I am out currently, awaiting the arrival of baby number two, who apparently is in no hurry to come meet her big sister who is asking daily to meet her.
I am one of those people who cannot sit still and needs to be doing at all times. I have cleaned every nook and cranny of this house and organized filing cabinets, closets, freezer, refrigerator, and more. I am also one who loves to continue to learn. Not working with teachers and students right now is weird for me. So, I am taking the opportunity to read up on articles and links I have favorited on Twitter (@candacewhites) and rereading some oldies but goodies that teach me more about literacy in the classroom.
I am currently rereading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. I am so glad to be given this opportunity to reread this book because it has reinforced conversations I have had with teachers and my literacy partner, Melissa West (@melissawest75) about the importance of student choice, and most importantly, time given to students so they can apply what we are teaching them about reading to what they are reading. That is the only way students will achieve academic success and become readers.
I remember my first year teaching, my team shared with me the First 20 Days of Reading by Fountas and Pinnell from Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3-6): Teaching, Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy. I set up reader’s notebooks. Students were engaged, but reflecting on that time, I could have done a much better job focusing on the reading strategies I had been modeling, and checking in on how they were applying the strategies they learned to their own reading.
I did my best with reader’s workshop and reader’s notebooks my first few years. Then, Houghton Mifflin was something we began to use. All the students reading the same story, one story a week, answering all the same questions that were found in the practice book. I moved away from modeling reading strategies with picture books because HM “”taught” reading strategies within the stories we were reading.
I went away from student choice and the only time they had to read was SSR time. Sadly, that eventually was always one of the first things I cut when we needed more time for something else.
So, here I was guiding students to read all the same story with no time for choice. No time for students to explicitly be taught reading strategies and no time to apply them to what they wanted to read.
I then moved away from HM and with good intentions, worked with my newer team to create novel units. We chose books that matched our standards and curriculum, ordered class sets, read the book whole class, all reading together, stopping to discuss, and then all of us answering the same comprehension questions.
At the end of that year, I saw a job posting for a Literacy Coach. I figured I would apply and practice interviewing as it is something I dread as much as I dreaded public speaking (which I have gotten over that fear, well, I am less nervous now). I got the job and that summer I read The Book Whisperer. I was invigorated and excited to share what I learned with other teachers but I did so in small groups and the focus became writing.
Conversations began to occur last year when the idea of adopting a reading program for our literacy block. Conversations about the importance of student application, time for students to read, student choice, and finding time in the day to make reading important came up often. However, we also had those conversations with teachers who want the program; the one where the students are all reading the same story during the reading block and the desire for novel units to be developed.
After doing more research on-line through Twitter, reading articles given to me by fellow literacy coaches, administrators, and attending professional development, as literacy coaches, we understand that we need to continue to have conversations with teachers, and teacher teams who understand that in order to have successful readers in our classrooms, they need ample time to read and read books of their choosing. These teachers are ready to implement or even fine-tune reader’s workshop in their classroom.
Reflecting on my learning, when I go back to the classroom, I will eliminate Daily Language Review (I used to do it every morning, thinking it would transfer to their writing - which it never did) so that students can start their day reading, reader’s workshop will be a chunk of my literacy block again, reader’s notebooks will be come back, I will again model reading strategies with picture books (I loved Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller) but in a more concise mini-lesson and not a mega-lesson, I will be better at conferring so students have goals focused on reading strategies that will allow them to become better readers and successful learners, and give students choice to what they want read when it is their independent reading time to apply what they are learning as readers.
As a literacy coach, when I come back in January, I will continue support the implementation of writer’s workshop in our district, as that is so important. And, I will I assist teachers who would like to awaken the inner reader in their students.
For now, I will continue to read, reflect, share my learning, and take care of this baby girl, whenever she arrives.