If I taught kindergarten, our main reading period would be mainly for listening to audio books. We would have sets of books and audio recordings so that the children could listen to the books at individual stations while reading along. This would allow them to hear the story while reading the words, something young children often try to achieve by reading aloud. If everyone did this at once, though, no one could concentrate!
If today’s kindergarten teachers are anything like mine, they often try to solve this problem by saying, “Read with your eyes, not your voice.” Trying to read silently and looking at the pictures didn’t work for me when I was in kindergarten, and so I got very little out of the time our teacher gave us to look at books. I’m sure this is true for other five and six-year-olds, especially if they’re verbal learners like I was. I think audio books are a workable solution for both verbal and visual learners, though, because while verbal learners can focus on the words while they listen to the story, visual learners can focus on the pictures.
Audio books are not the complete answer when it comes to teaching kindergarteners to read. They also need to be given opportunities to read books aloud. Since I agree that quiet reading time is not the right time to do this, children need to be given other opportunities to do so. That’s why instead of quiet reading time, which, in my opinion, kindergarteners are too young for, they should have read along time with audio books as well as a weekly activity called Book Sharing.
Book sharing would have two periods each week. These periods would be at the beginning of the week so that kids would have the weekends to prepare with their parents. On Mondays, book sharing would involve each child reading a book to the rest of the class. This book would be selected by the child from the list of audio books he or she read along to the previous week. In order to keep track of these books, there would be a circle time period at the end of each day where I, the teacher, would talk to the children about the books they read. Since the children might not remember the titles of every book they read, I would encourage them to describe what each book was about. Hopefully by most of their descriptions, I would be able to determine which books each child read. I would then list the books and add to the list each day after circle time. At the end of the day on Friday, I would review with each child the books he or she read that week and help him/her pick out one to share with the class.
Book sharing periods on Tuesdays would involve each child doing a presentation on his or her book. Each presentation would include an art project and an oral description of what the book is about. Students would be able to choose whether they want the art project to be simple drawings or something more elaborate. Either way, the child’s parents would need to help him or her find a way to make the art project and oral presentation compatible with each other over the weekend.
Every Friday, I would make sure each child selects a book before he or she goes home. Then I would e-mail a notice to every kid’s parents explaining which book their child selected and what his or her options are for preparing a presentation. It would be important while doing this to customize each e-mail, suggesting which type of art project each child might enjoy. They would all have the whole weekend to practice reading their books aloud (which they would borrow for the weekend) as well as one extra night, Monday, to prepare their art projects and practice their oral presentations.
Inevitably, the art-loving kindergarteners would do more elaborate projects than the kids who prefer to run around and play games. That’s why I would accept both simple drawings and more elaborate works of art for the book sharing projects. I would also give the more action-oriented kids the opportunity to create games based on the stories they read. This would be very helpful for them, since it is often the kids with high energy that have the most trouble enjoying books. The opportunity to create a game based on a book would show them how much fun reading can be.
While doing art projects based on books would be a purely individual endeavor, coming up with a game based on a book would definitely be a group project. For that reason, I would wait until October, when everyone has shared at least four books and listened to many more, to have anyone who’s interested help come up with a game. Once I’ve rounded up everyone who’s interested, I would have them each select their favorite book that they read and/or shared back in September and describe a brief idea on what kind of game they can play based on it. After I have helped narrow down the games based on how feasible they are, everyone would get to vote on which book and game combination they want to do. The game would be described and practiced multiple times in PE until the kids are playing it and following its simple rules satisfactorily. Since PE would be every day in my curriculum, there may be time to create more than one game in October, in which case the class would vote on another book and game combination once they have played the first a few times.