Thursday, July 17, 2014

Reading in the Wild Reflections: Part 2

       I just finished reading the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth about a week ago (this was a binge read for me).   On pg. 96 Donalyn Miller has a great quote from the book Divergent about communities.  Here is the quote: "To live fractionless is not just to live in poverty and discomfort; it is to live divorced from society, separated from the most important thing in life: community."  We all strive to be part of a community, so that we can continue to grow as a person by collaborating, reflecting, and cherishing each moment that helps us maintain and create our identity.  I mentioned in my first post that I want my students to be active members within a reading and writing community.  Donalyn says on pg. 89, "What my students learn is important, but the conditions that allow learning to happen concern me more.  Successful communities require cultivation, and I spend a lot of time forging relationships with my students and helping them connect to each other. I am the one who- with the help of my students- constructs the classroom environment." 

Keeping the Faith: A must when considering learning conditions:
     As an effective literacy teacher I need to continue to have faith in books and kids.  Penny Kittle, author of, Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina and Passion in Adolescent Readers reminds me of this.  On pg. 1 in her book she says, "Teenagers want to read - if we let them."  Well, I believe all kids want to read - if we let them.   Penny continues to say on pg. 1, "Students who I believe are committed nonreaders become committed, passionate readers given the right books, time to read, and regular responses to their thinking."  I know that I can help students find books that they will love and share with others.  I hope that as we get to know each other and who we are as readers, we can realize how the books help us define who we are and what we are seeking for. 

How will I start to build a reading community right from the beginning?
      I love the idea of creating a reading door posting all the books I read over the summer.  I am going to also post some reading quotes for the children to enjoy.  I think this will be a great way to connect instantly with students as I start to build some relationships with my students on Meet the Teacher Night.  
     I want to start the first few weeks of school by setting the tone that we will read - lots and lots of books!  I will spark readers interest in books by talking about five or six books a day during the first few weeks of school.  Penny Kittle says, "I want to put a lot of titles out there.  I need to help the many students out there who will struggle to find a book at first."  I have always done book talks in my classroom but I think it is so smart to hit it strong in the beginning.  I am also going to spice up my book talks by reading a preselected short passage and by recording the book talk books near the library in our classroom.  I loved these ideas from Penny Kittle.  After book talks are up and running I will seek out other teachers, students, and colleagues to do book talks in the room to keep our reading community thriving with talk around books, and students will decide which books to add their "to-be-read" list and piles.  Book talks will also open the pathway to talking with the students on how readers make reading plans.

Ideas to implement to help foster the reading community:

  • Graffiti Wall - a wall dedicated to selecting and sharing lines and words from books that stand out is absolutely priceless.  I already know that I am going to pick lines from the books titled A Snicker of Magic and Absolutely Almost.  
  • Global Read Aloud - this is my first time participating in GRA and I am so excited to do it.  I plan on connecting with other classrooms using Edomodo.  I am going to read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.  Kate DiCamillo is an author I really want my students to know.
  • Book Commercials - Donalyn Miller says these are impromptu testimonials about books that students and the teacher present.  I think that students could use technology as a way to share their commercials with the class. I really love how Donalyn Miller invites other students to share their impressions on the book if they have read it.
  • Skyping with authors - every grade level Skyped with an author last year and I found that once the Skype was over students were reading and discussing books by that author.  The authors we Skyped with were Aaron Reynolds, Bob Shea, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Nicola Davies, and Kate Messner.  This was a powerful way to spark interest in books which lead to some great discussions. I was so impressed with all the authors willing to connect with students and teachers in Skype in the Classroom Community.  

