Along with new knowledge of what formatting can add to texts, Lambert also includes instructions on how to create a Whole Book Approach to storytime. Working to create a welcoming interactive storytime with you as the storyteller shifting intention from performing to discussion is a major first step. For some of us, (me included!) letting go can be scary. What happens if complete chaos ensues and of course, that’s when the head of school decides to do a pop-in. Actually, using the visual thinking strategy questions support student engagement with the text. A simple, ‘what’s going on in this picture’, can lead to increased child interest. Allowing the students’ spontaneous questions and reactions to drive the discussion creates authentic learning and deeper engagement with the book as a whole, instead of just the storyline or your knock-out performance.
As a performer at heart, I was more than a little concerned trying this method. However, the Whole Book Approach has become a trusted tool in my belt. While there are times when a performance style reading is appropriate, increased interaction during storytime with students is optimal. The most important thing is to establish a ‘question and response welcome’ environment, or students may continue to be content as an audience. Once that dam breaks, be prepared to be as engaged in the conversations as the students. Don’t be afraid to make them work - and allow ambiguity to be a member of the crowd too. A properly placed ‘I don’t know - what do you think’ may broaden their minds exponentially. For those of you looking at state standards, these discussions are rich with “key ideas and details/concepts”, “craft and structure” and “integration of knowledge and ideas”.
If you are intrigued with learning how to read with rather than to children, please make sure to check our Lambert’s book (book description on amazon but order through an independent book store!) as well as her website. Teaching near Boston, I was lucky enough to bring Megan Dowd Lambert to our campus for professional development. While it was only 90 minutes, many of my teachers remarked that it was one of the most interesting and useful pds they’ve had in a long time (ok - for some that’s not a big reach!). Perhaps a better indicator is that the two copies I purchased for our professional collection have both gone missing - and I’ve been begged to replace them. To a librarian, that indicates worth. Don’t take my word for it, check out Lambert’s website and see if this might be a good addition to your storytimes.