Every day we spend at least 10 minutes where I read to the class and they listen and respond with questions. We build up a understanding of the characters, discuss what makes a book good to read aloud and how the authors describe through showing what is happening in detail rather than telling. Normally it is a novel, occasionally a book of poetry and if we find a great picture book author we might spend a day or 2 reading through a stack of their books investigating how the art moves the story along and tells what words do not need to.
I have a list of books that I know I would captivate any class – The Tale of Despereaux, A Series of Unfortunate Events, anything by Roald Dahl, The Iron Giant, Kensuke’s Kingdom and the list goes on. Additionally I have a list of some of my most beloved books that just do not sound good being read aloud to a class and have not gotten past chapter three before I say “…and if you are loving this book it is at the library.”
- dictionary.com – Discovering the meaning of the word suppurating was fantastic.
- Google Earth – Tracking the trip around the world in Kensuke’s Kingdom.
- YouTube to compare books to their movie trailers
To the real point of this posting. I found in the back of a cupboard the other day my copy of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – A Fighting Fantasy Gamebook. Now at age 9 this book captivated me as it is a cross between a board game, puzzle and just a great story. So I brought my dusty, crusty old copy that was given to my brother fresh from publication in 1982 then secretly stolen from his shelf . The game record page had been worn thin from pencil scratchings and eraser marks.
I simplified the fighting rules and presented it to the class on Monday morning – eyes were rolled, groans echoed around the room and one even said ‘Really Mr Dyer, rolling a dice when you read a book sounds a bit dumb’. So I read, the noises stopped and the ears pricked as the language unfolded. The first argument began as we were asked to turn East or West at a junction in the passage and decided by voting visually by standing either in the East or West side of the class.
Next they chose to enter into a room were faced with 2 goblins and the first battle began. We dispatched one instantly, then we took a hit and then the second goblin was slain – the class actually cheered and the teacher from the room next door had to pop in her head to check we were ok. We pillaged the room and found a key marked 99 that was recorded on the Adventure sheet that was up on the IWB.
After a week we have taken hits, freed a crazed madmen gave us a clue that saved us from certain death. Choosing to try and steal a gem resulted in the statue to come alive attack us and we only just left the room with one health point left after the battle with the Iron Cyclops. We have an inventory list of items that we are yet to use and every time we come to a door the class hope it asks for key 99.
It may sound silly to some, but to me, the geek who was raised on D&D, Warhammer and similar games, it is normal and just too much fun. I was not expecting it to work, but hoping that it would provide a type of book that might appeal to some of my reluctant boy readers. The reality is that I have found a text that the whole class is engrossed in. Looking on TradeMe (NZ version of EBay) you can pick Fighting Fantasy or Pick a Path books up for $1 each and even if they just sit on the shelf of your classroom library for the kids to read individually you are providing a new genre for your students. I know they will be a hit with the class, so give it a go.