“Tomorrow You’ll Be One of Us” (or The Arrival of the Podcasts)

This year has brought me a new course–a class in reading strategies with a great group of kids from ninth and tenth grades. As we’ve started to settle in with one another, we kicked around quite a few ideas for a project that would challenge us while increasing our reading comprehension, fluency, and enjoyment. What we stumbled on was the podcast. Yes, we started with a plan to video read-alouds for young children. That was soon abandoned for the plethora of great young adult literature that just keeps coming and the idea to read it for other teens in installments. The effects are already changing the way I think about the humble read-aloud.

I wasted whole sections of summers reading aloud on the back porch to my dog, Happy, when I was young. By anyone’s standards, she would have been classified in my elementary years as a Nancy Drew authority. Before I was done she qualified for a doctorate in comparative literature. She was a great listener–attentive, non-judgemental, and patient–and that made me a better reader. Research supports now what Happy and I knew then, and the read-aloud seems to be working a slow magic in my room. Students are taking their book selections home. They aren’t losing them or leaving them in their lockers, in the gym, or on the bus. They are reading farther in them than I am assigning. They are asking (gasp!) if they can record more than one chapter in an episode. And every part of my word nerd soul answers, “YES!”

For our first attempt, the students picked texts that were level-appropriate according to the Fountas and Pinnell assessment. I didn’t specify content, and you’ll see a variety of genres here. We workshopped together the sections they wanted to read for a first installment, talking about plot, characters, and words we didn’t know or couldn’t pronounce. Finally, we recorded.

Admittedly, the first installments are rough. We want to learn to better manipulate our software. Now that the students have their laptops back, I hope there will be an explosion of posts. Our podcasting site is called Books from the Bridge: Reading Strategies in Action, and all other posts will be there, so you’ll need to add it to your feed. But just to get you hooked, here are our first offerings:

Jarvis Woodberry reading Folktales by Tana Reiff (“The Man in the Moon”)

Jyshuan Foxworth reading Dork in Disguise by Carol Gorman (first installment)

Tyesha Woodberry reading  A Matter of Trustby Anne Schraff (first installment)

Khalil Reed reading Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers (first installment)

Christa Davis reading Search for Safety by John Langan (first installment)

SaQuain Davis reading Fables by Tana Reiff (“The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs”)

Rayneisha Eaddy reading Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (first installment)

Tomika Lee reading Blood is Thicker by Paul Langan (first installment coming soon)

Danielle Gause reading Sally’s Little Sister is Not My Name by Sharon M. Draper (first installment)

Justin Moore reading The Kid Who Only Hit Homers by Christopher Matt (first installment coming soon)

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