Monday, June 17, 2013

The Book Whisperer - Chapter 1

The Book Whisperer had me hooked from the Very.First.Page.  Donalyn Miller clearly writes from the perspective of a born reader and a real teacher.  When I read that if I am a reader, I already know what it takes to make readers out of my students, I knew I was going to love this book.

I can definitely identify with Donalyn Miller who said she thought she had prepared the most amazing book unit.  It had everything; art projects, vocabulary, comprehension, character development, and all done in what she thought was fun and thoughtful ways using all the best practices she had experienced and had been taught.  That was until her students showed up.  I've been that teacher.  It is disheartening when you struggle to get your students to love the book you are trying so hard teach.  Like Donalyn I want my students to LOVE reading.

In Kindergarten we focus on words, on their letters and sounds.  Word work is the mechanics of reading....phonics, alphabet, blending, figuring out meaning, and shades of meaning.  All important...but not necessary for learning to love to read. In each grade we have a tendency to focus on the mechanics and as teachers we pick the books.  But is that the best way?

I just had to ask myself;   What do I like about reading?    What do I, as a reader, do?

So, what do I like about reading?  I like being transported to another time or place, real or imagined.  I read the Harry Potter books and I didn't want it to end because I could imagine myself there.  When I read the Crazy Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I was on the adventure trying to solve the mystery.  My first memory of reading is laying in bed with my sister and my mother reading to us Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy.  One summer as a child, the neighborhood children all gathered and the visiting "older" cousin read to us The Hobbit.  We were transported and it became a favorite time of the day.

I love books with beautiful language.  There is a poetry to just listening to the words.  I love how they roll off the tounge (mostly the voice in my brain).  I love the artwork of picture books...but if the story isn't good, I usually read it only once.

Because I love books this way...what do I do?
I like to talk about them.
I like to read with and to my friends.
I have stacks and stacks of books I want to read.
I am often reading more than one book at a time (although if I am into the story I read and read and don't do ANYTHING else)
I reread books I love.
I read a book that is easy if I loved it.
I slowly work my way through a difficult book if I really want to read it.
I quit a book I don't like.

I have tried a few of these with my students.  I have begun the journey of using a Reading Workshop in my class.

I have LOTS of books.  My kiddos love free reading time.  They ask, "Can we read ANYTHING?"  And of course they love to read with their friends.

They have a selection of books for Reading Workshop time.  I knew they were getting better at picking books when during free reading time they asked if they could get something out of their reading boxes.  That is a start.


One more thought from the last paragraph of this chapter...."Now I accept that I may never arrive at teaching paradise, but as long as I hold on to my love of books and show my students what it really means to live as a reader, I'll be a lot closer than I once was.



25 comments:

  1. I loved the book. I read it last year and passed it on to a colleague. I don't think she appreciated it as much as I did which I found astonishing because she was the English teacher.

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    1. Yikes! I am surprised an English teacher wouldn't appreciate the wisdom found in this book. I LOVED IT!
      ~Lorraine
      Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies 
      Visit my Facebook page

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  2. I loved this book also and read it last summer. In my rush to read it, I put it on my Kindle though. I need a hard copy for great books like these and need to revisit it this summer! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!!
    ~Holly
    Fourth Grade Flipper

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    1. You need a hard copy of great books to write in the margins and to curl up with. I totally agree!

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    2. I like hard copies of certain books too for that exact reason.... to write in!
      ~Lorraine
      Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies 
      Visit my Facebook page

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  3. I really appreciate you sharing how this book applies to your kindergarten classroom. I was reading it and thinking about how to apply some of her ideas to a primary classroom. I think that the free choice, sharing your love of books and giving them time are central to achieving success. I also loved how she detailed her awesome unit that totally flopped, I have totally had that experience!

    Looking From Third to Fourth

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    1. It is kind-of like a Daily 5 thing. Finding time for the word work, and then time for reading to self. Finding might be the wrong word. We have to make time for these things.

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  4. Love this book! I did a study on it last year and it totally changed the way I teach. Good-bye book reports and hello book-talks!

    Misty
    blog.thinkwonderteach.com

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  5. I love this book! If I were a writer - which I am not - I could've written the first chapter I so totally agree with her. I have said for years, giving a child TIME to read is not a waste of time. Giving them choice is necessary. I preached this to deaf ears when I started teaching (some 35 years ago) and began to do the book units, etc. just to appease colleagues, administrators, and the like. I love how we are beginning to see the value of such simple things as time and choice.

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    1. I love how in the introduction she says that she imagines this book will do one of three things; give validation, give practical tips for those who might need them, and for some give them a paradigm shift about what reading should be. No matter which kind of reader we are...she welcomes us. I get excited when I can talk with someone who thinks the way I do.

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  6. My two big take aways from this book were that I need to design my lessons so that students become autonomous. I want them to become avid readers who don't need me. Also I need to find my own teaching path. Like Donalyn Miller I try to mimic each master teacher I read about. Inevitably I fail because it does not match my students or teaching style. I need to learn to take and tweak. I am embarrassed that she saw the light during her first year, and I am only now just begining to realize there are better ways (after 14 years). I guess better late than never. Finally I am interested to see how some primary teachers plan on implementing her ideas.

