One of my favorite memories of grammar school is when my teacher read The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson aloud after recess. She read to us every afternoon, but this book in particular was enthralling. The sound of her voice lilting over each word, and the way she changed her voice depending on the character she was reading, is forever etched in my mind.
As an IB Literature teacher, I find reading out loud to be an immensely important part of our classroom activities. It may sound childish and rudimentary, but hear me out. I find it’s not only enjoyable for them and me, but it helps them connect with the story and language. Think about how much better students are able to visualize this scene, and connect with Claudia, when read aloud: “The puke swaddles down the pillow onto the sheet--green-gray, with flecks of orange. It moves like the insides of an uncooked egg. Stubbornly clinging to its own mass, refusing to break up and be removed. How, I wonder, can it be so neat and nasty at the same time?” (Morrison 11). When students read The Bluest Eye for homework, they most likely gloss over these lines, but when read in class, students appreciate the poetic language Morrison employs. We ask our students to appreciate the writer’s choices and students learn how to appreciate language more easily when they hear and see the words on the page. When reading aloud, we also have the opportunity to ask students: How does Claudia’s description of her vomit convey her character? -- or -- How would your describe Morrison’s style?, which requires students to think about the writer’s choices.
One of my favorite lessons in The Bluest Eye is reading the Here is the House prologue to students. As I read the prologue, I read faster and faster and faster, so by the last paragraph the words blend together (mimicking the style of this paragraph). I then ask students: What is the purpose of this prologue? What does this prologue prepare us for in our reading? How does it make us readers feel? The students’ answers to these questions are thoughtful and insightful; they are discussing, and appreciating, the writer’s choices.
This is just one example; there are many other examples and benefits.
Do you read aloud to your IB students? What texts do you enjoy reading aloud? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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