Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Whisperer - Reflection #7

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  As I read Chapter 7, I found myself anticipating spring readers.  I love observing the independence and excitement emerging readers have gained.  Donalyn reminds us, "The purpose of school should not be to prepare students for more school.  We should be seeking to have fully engaged students now."  

Chapter 7 is full of goodness, research backing and supporting student choice to foster and grow as readers.  As a kindergarten teacher, I think choice is sometimes hard for teachers to give emerging readers because they are learning to read and need direct strategy instruction.  It can be done with balance.  My students have guided reading books and choice books in their book boxes.  I've been having book shopping for choice books be at the same time and day for everyone and this seems silly when thinking about the work real readers do.   We all did it together so everyone could learn how to do it but we don't need to be doing it that way still.  I'm going to change that today.  Readers should be able to book shop when they want and we have a morning explore time that will be perfect to shop for books as they settle in to their day of learning.  I also think they could book shop during reading explore while I try to meet with small groups.  

Donalyn's goal is to create life long readers.  I want my students to be life long readers.  I know they are readers now and the excitement for school is high.  I hope they can maintain this enthusiasm as they move through the grades ahead and encounter various reading situations and formats for instruction.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Book Whisperer - Reflection #6

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  As I read Chapter 6, "Cutting the Teacher Strings" I enjoyed reading Donalyn's thinking about practices that have been around a long time and how she examines their goals and if those goals are truly met with such a practice.  Donalyn talks a lot about whole class novels and this is not appropriate to use in kindergarten at all.  I found myself reading her work and thinking about my high school daughter, wishing her reading life was being embraced and fostered during high school.  Right now, she is immersed in whole class novels as a junior and gets frustrated by the choices made for her by someone else.  I believe in stretching reader's genre selection and thinking.  I wonder if allowing student's a choice from a collection of Mark Twain books might be more beneficial and motivating.

Next, Donalyn talks about comprehension test and this makes me think about my youngest daughter.  I love this message from Donalyn, "We cannot confuse assessment techniques with motivation techniques, either.  Reading for the goal of performing is not motivating for students beyond their desire to earn a good grade on the test and may actually reduce their reading enjoyment and enthusiasm for reading outside of school."  

Tests are here to stay.  Tests are frustrating.  Donalyn encourages us to have children read widely so they can think critically about what they have read.  She believes this carry over will help all students meet minimal expectations for any standarized test.  Test preparation is not reading instruction that can carry over to new situations in real life.  Donalyn does a study for reading tests and I have done that in the past when I taught third grade.  We need to find the balance of fostering true readers in our students and guiding them to pass and be successful reading a test. 

Donalyn shares book reports and book talks are not motivating nor do they create readers.  They create pressure to read and lack personal interest for the student.  She suggests book commercials as an alternative method for sharing and recommending books to friends.  Book commercials are shorter and don't give away the plot or sequence of events in hopes of enticing books with other readers.  Another alternative for book reports would be a book review.  Book reviews foster book evaluative thinking.

Other traditional structures Donalyn writes about include reading logs, round robin reading, and incentive programs.  I don't use any of these structures in kindergarten but I have used reading logs for years.  I gave up keeping track of pages read years ago.  I did enjoy the monthly calendar format I created to help my readers look at genres they were reading to help balance their reading choices.  I can see why Donalyn thinks these are not needed.  If students read the same books at home and at school, you will be able to know more about the genre choices they are making daily.  

This chapter is a great resource if you questioning anything you are currently doing.