Our read aloud project: great thinking and some arts and crafts


Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because, we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get!

Last Monday was Red Kayak project day, so my kids walked through our classroom door laden with bits and pieces of their projects – the parts each one was responsible for.  There was great excitement in the air as groups came together on the reading rug and in various spots around our room and put their projects together.  Some were elaborate, and some straightforward, but everyone was pleased.  It entailed a lot of work, and I loved listening in to the conversations which went into the production of this project – as I do every year, for this has been a cornerstone project for many, many years.


We fold so much into the read aloud that forms the basis for our project – thinking  aloud Notice and Note sign posts and what they mean, growing theories about character and plot, wrapping our heads around symbolism and theme, trying to figure out the arc of a story.  It takes time, and even though there is never enough time to get done what we want to get done, I’ve always felt that this project justified the time invested.

So often, we ask our kids to write about their reading without giving them meaningful ideas about what to write about.  Last summer, along with some amazing teachers, I read and kept notes on Lisa Graff’s Lost In The Sun.  It was such a revealing experience, for I came to understand just how much my own writing about reading depended upon my knowledge of the reading experience, through all the pedagogical material I had read as a teacher, and because I was a Comparative Literature major in college.  When I stepped back, and looked over my entries, and tried to see them through the eyes of my sixth graders, I began to see some of the challenges they would encounter when asked to write about their reading.  Front loading the “stuff” of literature gives them a whole structure and vocabulary with which to write.

In the lead up to project day, I loved listening to the way my kids took that “stuff” and challenged each other in discussing the novel, and the way the different components of story map and Notice and Note interacted and intersected.  Here’s the project template:



I think what I enjoyed most about these discussions was the fact that my kids felt so confident about their thinking, so invested in the idea that they had important things to say.  On project day, they were able to show just such thinking in their presentations, moving fluidly from one idea to the next, and making critical connections between (for example) why a Memory Moment figured at a certain point in the story and how it impacted the plot.

Even though there was a certain arts and craftsy element to some parts of these presentations (I am forever mindful of this post by Donalyn Miller about such projects), like this one for Notice and Note signposts:

FullSizeRender (21) FullSizeRender (22)

the thinking was strong, and meaningful:


Now, we move on to realistic fiction book clubs, and  I can’t wait to listen in to these discussions.  So, today, I celebrate the readers and thinkers in my classroom!



7 thoughts on “Our read aloud project: great thinking and some arts and crafts

  1. Tara, these are amazing! I would love to share this with some of my colleagues. My view of the project template shows some information in the directions blocked by graphics placement box. I too have read Donalyn’s concerns. I too believe they were in reference to projects for projects sake-not creative expressions of deep thinking, as these so obviously are.

  2. Oh wow- the way it all came together with all that confident, fluid thinking… the best. I loved what I learned about writing about reading from the groups Julieanne created this past summer. And another beautiful photo at the top of your blog. I always love those Tara.

  3. Thanks for sharing your project with us. The kids did do deeper thinking and writing in the midst of using creativity to express this. What gets better than this?

  4. This is such a powerful book. I’m sending your post to our 6th grade team. Thanks for sharing your template. As always, your generosity is astounding. I love the things you share with the middle school world. If you guys ever do another “write about what you’re reading” PD group with a novel, I would love to participate. Finally, I love the new header! Is it your own creation?

  5. Because of your support ‘before’ the project, I suspect it was great fun to put this project together to show thinking in a different way. Sometimes artistic representations make learning stick well. Love reading this: “felt so confident about their thinking, so invested in the idea that they had important things to say. This will inform that next thing well, won’t it, Tara? Happy to see you hear & to see about the project.

  6. Tara, you provided your students with an amazing project to deeper their learning and inquire while noticing and note. It is so refreshing to hear about the journeys of your 6th grades as they grow as learners.

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