Sunday, December 8, 2013

Letting Go - Chapter 7

It was sad to see this book end, because as a future teacher I wanted to learn more and more about her practices and her classroom.  I wanted a day to day detail outline so that I can produce the same type of results.   As Donalyn Miller is close to ending the year with her students you can see the gains she has made in creating lifelong readers.  “I end the year in the same way that I began: sitting in my green chair, reading.  Not reading in front of them as much as reading with them” (162).  Providing her students as a great role model as lifelong reader, her students have began to mimic her, they are reading far more then they have ever read in a class and they are making book suggestions and recommendations to other students.  Reading is beginning to be their life.  So it was very sad to read when she retells of former students coming back to her class to tell about their new classes where they do not get to choose their book, or even have to keep them in plastic bags as if they were small children, and are required to read whole class novels below their reading level. 

“Instilling lifelong reading habits in my students is like trying to hold the ocean back with a broom, a futile endeavor, if they are going to go right back to the same controlling environment they had before my class” (165).  There are so many teachers who teach reading the same way they were taught, where students are not actually reading and they are bombarded with worksheets and sample test questions.  If Donalyn Miller can find books, research and documents proving her method and practice are the best way to teach students to read and become avid readers, why must we follow traditional practices?  I would say a big reason might be change, no one likes to change their curriculum or how they manage their classroom and another reason could be support.  In order to keep with the progression of Miller’s students in higher grades there has to be some sort of shift and collaboration between colleagues and administration.  “The students who read the most are the best at every part of school – reading, writing, researching, content – specific knowledge, all of it (170).  The goal should be for our students to succeed and gain a love of reading. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Chapter 6 Cutting the Teacher Strings

Chapter 6 gave me some good insight on what is considered traditional practices we see in the classroom regarding literacy and what she considers alternative practices that we can try and employ to create more lifelong readers.  Here are reasons on why Donalyn Miller feels whole-class novels is not a good approach:

v  No one piece of text can meet the needs of the all readers.

v  Reading a whole class novel takes too long.

v  Laboring over a novel reduces comprehension.

v  Not enough time is spent reading.

v  Whole-class novels ignore students’ interest in what they like to read.

v  Whole-class novels devalue prior reading experience. 

Instead of whole class novels Donalyn Miller suggests on making comprises where, either the teacher can read the book aloud to students, or share-read the book (teacher reads while students follow in their own copy), look critically activities and projects that might take away from the student’s development as readers, and limit the number of literary elements and reading skills taught.  Donalyn Miller best said it as “whole –class novel is not the best way to share literacy in a classroom because it disenfranchises students who cannot read the assigned book on their own or who have no interest in the book” (130).   Instead we can select one theme and allow students to pick their text based on the theme.  Another approach is using the short stories we see in our classroom textbooks and teach literary elements or reading skills from these short stores and have students apply this knowledge to their own independent book they are reading for the class. 

Another great strategy we see within this chapter was the issue of the dreaded book reports.  The book report has the goal is to provide proof to the teacher the student has read the book.  If we do not use these then what can we use in our classrooms?  I’ve seen book talks where the student has to share with the class the book and to make the book sound interesting enough that their fellow classmates will want to read it.  The problem was the time frame that was needed to listen to all of these presentations.  She suggested book commercials and book reviews.  I’ve seen book commercials used in younger elementary grades and they seem very interactive.  The student is basically shares a little bit about their book to the other readers in the class and a dialogue is created within this structure.  Book reviews are when students write a small review of the book using a basic format we might see in a formal book review from any magazine or paper.  For instance some of the criteria she includes for her class are, quotes from the book, cliffhanger questions, personal reactions and other books by the same author.  What I really enjoyed about these two alternative practices instead of the traditional book report is the allowance of a more authentic interactive way for the students to convey their like or dislike about their book. 

One more traditional practice within this chapter I will go over is use of reading logs.  The student is asked to write down and record the book and # of pages they read for the night and how much time they spent on it.  I am very familiar with this practice and the issue with this is no one was keeping track and parents were not truly monitoring their children’s progress and were being asked to sign something the morning of when it’s due.  It becomes a job that we as students and parents have to tediously fill out every week.  The log was as Miller says is supposed to “provide us with tangible evidence that our students are engaged in independent reading.  Yet they don’t produce the outcome we are hoping for” (143).  The alternative is providing the students more time to read in class and chapter 3 lists some ways on how to achieve that time.

This chapter had such great information on some of the traditional practices we see in classrooms today and why they are not working and giving us the results we as educators want to see in our students.  Donalyn Millers alternative practices seem to be working for her class and maybe they won’t be an exact fit for everyone’s classroom but we can at least try.