Julie Martin Educ 401.006 October 26, 2006 Read Aloud Reflection On October 26, 2006 I read The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss to my class of first graders. My goal for this read aloud was to have students talk to each other about what they would have done if they were the children in the book using a discussion format for the conversation. I chose to read this book because it is a story the children are familiar with which I believed would make it easier for them to discuss. Also, I thought it was relevant for the class because it forced the students to think about responsibility and importance of the truth. I began the read aloud around 9:10 a.m. just after the students had taken their practice spelling test. Mrs. C, a pseudonym for my cooperating teacher, asked the students to meet on the carpet when she called each table. The students were scattered around the carpet facing me. At this point in the school year, the students know that they should be sitting next to someone who will not bother them, so managing the seating arrangement was not a big concern for me. I was in front of them in a chair with bookshelves behind me and the calendar activities to my left. I started the read aloud by showing the students the cover of the book. I asked them if they knew what the title of the book was. At first they all raised their hands, but because everyone knew, I asked them to say the title all together. Most of the students replied with the correct title, while a few students said “Dr. Seuss!” I mentioned that the book was in fact titled The Cat in the Hat and was written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss. The first graders were very excited to be hearing this book. I asked them if they had read the book before or saw the movie. Everyone raised their hands eagerly. A few students started to tell me stories about when they had read the book or when they went to see the movie. I asked these students to hold on to their stories until later so we could start reading. I told them that they would be able to have a really great discussion about the book because they had all heard it before. They were anxious to begin listening, so I started reading. As I read the first page aloud, the students started to try to read along with me. I was not expecting this to happen. I wanted the students to hear the story so they could discuss it, so I asked them just to listen to the story this time. As I read, I asked the students some predicting questions, like “what was that bump?” and “Do you think the children will get rid of the mess in time?” It was clear the students had read the book and had a thorough knowledge about the plot because all of them predicted each event correctly and even provided details about what was to come. For example, when I asked the class how the children will clean up the mess left by the Cat in the Hat before their mother gets home, one student told me that the “Cat in the Hat has a car with hands on it” to clean up the mess. I was impressed with their knowledge and hopeful that the children would be just as responsive during the discussion. Once I finished reading, the class clapped for me, which definitely made me more confident. I told the students that we were going to have a discussion about what we had just read. I asked the students to first get into a circle by sitting on the edge of the carpet. I guided a few students when they could not find a place to sit. I also made sure that one student who is ADHD was sitting in front of me so I could help him stay on task. I was still in the chair and the students were now in a circle facing each other. I explained how the discussion was going to work. “I am going to ask you a question. I want you to take some time to think about the question in your head and then raise your hand when you have an idea. I am going to give someone this teddy bear. When you have the teddy bear, you can talk. When you are done, you should pass the teddy bear to another student who is sitting quietly with a raised hand. I want you to talk to each other about what you think. Is everybody ready?” My discussion question was “What would you do if you were the children in the story? Would you tell your mother the truth about what happened?” Although I had asked the students to think about the question first, multiple students raised their hands immediately. I waited a little longer until the class had a little more time to think about the question. I passed the teddy bear to the first student. She said, “I would tell the truth because if I tell a lie I get grounded.” This student passed the teddy bear to the girl on her right. She said that she would say the same thing. The next girl who received the teddy bear said that she would also tell the truth. Realizing that the students were not really expanding on the ideas of their fellow students, I tried to get them to think more deeply by asking, “would the mother get mad if the children told the truth?” The next girl who received the teddy bear said, “the mother would be happy because the children told the truth.” Another student said that she would not tell. To get her to think deeper, I asked why she thought that and she responded with a simple shrug. The next boy who received the teddy bear replied, “I would lie to not get in trouble.” This was the first student who thought this way. At this point I was hoping that a student would object to this boy‟s idea of lying, especially because it seemed so many of them thought it would be best to tell the mother exactly what happened. None of the student really seemed to be shocked by this answer, so the teddy bear moved across the circle. The