Sunday, June 30, 2013

Heaven Help Me version2

     I am trying to get both my blogs changed over to bloglovin.  I am not very computer smart, but thanks to a wonderful website and great instructions, hopefully this will work.  We will see.

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I am beginning to need a break from technology though!   

Chapter three - The Book Whisperer

     The cornerstone!  I love it!  Miller says that reading is not an add-on to class, it is the cornerstone.  It feeds everything you do in class.  Teachers must make this become a daily habit. 

"No matter how long students spend engaged in direct reading instruction, without time to apply what they learn in the context of real reading events, student will never build capacity as readers. . . Students need time to read and time to be readers."

     My problem early on in my career was that I thought for our reading segment of the day, every second had to be filled - I planned centers, I made worksheets, I taught lengthy lessons.  Did we read?  I am ashamed to say not so much.  I did not provide them time for what was important - to use what we learned.  Apparently in my innocence, I thought if I taught the lessons, they would run home and use them.  Oh my.  Nowadays, I still have lessons and yes there is that occasional skill sheet, but the majority of our time is spent reading.  As they silently read, I go around and will sit down beside them (floor or wherever) and tap them on the shoulder.  This is our signal for them to start reading quietly out loud.  That way we can talk about their reading and I get a chance to hear them read.  When I leave, they go back to silence.  It is a system that has worked for me.
     I love the ideas Miller gives us for carving out time to allow for reading.  When they go to places where they have to stand in line - like picture day - they take a book.  They immediately pull out a book whenever their class is interrupted (phone or visitor).  Also, cutting out the "morning work" and making that a reading time.  That I love!  Saves paper.  Saves time we would spend going over it.  Encourages quiet reading.  Super!  Perhaps if there are things you have been doing for morning drills, you could cut them to one or two days a week.  Or embed those things into lesson (which we probably do anyway).
    This past year I was so blessed with a group that fell in love with books and reading, they would beg for extra time to read.  When they finished work, those books came out.  I know it isn't always so, but like I said, I felt blessed. 
     She talks about creating a reading environment.  While we all would like a cozy space for students to read, it isn't always possible.  And, as she said, a beanbag doesn't make a child become a better reader.  As I think about my room this year, I have lots of awesome plans.  I also know some of them will be impossible.  I want a couch.  I need more pillows.  You know how it is.  We want a warm and inviting space for our kiddos.  I may or may not have those things.  I will have a reading "attitude" in my room and that will take care of all of the other desires.
    Thank you for stopping in.  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Have a great week!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chapter two - The Book Whisperer

      This chapter is so full of ideas and comments, it makes my head spin!  Ms. Miller divides students into three categories - developing, dormant and underground readers.  the developing readers are our "struggling or reluctant" readers.  As a (newly formed) reading room teacher this will be the majority of my students.  I will see students in grades 2 - 5 who probably fall into this category.  My goal is to help them understand reading can be fun, is something they can do, and how to use those isolated skills in real world reading. 
      The dormant readers are those students who are passing our state tests, do well on report cards and assignments, but the moment they walk out of our door reading is not something they desire to do.  This, according to Miller, makes up the majority of our students.  How sad!  We are not showing them what a wonderful journey reading can be.  I feel in my third grade classroom last year, a large number of my kiddos left this category.  We became excited about books.  We had "book talks" at lunch, in the hall, and on our way out to recess.  I hope they will continue on this path. 
     The underground readers are the gifted ones.  The ones who read well and read all the time.  But they don't make a connection to what they are required to do in the classroom to what they love doing.  This can be overcome to a great deal by giving them the power of choice.
     One of my "take to heart" lessons from this chapter was when she talks about how reading must: have personal value, allow students to see themselves as capable, be free from anxiety, and be modeled by someone they like, respect and trust.  Amen.  Now my job for next year is to make this happen.  I am confident I can win their respect and trust.  The other three . . . remember, I am getting the children who already have their mind made up reading is anxiety filled, they are not capable and furthermore, why should something I struggle with have any value for me?!
      A few of my favorite quotes:

                     "No matter how much instruction students receive in how to decode vocabulary, improve comprehension, or increase fluency, if they seldom apply what they have learned in the context of real reading experiences, they will fail to improve as much as they could."
                     "Students must believe that they can read and that reading is worth learning how to do well.  We have to build a community that embraces every student and provides acceptance and encouragement no matter where students are on the reading curve."

