Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Can I become a Book Whisperer? A Book Reflection of The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

I kick started my summer professional development reading off with The Book Whipserer-Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller. I had skimmed through this a few years back, but at the time, I was teaching a general English class and the focus on reading was one of many skills.  Now I'm teaching the Language Arts portion of 8th grade curriculum, and my focus is centralized on developing life-long readers and increasing reading skills and fluency.  

Take Aways:  Leading students toward autonomy with literature must be the focus of my reading instruction and embedding specific reading skills through students' independent reading rather than whole class instruction is the most effective way to ensure that the instruction is authentic.  

  • Share your passion of reading by actively reading.
  • Readers lead richer lives. 
  • Whole group or forced instructional reading does not serve the end goal of developing lifelong readers.
  • Student choice, student choice, student choice is key; combined with a community of informed, engaged, passionate readers, student choice will create a life long reader with much more success than whole group instruction.  
  • Know your readers through a use of reader's journals:  Developing, Dormant, Underground
  • Conditions for learning: immersion, demonstration, expectation, responsibility, employment, approximations, response, engagement (trustworthy/risk free).  
  • Make time for reading in class.  Reading must become ubiquitous.

  • Ideas for Journals:  tally, genre, read/attempted, minutes/pages, reflections, questions, reviews images.
  • Miller's genre requirement:  40 books- 5 poetry, 5 traditional, 5 realistic fiction, 2 historical fiction, 4 fantasy, 2 science fiction, 2 mystery, 2 informative, 2 biography, autobiography, memoir, 9 chapter choice 
  • Do book reviews and book commercials, not book reports.  The Book Trailer fits nicely into this requirement. 
  • Prizes devalue the reward of reading as pleasurable.
  • Reading logs create family homework and develop resentment.

Currently, I require students to log their reading for a minimum of 200 minutes per 2 weeks.  The logs are signed by parents as acknowledgment that the students are reading.  Miller argues that this creates family homework (work for the parents), develops resentment, and students cheat.  I agree to some extent; however, I included these logs as an experiment in gamification of my classroom and students could obtain public recognition and participate in friendly competition with the other classes.  My observations were that my students were actively engaged in reading more than ever before.  Again and again, like Miller, I had students share with me that they had never before read this much and would never go back to being a non-reader.  Was there some cheating and some mild resentment at turning in the logs? Yes; however, I feel that that the majority of my students developed a routine of writing in their minutes, including a one word reflection as a way of proving that they were participating in the SSR (sustained silent reading) program.   In my mind, the end outweighs the means in keeping a reading log.  Other teachers shared that they didn't see the reading log  as effective, but they were not using it as part of the collaborative gamification/competition aspect that I was.  Perhaps, I am naive, but I think the reading log helped to develop my developing and dormant readers into more active and engaged readers, and it helped parents build awareness of their child's reading habits.  That is a win-win in my book, even if a few kids fudged on their reading minutes.  Collectively, the logged minutes for my students this year totaled over 350,000 minutes.  By setting and reaching our goal, students felt motivated and engaged in reading.  I agree with Miller that a reading log can create resentment, but I believe when it's built into a collaborative competition between classes, the benefits outweigh the costs and the end results is that everyone is reading.  

What will I do differently?  I will consider creating a reading log similar to Miller's to help create a communication flow and get to know my readers more personally.  I will consider creating open ended genre requirement though I fear more resentment will result from a genre requirement than a reading log requirement, but I see the value in expanding the genre choices.  I will develop more opportunities for students to share their opinions and reflections in both formal and informal settings.  Most importantly, I will make it a priority to read YA books so that I can guide and coach my readers to books they might enjoy.  I may put some of my PD books to the side for a time this summer and really dig into the most read YA books that my students recommended to me.  I owe them that.  

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