. And that's not right before you're with the child and talking before you start reading. This is the even before tips, thinking about, have you read it yourself? Now I don't mean you have to be the best reader. I mean, you can even talk about the pictures if you're working across languages and possibly translanguaging to talk about a book in a language you don't yet have acquired. Yeah. So I'm not just talking about rehearsing the reading. Even when I read out loud and I'm comfortable reading and have rehearsed, I'm going to miss a word or two. That's normal adult caregiver reading. I'm not going to be so precise. That's a consideration of the even before. But if there's a key page, a sound effect, I might rehearse that a little bit in the even before. I know it's tricky for me and I really want to share that. I think it matters to pause more often, and so I might plan when I'm going to pause. Now, I don't want to interrupt the story, but sometimes I just want to pause for more lingering on the art. I pre-plan that.

So that's a second tip. Whether I'm reading in the distance or I'm reading with someone right next to me, the even before doesn't consider. I am not writing everything out. I'm not writing an extensive plan, but I'm looking at highlights in the book. If there's a book jacket or a blurb or inside information about the author, that's something to think about even before you sit down with the students or share on a distance platform.

So those even befores, we talk about before, during, after. But to me, the preparation for college teachers, caregivers, grandparents, cousins, older brothers and sisters is to notice some things about the book even before you sit down. And that's a general tip. The jacket, if there is one, the audio book, if you're going to share an audio book, which is part of that, you might want to listen to it and decide where to pause the audio. And all of those are even before tips, Patty.

Kevin Carlson:

After the break, Adria talks with Patty about the before, during, and after of read alouds.

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Patty McGee:

How about before, during, and after?

Dr. Adria Klein:

The before refers to when you sit down with the child or the children or work with a class or are online with your students coming in at the same time, or if necessary, watching or recording later. You talked about synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous at the same time runs much like the classroom whether you're distanced, whether you're sitting on the couch side by side, whether you're gathered on the carpet in the classroom. And that before means you're setting the stage. Think about a concert. Think about a play. Think about a movie. The lights go down, the music comes up, and that's what you're setting the stage for in a read aloud even before. Share your joy, share your reason for picking the book. Give them some choices about even reading straight through or stopping. Those can be interactive and engaging in any platform or environment. It's not about your control, it's about sharing the page.

Patty McGee:

How about during the read aloud?

Dr. Adria Klein:

Oh no, during has so many opportunities, I think we might overwork it like overworking dough when you're baking bread. We might want to read it all the way through for enjoyment. We have to think about the length of the piece, including chapter books. She does so many great read alouds, as, as has Wiley Blevins and Eileen Robinson on the Reycraft Read Alouds. And I think that you have to make decisions when to stop, when to pause, when to turn pages, when to let just the language flow over you. And that's a dance. It's like maybe a serve and return in tennis. There are pauses. There's that, just that hesitation. That can be thought about or it can be based on the reaction of the listeners: group, classroom, online. I just like so much to consider it music, movement. And I think that takes time. Anybody should share a story, and I'm a storyteller who repeats lines. When I'm reading aloud, I often will say, 'This is my favorite page, get ready 'cause I'm gonna read it to you twice.' And that's a before. So those are some tips for interaction and, again, sharing joy of literacy.

Patty McGee:

Maybe this happens to you also but sometimes when I do prep the book and I'm thinking about where I might want to stop, it's also kind of when it's happening, there's almost like a little bit of improvisation going on. Right? Like I had planned on that spot but it just doesn't feel right right now. Or I hadn't planned on that spot but it feels important to pause and talk, or pause and just let it settle in. So I think, you know, there's that go between, between the, the planning of what we're doing and then also like in the moments making those decisions.

Dr. Adria Klein:

I think you speak from experience Patty, 'cause I think you've given another great tip because we're watching the listener or seeing it through their eyes. That's what you just described. And your pre-plan notion might have to be flexibly adjusted. And I think the key word on any platform, one on one, on the couch, on your lap, regardless is flexibility.

Patty McGee:

And what, what do you do after, when it's done or a book is done?

Dr. Adria Klein:

You know, it's never done, number one, 'cause I've said to the students, the children, my own granddaughter, 'Would you like me to read it again?' That's a choice. And with a short book in particular, she often goes, 'Yes, please!' This is a human interaction. And if the child says, 'I'd like to hear it again right now', you can't ever read it again too many times. Have you ever listened to a song more than once?

