Today’s pick for my back-to-school read-aloud picture book series is Lacey Walker Nonstop Talker by Christianne Jones. When our title character – a known non-stop talker – loses her voice she mopes her way through the day. But, without a voice of her own, she discovers those of her teachers, family, and friends and the important things they have to say. She learns that by spending a little more time listening she can accomplish more of her school work and homework, hear the funny jokes her friends share, enjoy monster movies with her brother, and even have time for extra bedtime stories. Although she still loves talking after her voice returns, she now values listening to those around her.
I use this book not to condemn chattiness, but to discuss the importance of being an active listener in the classroom. This is a great time for you to model examples and non-examples of being an active listener. This week’s bookmark freebie (available to download here) offers some of the things you might expect to see an active listener do such as looking at the person who is talking; listening without interrupting; asking questions to find out or learn more; nod or say something to show you understand; acknowledge the other person’s comments by repeating what you heard in your own words. This would be a great anchor chart to create along with students as they learn from the modeling or role-playing of active listening.
I also like to use this book to teach about the author’s word choice. Although there are definitely times when using the word said is the appropriate and best option, the author uses words instead of said throughout the story. On a second read of the book, have students help you hunt for words the author uses instead of said – chided, scolded, shouted, sighed, and declared. This short list of five vivid verbs that could be used in place of said can serve as the beginning of a long list you and your students can brainstorm together. Students can search for synonyms for said in the books in your classroom library or their independent reading books. Once this list has grown, assign one word to each student who will be tasked with creating and illustrating a card for a word wall. My students would reference this wall of words – one of many we create – as they write throughout the year.
The Book Wrangler