Monday, October 28, 2013

Chapter 3

I have read great books where I will lose track of time and before I know it a couple of hours has passed by.  I will sneak in another chapter when I should be doing homework.  I try to make and find time in my day to get another couple of minutes of reading a good book.  Reading is so important to Donalyn Miller and she tries to create as much time in her classroom for her students to read their book.  The saying “Do as I say not as I Do” is not in Miller’s agenda, when the students are reading she is also reading.  She models the behavior she wants her students to achieve.  “The more my students read, and grow into a community of readers, the more they want to read” (Miller 50).  This is one of our many goals we should be striving for in our classrooms.  Reading is one of the single literacy activities one can do in the classroom to get more positive growth and positive effect on the students’ comprehension, vocabulary and writing. 

In a time where most schools have very rigid curriculum schedules, how can we make time for reading? On a regular class day teachers are bound to get interrupted by other personnel, phone calls, and parents.  Miller recorded in a one week being interrupted enough to lose 40 minutes of instruction time.  In a regular classroom, students see this as a great time to talk, catch up and basically get off task.  In Miller’s classroom her students have been instructed and ingrained to take out their book and start reading.  Using “bell ringer or warm-up” activities are those worksheets or board work that is designed to get students in their seats quiet and ready for the day.  She starts off her morning with some independent reading instead.  This is a time when everyone is reading, and has set strict rules where this is not the time to catch up on homework, e-mails, or cleaning out binders.  Another time for some independent reading is when they are finished early with a task.  Most classroom have these “fun folders” for the students who finish early but when looking at these types of activities usually what it contained was just “busy work”.  Usually picture day is a madhouse, with teachers trying to get their students to line up quietly to take their picture and then to proceed to be quiet while waiting for everyone else to be done.  This is a great time to have students bring their book and read.

There are probably more moments within the day that could be best utilized by allowing the students to read, we just have to look deeper and find them.  I will end this post with, “by setting the expectation that reading is what we do, always, everywhere, it becomes the heart of a class’s culture” (58).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 started with the beginning of Donalyn Miller’s third year of teaching.  I think we all remember the first days of school as a student.  I remember the excitement of starting school and buying new pencils, folders and a backpack.  I know, I’ve always been kind of nerdy that way J.  We would have to endure the grueling first days when our teachers would set out the ground rules and assignments, while we sit patiently at our desk.  It was like all the excitement and anticipation I had dulled a little bit when I had to go through this tedious beginning.  So it was refreshing to see how Miller saw this after one brave student from the very beginning asked “when will be allowed to check out books?” and she said “Now”.  I mean why wait if the students were excited and interested in reading right away. 

Once I had read 40 books were required of her students in the Introduction and the first chapter, I had been thinking of how she was going to address the skill levels of her students or the dislike some might view reading.  It was interesting to see how she never acknowledged these types of issues to the students.  Miller’s answer was “If I were to acknowledge that those excuses have merit, I would allow them to become reasons for my students not to read” (23).  In a society where we are all looking for the excuse not to do something this makes perfect sense to me.  Her statement of “I must believe that my students are readers-or will be readers-so that they can believe it” (23) reminds me so much of another statement where students will rise to the level of our expectations, so we must make our expectations high. 

She also has changed her terms for the different levels of readers we are used to seeing for example struggling readers are “developing readers”.  These are the students who are not reading at grade level.  According to reading policy expert Richard Allington, students who are in a remedial setting read roughly 75% less than their peers in reading classes.  And we continue to wonder why these students struggle with reading?  They aren’t reading enough!  Reluctant readers are those students who only read just enough to pass classes and tests are called in her class “dormant readers”.  They have not found their type of book that engages them or takes them to different places.  Unfortunately, since they are passing through the classes and tests most school officials are probably not showing them how to find that special book either.  She opens my eyes to these particular readers by using a Mark Twain quote “the man who does not read great books is no better than the man who can’t” (29).  Her “underground readers” are those students who want to read and are really gifted readers, who probably read other more interesting books in the classroom and still do well on the tests and class work.  The problem is most teachers’ curriculum does not involve these students and focus on either the students at grade level or below.

The following are conditions identified by the Australian researcher Brian Camboune to foster successful learning:

Immersion – Surrounded by books.

Demonstrations – How to use the texts to learn different goals and how to access info from them.

Expectations – Students will rise to the level of expectations

Responsibility - Students make some of their own choices.

Employment - Practice what they have learned in real life situations.

Approximations – Receive praise and encouragement for what they know and be allowed mistakes.

Response – Immediate feedback on progress.

Engagement – Personal value, view themselves as capable, no anxiety, modeled by someone trustworthy, likable and respectable someone they would like to be.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Book Whisperer - Intro to Chapter 1


When I started reading this book I knew Donalyn Miller was going to capture the meat and potatoes of how to awaken the love of reading in every student.  When I first read how she requires her students to read forty books during the year in her class I first thought “How the heck does she manage that?” but the fact is her students reach this goal or surpass it.  She has also proved her methods by having her students pass the state’s reading assessment tests for the past four years.  We’ve seen so many children read less and less in the classrooms and outside of the classrooms and many of them struggle in reading, as Miller states “they don’t see reading as meaningful in their life” (p 2).  While everyone from parents and teachers scramble to find the magical answer on how to turn this around groups and companies are reaping the profits by special books and programs.


I admire how Miller points out “the only groups served by current trends to produce endless programs for teaching reading are the publishing and testing companies who make billions of dollars from their programs and tests” (p 3).  We have implemented programs and worksheets to help teach reading but ultimately you still need a student to open up a book and read it.  When I read this I thought “oh yeah, this sounds way too simple and surely there must be some type of trick”.  The problem is so many school programs leave out independent reading in the classrooms.  To build lifelong readers has to start in the classroom where they can find great books, and be able to discuss and build their own reading community.  This book will outline the practical strategies on how to implement this type of curriculum in the classroom and how to get that love of reading and connection between self and book in each student. 


In chapter 1 Miller reflects on her first year teaching and what a disaster it was.  This gives me hope as a student teacher that it’ll be ok if my first year teaching is not as perfect as I am envisioning it to be.  It’s during this year and after Miller starts to transform her classroom into a reading workshop.  “Being the best reader and writer in the room is not about power and control instead, I must be a source of knowledge that my students access while learning how to read and write” (p 15).  What a great concept instead of the teacher dispensing knowledge they should guide the students as they come near to their own understandings.  In this workshop students need the time to read and look through the books , students need to choose their own books, respond in natural ways to books they are reading, and students will make a community where everyone will make meaningful contributions.  Donalyn Miller had to become the role of “master reader” in her workshop classroom in order to inspire her students.  She had to inform her students in some way that “reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten…helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education…shows you how to be a better human being” (p 18).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


In this blog I will be posting thoughts and ideas that I get from the book The Book Whisperer Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller.  I will go through and pull practical strategies and applications on how she awakens the love of reading in her students.