The following is a post written by our very own Tales2go advocate, Ashley Alicea. This post was published on the previous version of the Tales2go blog but is being moved to our new website/blog. Thanks, Ashley!
I’ve been a classroom teacher in North Carolina for ten years. I love integrating technology and I’m constantly looking for new and exciting ways to do that (hence, my borderline obsessive addiction to Pinterest and blogs of all kinds). This is the very first time I’ve been a guest blogger for Tales2go, but I’ve been a life-long lover of the program. Ok, so “life-long” is a bit of an exaggeration, but I HAVE been using AND loving it for the past two years.
I tell everyone who will listen how much Tales2go has transformed my classroom reading approach. I have always been a big proponent of audiobooks in the schools. The fluency and visualization growth I’ve seen in my third graders is HUGE. It never fails however, for parents and even (gasp!) other teachers to question the wisdom of these audio tales. “They aren’t even doing the reading themselves, how is that learning?” In the words of my very wise 9 year-olds, “Oh. My. Goodness. Don’t even get me started!” Students will learn to build stamina, listening attentiveness, and the ability to visualize and conceptualize what they are hearing. Low level readers are able to focus on the plot and visualize the story as it is being told, without struggling with semantics. They can also follow along with the words in a print book as they listen to the audio, thus strengthening their ability to match the sounds they hear to the written form, a key concept in language development. Not to mention the vocabulary exposure! The theory behind audiobooks is that in order for students to be good readers, they first have to be good listeners. What better way to support this skill than Tales2go? It’s a read aloud personalized to each child’s own level! What’s not to love?
Geez, I could go on all day, but I’ll step off my soapbox long enough to explain what Tales2go looks like in my classroom. It isn't the ONLY independent reading exposure my students have, but it is yet another 21st century tool in their toolbox. I use it as part of my guided reading rotations, which is a 45 minute period every day. I usually create two Tales2go groups, that I assign a book to. In other words, I will make a small group that needs to work on identifying main idea, for example. I’ll give them an iPad, a Rockstar (which is a headphone splitter, and is a MUST if you don’t already have any,) and assign a particular book. I will meet with them briefly once a day to keep them on track, but I always pair the listening of the story with the completion of a graphic organizer and comprehension questions. This way, I can be certain the children are tuned in and retaining the information that is being listened to.
The rest of the kids are also listening independently if they chose to or sometimes working in other skill-specific reading groups. If the kids have a print copy, I like to use sticky notes and have them respond as they read. I adapted these cool codes I found on Teachers Pay Teachers and use them with my Reader’s Response jornals:
I also use Tales2go as part of my small group focus, especially when modeling fluency. The narrators on Tales2go are high-quality and provide excellent examples of how a story should be read. As an extension activity, I will have the children listen to a pre-selected paragraph of a particular book. They are then challenged to read that paragraph themselves out loud, trying to match the audio narrator’s tone and expression. The kids will get really into this! Plus it puts all of that childhood dramatic flair to good use! The selections on Tales2go are audio versions of the print books I already had in my classroom library, making it simple enough just to stick a “Tales2go” sticker on the front of it. That way, when children select their independent reading stories, they know which ones have an audio version to pair with it.
They don’t always have a hard copy of the book to follow along with though, and if that’s the case, I try to keep their hands (and minds) busy by having them draw a detailed picture of a scene from the story. It keeps them focused, but in my experience, in order for them to be able to visualize successfully without a print copy to follow along with, they need to have independent work and reading habits already established (i.e. my higher-level thinkers did well with this, while my struggling readers needed the visual support of the print book and took longer to reach this point). No matter if you use it at home, school, or anywhere in between, Tales2go never fails to motivate. It is certainly building a love of reading in MY students. And that is enough to make any teacher’s heart smile :)
Ashley Alicea is a third grade teacher at W.J. Gurganus Elementary in Havelock, NC. She has won multiple grants to use on products such as Tales2go in her classroom.