Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Listen to Reading

I remember spending hours on the couch snuggled up with blankets and a cat or two, reading with my children. I have so many fond memories of reading them the same book, over and over.  With my daughter, Alexandra, that favorite book was Red Is Best by Kathy Stinson. For Cameron, it was a little board book called This Is Me by Lenore Blegvad.

He loved that book, and I  loved it, too. "This is my bed. This is my light. These are my kisses and this is goodnight." It was so worn and falling apart by the time he was three that I bought a second copy. It's a treasure.

So many of my students at school haven't had the experience my own children and I had. Lots of my students last year have parents who cannot read in English. Others have parents who work two or three jobs and just aren't there to read.

While it's obviously not a substitute, providing a time and resources for children to listen to reading gave my students a way to listen to stories... and for some students, it was the same story, over and over again!

A few years ago, I wrote a grant and got four iPod Nanos for my classroom. I loaded every recorded story I could find onto the iPods... some were from CDs I'd purchased, a couple were from iTunes, and some were free mp3s I found online. I had four iPods, so I made four totes of books. In each tote, I put a copy of every story on the iPod. And then I let the kids loose with them.

Oh my! They LOVED the iPods!

One student found his favorite book thanks to the iPods. Darling little "A," who is pretty tough on the outside, absolutely fell in love with Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. And Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes. And Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. If there were a "Pete the Cat learns Calculus while standing next to smelly garbage and juggling knives," he would love that, too. Pete just somehow spoke to "A."

Every change he got, "A" grabbed an iPod, and listened to one of the Pete the Cat stories. And after a few days, he was singing along. And magically, his reading skills improved dramatically over a month or two. Now, "A" is hooked. He's a reader for certain. I can't let the iPod take all the credit, but the opportunities "A" had to listen made a huge difference for him. I fully expect that he'll be back at the beginning of the year, asking if he can listen during recess or after school!

So yesterday, I got a new iPod for my birthday (THANK YOU KEN!) so I'm going to take my old iPod to school. It's a second generation... so it may not last forever! My students have been really careful with the other iPods, so I don't see why this one can't last a while longer. Of course, I'll erase all the Lady Gaga, ACDC, U2, Black Eyed Peas, and Wicked songs that were on my running playlist!

On that note, here's a tip for iPods in the classroom: Don't make playlists. I can't tell you how many times my students erased the playlists. It was unintentional, and it confused them! I showed the children how to go right to the "Music" section and match the file names with the book titles. My first graders were completely able to do this---even those who were not yet decoding proficiently.

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