One of our favorite times of the day at school is chapter reading. It is intimate. We feel snuggled together. Much like being in sleeping bags while camping, with nothing but words to hear, we look forward to that time.
Before we begin chapter reading, we recite Goodnight Moon. Those timeless words, soothing and rhyming, are a favorite. Children have nearly memorized the words, and they look forward to hearing them every day. A favorite is doing it “the silly way”, adding every child’s name into the verse. “In the great green room there was a telephone and Mary’s red balloon, and a picture of Tommy jumping over the moon”, and so on. Children are on the edge of their seats!
We can forget how much a child is truly absorbing, if s/he is quiet. Often something then happens that surprises us, and we are reminded just how important those Goodnight Moon words are to children. Delaney surprised us and made the cow jumping over the moon:
After listening to the words of Goodnight Moon, we are then ready to chapter read. Our current book is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. It’s one of the best, and children love it. There are always interruptions when we chapter read. Sometimes there are questions, sometimes we stop to talk about what happened. Sometimes a child needs help, and sometimes children are chatty or distracted. Early on, when there was distraction, I stopped and said, “If you want to hear the story, say ‘RAVIOLI’.” A chorus of voices immediately yelled “RAVIOLI!” Since then, if there is any stoppage in chapter reading, or any distraction, children take it upon themselves to say, “RAVIOLI!” That is perhaps the best word a teacher can hear. It really means “Please don’t stop, we want more.”
A parent of a child in my class read this story of chapter reading in the classroom. He is a 12th grade English teacher at Lawrence Academy, a private high school in town. His comment was,
“I wish my 12th grade students would start yelling “RAVIOLI!”
Years ago I had a long conversation with the head of the school’s English department. She and I talked about reading aloud, and discovered we both do the same thing – turn out the lights and have children put their heads down. From preschool to high school, it works. I told the parent about this long-ago conversation. He said,
“She calls it ‘lights out heads down’. I often read aloud to my students but keep the lights on – starting Monday, I’ll put them off.”
I hope there are shouts of “RAVIOLI!” from 12th graders on Monday.