      Just chapter two and look at all the information!  Whew!  I need to take a break and draw some. :)  That will allow me some time to process some of this.  Thanks for dropping by and if you work with children in the area of reading, I strongly recommend the book -  The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  Also check out the fantastic book study over at We Read We Blog We Teach.  I would love to hear your comments!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


      One of my favorite things about the education profession is beginnings.   Every day there is a new beginning, every year differences and a chance to start over.  There is never any boredom nor repetitiveness.  Believe me, after over 35 years in this wonderful profession, I can safely say no two days in that period of time have ever been the same - most of the time the don't even resemble each other.  I have taught grades 1 through 6, spent a wonderful 4 years teaching art, and now am off to a new adventure!
     I have another blog, penstrokesbycathy, that I would love for you to visit.  I started that blog with the thoughts of using it as a place to display my art, tell stories of growing up, and talk about teaching.  It became a really dedicated art site.  That's okay.  That is my passion.  But I wanted a place to talk about the classroom, share some ideas, and converse with people interested in education.  The audience was different.  So, for some time, I have been playing with the idea for another blog.  Since it is summer, it seemed the perfect time to give it a go.  There was a book study coming up and I wanted a place to share some thoughts on this awesome book, The Book Whisperer, and I am beginning a new direction to my career next year, so it really was perfect!
     Despite all I said earlier about new beginnings, I am really not into change.  Small newness - yes.  Big - extremely big - newness scares me.  So when my principal called me in the day before school was out to tell me I was changing positions - yep, that's big.  Except for my 4 wonderful art years (which I will talk about in the future), I have been a classroom teacher.  One group.  Not so for next year.  There is going to be a reading lab/classroom for developing readers in grades 2-5 and guess who is going to do this?!  I left his office in shock.  In typical "Cathy-fashion", I cried some.  I struggled with this idea.  I did not want to leave the classroom.  I wanted to leave it.  My system went on an emotional rollercoaster ride.  Then of course, there was the move from my room of about 12 years to another (very nice) room at the other end of the building.  Do you know how much junk valuable teaching items a person can accumulate?  Oh my.
     The move is behind me.  I won't bore you with how many trips I made to the other end of the world with a heavy rolling cart or how I wasn't sure I would ever get out of bed again.  Summer has started.  The rollercoaster is parked at the top of the hill, for now.  I am sure it will dip down every now and again, but then how much fun would a rollercoaster ride be if it only ran on top of the hill?
     I have been reading and researching all I can find about ways to make this work.  I love reading.  I love books and since childhood have never been too far from something to read.  My house looks like a much less organized Barnes and Noble.  My goal every year I have taught has been to make children fall in love with reading and books.  Yes, of course, I want the skills to develop.  But as I like to say, I know the rules and skills on how to play baseball.  I am not good at it because I don't see the value in being a good ball player for me.  I am not interested.
     I follow lots of great teacher blogs.  One that you need to look into is wereadweblogweteach.  I am participating in a book study on this blog.  The book is The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  This is an awesome read.  We were supposed to have read chapter one by today.  I bought the book last Friday and have finished it.  I could not put it down.  If I could write, I could've written the book for her.  She mirrors my thinking that closely.  On page 15 of this book, she goes over the key components for a reading workshop.  They are time, choice, response, community, and structure.  we need to provide students adequate time to read.  Not to do worksheets.  Not to play games.  Read.  There is nothing wrong with either of those things, but time to actually get involved with a book is paramount.  They need to have choice in their reading material.  Choice is important to keeping their interest.  Skills need to be taught, but imbedded in real world reading.  If you work with teaching reading, I strongly urge to you to read this book.  I plan on reading and commenting here as I read through this book.
    I have been overly wordy!  Sorry.  I hope you will plan on visiting again (maybe even becoming a follower).  I promise every post won't be so long!