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  7. I am excited to go back to giving my students time to read next year as we change our framework of how we do reading. I am trying to figure out how to hold students accountable - we have AR, but I want kids to read things other than AR books if they choose. I also have others who struggle with actually reading the book. They feel they can "get buy" with skimming it. In her book she mentions 40 chapter books for her older elementary kids. I teach 3rd grade with some kids still in picture books, some beginning chapter books, and some solidly reading chapter books. If I give them a "book" goal, how would I do this? Maybe this will be addressed as I read further in the book.

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    1. This past year, our librarian who does all the AR tests, etc. also set up a book project sheet. Students could opt to either take an AR test or do a project. The projects varied in types - writing, drawing, etc. Lots of children took the test, but many also chose to show they had read the book in different ways. I also wondered about the goal. Beginning this year I am going to be doing a reading lab/classroom for developing readers in grades 2-5, where do I start with a goal?
      I have a new blog - www.chalkdusttosmartboards.blogspot.com and would love any suggestions about doing a reading resource room. I will have groups of students for about 50 minute segments for just reading. I am coming from a regular ed class and this is going to be a new adventure. I am very excited, just not sure where to start. I want to remember the ideas in the book - particularly time and choice. How can I make this fit?

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  8. What a great book! I can completely relate to Donalyn Miller, as I am an avid reader, and have been my entire life. My husband teases me about how many books I read. I love when my students get just as excited about reading as I do. This last year, my 5th graders called me the "crazy book lady" because I have SO many books in my classroom. I think the idea of more independent reading and less novel units makes total and complete sense. I'm definitely changing the way I do things next year. My brain is running in high gear, thinking of what to do. I'm looking forward to gathering more ideas for implementation and how to assess. I want to go with a reading workshop model, which is completely new to me. I hope all of you other educators out there have great ideas!!

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  9. A couple parts in this chapter really struck a chord with me. Like Donalyn Miller, I hear (and have even said!) the same things she heard teachers saying about students being "lazy" and essentially unmotivated. In my opinion, whether we realize it or not, these are excuses WE make because we become lazy and unmotivated. Often times it's because we may not know any better. Donalyn shows us that with motivation we can work on the issues in our room. I have said it before and I'll say it again... if your classroom is boring, whose fault is that? Sometimes it's difficult for teachers, who are typically leaders, to step back but it's important that we aren't teaching children what to think. As a first year teacher, I'm still working on what this looks like in a classroom. Sometimes I am unsure if my students are developmentally and cognitively ready, and have the skills necessary to meaningfully interpret text, and I struggle with how to support them without holding their hand and unfairly influencing their thinking.

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  10. The first chapter of this book was very similar to my first year. I LOVE to read and walked into my class this year thinking that I was going to pass this love on to my students and they were just going to love it also. I had these wonderful visions in my head of the way it would be. I was so wrong! I also realized that a lot of the focus was on getting the students to pass the state tests. I don't want to be that teacher. I really want them to come away having learned but also wanting to be there everyday.
    I am interested to see what I can get from the book. I really like that she seems to be heading in the direction like the Daily 5, where the students would be able to use their choice of books to complete the assignments. The reading and writing block is really a struggle for me. Every other subject has cut and dried material that the students need to know. Reading is so broad and the kids read at such varying levels, that I know I need help and I'm hoping that this book and our discussions can help me grow.

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  11. I really enjoyed reading this Chapter. Come on over to my blog to see my notes and thoughts.

    Nicole
    Teaching, Stitching, and Parenting

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    1. Your link didn't work Nicole so I am posting the url for you.

      http://teachstitchandparent.blogspot.com/

      ~Lorraine
      Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies 
      Visit my Facebook page

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  12. This book study comes at a perfect time as, after 16 years of being an elementary teacher, I will be teaching 6th grade reading. Our school is K-8 so I will have taught some of these kids before. I want them to enjoy reading now as much as they did when I had them before! I have used the Daily 5/CAFE model for a while now so I definitely have seen the power of choice. One of my take aways is to trust what I know: in order for students to become better readers or to love reading, they must have time to read. My challenge is how do I do this in 55 minutes class periods and still get everything else in? Could you still have a whole class novel that you read aloud and use to model strategies while still providing choice for students to practice those strategies? I'm sure she'll address this later. And how can I get all of the books I need on a limited budget? Looking forward to the rest of the book study!

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  13. Your insights from the kindergarten perspective were interesting. I love how your students started using books from their reading boxes during free reading time! That is evidence of a love of reading beginning to grow. :) I'm looking forward to learning more about how Miller encouraged this in her classroom.

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  14. Well, I read the first chapter and was struck by a couple of thoughts: OMG, I have been totally boring my students!! But then my other thought was, but they loved reading Where the Red Fern Grows as a class and my reading group loved The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodle . . . am I supposed to feel torn? Maybe it's because I modified my class last year to something similar to Daily 5 with station work and book talks along with partner reading as well as free choice reading. My students were reading more than ever before and I was making sure that they were on task and learning. I'm excited to get into the book further to see how this really works as I am having a hard time letting go of working with my students on Frindle and a Tale of Despereaux.

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    1. You will be fine. Feeling torn is normal but once you let go of old habits you will feel free to give students more responsibility and choice. It's a great feeling! Not sure what chapter this was in but one thing that she said really stands out...we teach kids, we don't teach books.

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    2. She mentions in chapter 4 that she reads aloud. That may be one way to include some of your favorites. She also mentions using a common book for groups if the students want to read the same book together.

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