next student responded, “I would go straight to my bedroom so I didn‟t have to talk to her.” I though this was an interesting response and something that I had not expected. I think if the students really understood what I was hoping to accomplish, one of the students might have commented on this child‟s idea of avoidance. I was hoping someone would ask why this child thought that this course of action was the best for the situation, but the bear just keep moving along. Although it appeared through Debbie Miller‟s video that first graders are capable of questioning ideas, Mrs. C did not think her student had enough experience to do this. Mrs. C has never led a discussion before. When my practicum partner and I talked with her about the assignment and what books she might suggest for a discussion, she was surprised we would have to lead a discussion. She explained how she believed discussions were valuable, but she did not think it was appropriate at a k-2 level. Especially at this point in the school year, her first graders would not get a lot out of a discussion and would not be able to respond back and forth the way a discussion should. After receiving many of the same responses from that first question, I asked the students, “would you have stopped the cat from coming in the house?” The children mostly agreed that they would not have let the cat make such a big mess. Some of the students simply replied, “I would send them away” with “them” meaning the Cat in the Hat and Thing one and Thing two. One boy said, “I would let them stay so I could catch them and say „no, no.‟” Another girl went into detail about what she would have done. “I would tell them to get out. I would tell my mom. I would clean up everything by myself. I would tell her about the Cat in the Hat and Thing one and Thing two.” Occasionally, I asked some extending questions to try to help the students think deeper, like “do you think they would listen if you told them to get out? What would you do if they didn‟t listen?” I found it interesting that even though I had changed the question, some of the students continued to answer my original question. I did not have any trouble with keeping the students engaged. There were many students who wanted to share even when someone else was talking. There were even a few students who complained that one student got three turns when he had only spoke twice. Although I had given the students the power to decide who spoke during the discussion, the teddy bear made it around to most of the students twice. When there was a student who had been patiently waiting for a turn, I would suggest that the child who had the teddy bear pass it to the specific child I noticed. At the end of the discussion, I asked the students to pass the bear around the circle so everyone could say what they liked best about the story. By ending the lesson this way, every student would have the opportunity to say something about what they had heard during the lesson. Although I was really happy with the behavior and engagement of the students during the lesson, I do not think they understood how a discussion was supposed to operate. I learned in psychology that student at the ages of five and six years old are still egocentric, meaning they cannot view situations from others‟ perspectives. I believe that most of my children have not developed the skills to think about and question what other students are thinking. This is a difficult task that requires practice. It also might have been helpful to demonstrate a small discussion with Mrs. C and my practicum partner before teaching this read aloud so the students could see an example of what they were expected to do. I still do not know if they would have done any better because of where they are developmentally, but it might have helped. I do, however, think that the students in Mrs. C‟s classroom discovered a little about their beliefs on lying and telling the truth, along with deciding how to deal with situations that they know are not right. Their responses to my discussion questions indicated this. From teaching this lesson, I learned it is important to evaluate the students in a classroom while deciding upon lessons to teach to the class. It may be that some first grade classes are capable of discussing a book, but my students were not as successful as I had hoped for their first discussion. I thought my decision to have the students sit in a circle was good because it reinforced the idea that I wanted the students to talk to each other as they discussed. Even though they did not respond to each other the way I had anticipated, they were able to look at each student when they talked which is an important first step in a discussion. I also thought passing the teddy bear around was an effective way to make sure only one student was talking at a time. I was a little anxious about the read aloud before I conducted it, but I knew the students‟ responses would help guide my questions, which they did. Like I said before, I would have liked to have the students watch as Mrs. C, my partner, and I demonstrated a discussion so they could get a picture of what my partner and I are trying to do. I think it might have been better to choose a book the students had never heard before. Although The Cat in the Hat is a book all students love, it might have been better for the students to have to really listen and think about a new story, rather than just repeating what they thought when they read the book previously. Even though the lesson did not go exactly as I had hoped, it felt like the students were so excited to hear me read and lead a lesson that they would have enjoyed it no matter what happened!