Thursday, December 18, 2014

Favorite Read Aloud Chapter Books for Third Grade!

Let's talk about books! There are a few books you go back to year after year and every group of students seems to enjoy them. I really value the 15-20 minutes of read-aloud time I spend with my group third graders each day. It's something that I've always made time for and there are a couple of reasons for that:

1. I find that it is a perfect time for students to unwind and just practice listening for enjoyment's sake. They aren't focused on main idea or summaries or analyzing characters (though I hope they're doing that organically!). It's a time for enjoying a good story and that's where I believe building lifelong readers really counts.

2. It's a short bit of time for me to relax! Our day is so jam-packed with all of the things that students are supposed to be learning that I find I need a few minutes of quiet concentration. Plus it's always nice to revisit an old favorite and enjoy a good book along with my students!

3. Spontaneous Teachable moments. I don't generally plan lessons around my read-aloud (although we have been known to pull out the spider nonfiction books when I'm reading Charlottes web). Teaching moments do happen though. We stop and talk about characters or plot or motivations, etc, but it's not something I plan and I quite like that! I like it a lot!

I've chosen six favorites to share with you today. Five are books that I re-read nearly every year, (and are timeless in my opinion) and one is new to me (and was to my class this year as well), but I see it as a perfect addition to my read-aloud favorites for years to come.

In no particular order, here's the list: 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
I didn't read this book prior to reading to my class for the first time three years ago. I'm not sure what I was waiting for exactly! This is a great fantasy book and can be a bit challenging for my third graders, especially in the beginning, but once they're into it, they won't let me put the book down! I've also had the experience that once I read the first book, then I will notice several of my students will asking forthe second book, then the third... It's great to get them hooked into a series and watch them enjoy the series individually and discuss together in groups.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White 
I love reading Charlotte's Web in October or November because it isn't a challenging book for my students to follow but it has a really powerful message about friendship that is great for the age group I teach. It also has a good mix of characters. My students always love Templeton. He's still one of my favorite book characters of all time.

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater 
I enjoy coming back to this book each year because it celebrates a man that has a simple idea and turns that idea into his dream. It really teaches students to dream big and you can pretty much do anything you try! I also use this book as a great lesson on comparisons between books and movies because each time I read this, at least half of the students immediately shout out "I've already seen the movie!" And I get to go into my speech about how different books and movies can be. Most of my students agree that the book is much MUCH better than the Jim Carey film after I read it to them! 

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks 
This book is another one that is a little challenging for my students to get into at first. I usually save this one for May or June when my students are practically fourth graders. Once they get into it, students really enjoy the mystery to this book. It's also a fun idea to think about: What if toys could really come to life? It also teaches students a valuable lesson about responsibility, especially when it's a real person you're caring for!

Matilda by Roald Dahl 
I remember my third grade teacher reading Matilda us when I was the same age as my students now. It was one of those books that really stuck with me while I was growing up, and I remember reading it over and over again. It's one of those classic Roald Dahl books about how kids really do have the power to overcome injustice, in this case, at school. And the Trunchbull is one of those classic villan characters that really stick with kids.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate 
This one was new to me this year. We tried it out in October of this school year, and it was a big hit. It was a bit mature for my students, and I did need to stop and explain what was happening a few times because Katherine Applegate has this beautiful way of writing stark narrative that is perfect for the story, but a little challenging for 8 and 9 year olds. My students couldn't get over how one sentence could really make an entire chapter! haha! This story is about a gorilla named Ivan who is taken from his family in DR Congo and lives in a shopping mall to entertain guests. Since we live so close to DR Congo (in Rwanda) this story was perfect for my students to relate to. I even had a student this year whose mother works with the Mountain Gorillas in Virunga National Park in Rwanda. This student was particularly excited to tell us all about the gorillas.

What are your favorite read-alouds for your students? I'd love to hear any thoughts.

 -- Jennifer

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