    Reflecting on book clubs:
      Last year I had book clubs with third graders and fourth graders during lunch.  My fourth graders were developing readers who needed to not only more read books but they really needed the time to discuss the books.  They were the readers who constantly had trouble selecting books to read next.  I would do book talks about possible books to read next for our book club and they would discuss the books with each other and then we would decide as a group.  I always let them decide how much reading to read each week.  They always picked smaller chunks to read than my third graders.  After reading the quote on pg. 144, Donalyn says, "For students who struggle to finish books or commit to reading, setting small goals helps them achieve success quickly and rack up positive reading experiences, which feed more reading."  These students needed to feel success and once they did it really feed into reading more.  If we would read the first book in a series, I would notice some of the students checking out the next book in the library and their excitement when they would be the first to finish so someone else could read it next. Sometimes the group would split if we had two books they really wanted to read.  At the end of the year I asked them what they enjoyed most about book club and one of my students who really just struggled to read said he enjoyed hearing every one's different perspectives.  After he made that comment I felt like all the struggles and encouraging it took all year had paid off for Rui.  My faith in books and students once again came through.  He found more time to read at home and he read more than last year.  Most of the students would talk about how they enjoyed picking the books together and knowing that any confusing parts would be discussed at book club.  While I know I was just a small part of their reading community I am so glad that I was a part of helping them reach goals by reading and discussing more books than they ever had.
     My third graders would read twice the amount of books as my fourth graders and they enjoyed blogging about the books so that their thoughts could be shared outside of book club.  They constantly would push me and each other.  These students are the epicenter readers in their classes and book club for them offered the opportunity to challenge each other.  Some of them needed to experience new genres and some of them needed the opportunity to talk more about books because they were very quiet and shy.  I realize how important epicenter readers are to the reading community and how their passion and love for books can be contagious to others.  As a reader I have epicenter readers through twitter and I have epicenter readers who are my colleagues.  I need to help identify who will be epicenter readers in my classroom so they can thrive in our classroom reading community but I also want them to find epicenter readers via social media.

Fostering School and Home Reading Communities (pgs. 91-93):
     Donalyn had so many great ideas to help bridge our reading community at school to the students' homes so that parents can help contribute.  I loved some of these ideas found on pgs. 92 and 93...

  • Include reading recommendations and tips into weekly newsletters and websites.
  • Add a weekly book recommendation to your e-mail signature.
  • Have students, the teacher and school librarian create quarterly book lists to share with parents who are looking for gift ideas, vacation reading, and library guides.
  • Teach parents simple ways to incorporate more reading into family routines.             

    I know that I also included quotes from Penny Kittle's book but it really is great to read her book along with Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild.  Penny even quotes Donalyn in her book.  I learned so many ways from these ladies on how to build a strong reading community that fosters relationships with every reader in my classroom.  


  1. Having taught both third and fourth grade, I am interested in your depiction of how different your book clubs were with those two groups. Do you think by fourth grade some of them were already forming non-reader identities? Do you think your previous third graders will think differently about themselves this year as fourth graders?

  2. My book clubs were very different. The fourth grade teachers wanted me to work with their developing readers as a way to help them develop lifelong reading habits. They had trouble picking books to read next and they needed extra support. They were already forming non-reader identities. We thought this would be another way to foster reading habits. We would celebrate every book we finished and then discuss possible books to read next. The students learned how to work through the hard parts and realized which genres they started to prefer. In the beginning it was a struggle but we continued to work and read and discuss books. It was so rewarding and wonderful to be a part of that journey with them. Our last book was The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. It was the perfect book to end with and I can only hope they continue to read some over the summer.
    My third graders were wild readers. They already had lifelong reading habits and would binge read and carve out time to read every day. They needed to be challenged and little did I know that they would continue to challenge me as a teacher to help avid readers grow. I think that most of them will continue to be the epicenter readers that teachers will look for. One of the students will still need to be pushed to read genres outside of his comfort zone but his new reading community will stretch him to do that. Thanks so much for your comments I really appreciat it. I hope I answered all your questions.

  3. Hi, Tonya! That is a great text-to-text connection with Divergent! I love your idea to use The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane in conjunction with the GRA. It was the first book that I always read aloud at the beginning of each school year. I, too, am a title one teacher/literacy coach (in Texas) and starting student book clubs is one of my goals for the upcoming year. I'm just not sure of all of the logistics. I like the idea of having the clubs during lunch. Thanks for your insight.

  4. Tonya,
    I just can't wait to sit down and chat with you. You have so many interesting ideas for supporting a reading community to share. You have many smart tips for getting off to a good start in our communities. I appreciated the reminder to set small goals for readers who are still finding their way in the reading community. I look forward to following your journey back into the classroom.