Patty McGee:

Of course, right?

Dr. Adria Klein:

So the music of the language of the book can be poetry in particular, can be heard many times. Every time you hear or listen or engage in a read aloud, it is a new experience. I tell my teacher colleagues that if you use post-it notes with a few prompts for yourself, take them out of the book every time you read it and make new ones because each time, each year, each group of students, the experience of what they need might be different. One time I taught a class and there were 17 boys and five girls. Now, I had, with the second graders needed a lot more animation. And so consequently, what I did last year with the book with one group of kids, is not what I might do with the book based on this. So it's situational, just like media and distance learning, it's situational. Live time, in the classroom, I even have pre-read it with my English learners. I did read Stellaluna to my class, but I read it ahead of time. I guess such rich conversation as a pre-read with a small group to my whole read with a large group, I get so much more engagement as a pre-teach, pre-read strategy. Again, we're talking flexibility and certainly the books are always available for the children to browse through after.

Kevin Carlson:

Coming up, some final thoughts and a big idea from Adria. That's after the break.

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Patty McGee:

So we've talked about, you know, picking a read aloud. We've talked about how important it is for read alouds, no matter what type of read aloud that is. We've talked about the even before, before, during, and after, and we've talked about that theme that keeps coming up, flexibility, and just really being present with those that you're reading with. And right now, for so many, reading aloud is on a device of some sort, right? It might be on any platform that the teachers have been using to connect with their students. For parents, that's a little bit different. But I thought we could just end our conversation with some, some tips on making this authentic read aloud, as you've talked about, still feel really real and connected to the students when someone is using a device to do that.

Dr. Adria Klein:

That's an important connection. In class yesterday, because I teach the college level and we're still fully in session through distance learning. One of the things I learned yesterday, just yesterday, I wanted to share and that was I thought a lot about online synchronous same-time delivery with adults in the college who are working at being teachers, teacher training, learning about it and adjusting constantly. And we learned yesterday, Patty, I learned certainly from them that it was as important to think about what I'm taking away from being online that would impact my face to face as much as making face to face look like online. I want to put that out there as a big idea 'cause this was new learning for me. We did things yesterday with chat, with draw, with sketching, with sharing our drawings, with writing while taking sketch notes, storyboarding with the 5th grade where I paused and they could quickly sketch what had just been their interaction. The interaction feeds both ways. And I think I'll be a better face to face reader by those things I learned just yesterday on distance learning sharing a book.

Reading isn't about sitting still and being quiet even in the classroom. Kids might want to sprawl on the carpet. They might want to draw. My fifth graders actually were more engaged if they could just, sketching on a story book, board six scenes and then they could write about the scene they sketched that was their favorite. Same way in conferring when I work with the student after read aloud, I ask them to tell me what was their favorite part of either a book I read or a book they read that I may not have read.

We have to open up and learn. This isn't a new normal, Patty. This is a new opportunity to expand our learning. All the things we're learning that we would take to face to face, and all the things we're learning we take online, they're an exchange. They're not an either or, it's a both. And the both has taught us a lot in the last three weeks.

Patty McGee:

Well, thank you. And I so appreciate you taking the time to connect here. I am always grateful when you can share your wisdom with me personally. I'm always grateful. But I also just admire so much how generous you are with sharing all you know with others. It's just such a gift to educators and parents and students. So thank you.

Dr. Adria Klein:

That is so kind. I've got to interrupt your thank you and say you've taught me what we are as learners and teachers for each other. We're all learners, we're all teachers. And you exemplify that, Patty.

Patty McGee:

Oh, thank you so much.

Kevin Carlson:

Thank you to Patty McGee and Dr. Adria Klein for sharing their thinking on read alouds at any distance. Next time on the Teachers Talk Shop podcast, educator and author Julie Wright talks about planning during these times of distance learning. It's not about perfection. It's about connection.
If you like what you hear on the Teachers Talk Shop podcast, please leave us a review and a rating wherever you get your podcasts. And let other people and your professional network know that you like the show. We are all learning together. Thank you for listening. I'm Kevin Carlson.