I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite times every day is my read aloud time. I read aloud picture books. Articles. Poems. But my favorite of all is the novels I choose to share with my class. “Fish in a Tree” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is one of the best. I choose different texts for a variety of reasons…but I always like to keep in mind that read alouds are a powerful teaching tool where ALL students can have access to rich, meaningful texts–even if the content is far above their independent reading level.
For me, “Fish in a Tree” is my “go to” choice for a mentor text when we do our narrative unit because we want our students to “read like writers” and “write like readers” so we really intertwine our reading and writing work. We study narratives that we read and then take what we notice and apply those skills as we write our own narratives.
That being said, I truly feel our read alouds should NOT be ruined by making students do tons and tons of work…there is something to be said for simply enjoying a beautiful text. For that reason, I am very judicious about what I do to supplement my novels. Here are a few quick and easy ideas that you might want to consider to gently “use” these great novels to supplement your teaching.
1. Character tracking and mapping
One thing that is so easy to do while you read a chapter book that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story at all is to invest some time early on “tracking” characters. We track their traits, their interests, and their connections with either other (see the pink connecting lines!). This chart can be added to as the story evolves and as new information surfaces–and as characters change. This is posted on the board where I do my read aloud, and I just love it when students refer back to it or make observations.
When we write our own narratives, we make similar webs to show how our different characters are connected and the most important things about them. Read like a writer–and write like a reader!
2. Studying text with close reading of “Fish in a Tree”
3. Using elements of the text as models for our own writing
4. “Quick Writes” to show deep thinking about texts