Tag Archives: Donalyn Miller

My Day With Donalyn Miller

9 Mar

As soon as I heard that all middle school Humanities teachers would get to hear Donalyn Miller present on “Creating An Engaging Reading Culture” I was giddy with excitement. I had read The Book Whisperer  and  bought my own copy. I’d borrowed Reading in the Wild from the library and found it inspiring, too. But to see her in person…that was taking things to a whole new level.

I won’t transcribe my notes for you, just let me say, I was not disappointed. She was really funny – teaching middle school tends to give you a great sense of humor – and very practical. Every thing she talked about was eminently doable. She also provided some talking points for a difficult decision I made recently.

We are a one-to-one school. Every student has been issued a Chromebook. This was more an issue of physical space than access to technology. We are bursting at the seams and gave up our computer labs this year to add more classrooms. To compensate for this loss, the school district made us a one-to -one school. It has been a blessing in many ways, but it presents dilemmas as well.

Right from the start of the year, I have let students read on their Chromebooks. For the most part, there have been no problems. Yes, a few kids play games, or do homework when they are supposed to be reading, but at this point in the year, I know those who are most likely to do so and keep a close eye on them. My biggest concern has been the amount of screen time students are getting. I’ve stewed about this and last week I announced my plan to the kids: when we return from Spring Break, all independent reading will require a print book. Surprisingly, few kids complained.

In my gut, I knew this to be a good decision, but I lacked the research to back it up. Today, I got it. According to Donalyn Miller, multiple studies has shown that students in one to one programs read less. YIKES! There is a flow to reading a print text that does not happen when reading on a laptop –  people read differently online, skimming and scanning, rather than reading for deeper understanding.

That information alone would have  been enough to make the day great, and it came in the first part of the morning and more good stuff was yet to come. I am going back to school this morning energized and excited to tell my students about the great day I had and begin applying some of what I learned.

 

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TOUCHSTONES

23 Mar

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On Sunday, Donalyn Miller wrote a post entitled Touchstones, that talked about reading experiences and books that have been meaningful to people at different points in their lives. I think everyone who read that post has been thinking about their touchstone books. I certainly have and inspired by Donalyn and by another slicer named Beverly,  here are a few of mine.

First and foremost, comes The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.

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Originally published in 1936, this was the first book I read where I made an intimate connection to a charter. I was a quirky little kid, big-eyed and diffident. Like Ferdinand, I often felt out of step with everyone around me. But here was a book that showed me that I was not alone in my solitude. I can still get weepy talking about Ferdinand, almost 50 years after I first picked it up.

In grade two or three, our library-less  school got a school library. the first book I checked out was Charles Dickens’  A Tale Of Two Cities. I’d heard of it and knew it was a classic, so what the heck. I got called the classroom door the next day and interrogated about checking out the book. I felt like I had done something bad and was embarrassed about using the school library after that. As an adult, I vowed to never make a child feel that way about any book.

My most important touchstone during elementary & middle school was not a book, but a librarian. Lynn Leu was the children’s librarian at my local library. She was the first person who really talked to me about books.

One of the touchstone books of my teen years was Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman.

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I read this multiple times while I was a teen and never tired of the story. It appealed to my sense of wanderlust and showed me a young woman who defied convention and  did not shy away from working to attain what she wanted.

More recently The One and Only Ivan has become a touchstone. Aside from the fact that it is a beautiful book, it came just as I lost the library job I loved so much. I connected with Ivan in a way I never expected and I actually burst into tears when it was announced that Ivan had won the Newbery Award.

TBR

17 May

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Donalyn Miller has a wonderful post today about books entitled All Who Wander. In it she talks about how books took her places as a kid, moving and her TBR piles. TBR stands for to-be-read.  She is moving and has 12 BOXES of TBRs!

I am going to confess my dirty little TBR secret. I abuse the Multnomah County Library rather shamelessly. I have two library cards: a regular one and a teacher card. The teacher card is like a ticket to heaven. On a regular card you check things out for 3 weeks and can have 15 holds.  On a teacher card you can check things out for 6 weeks and have 40 holds. My holds are always maxed, which is no sin. My dirty secret is this: I check things out and they sit on my shelf for 6 weeks and then I renew them until I cannot renew them any more. or until I finally get around to reading them.

I feel a little guilty about this. I know somewhere in the stacks of a  Multnomah County Library branch, someone might stumble upon a book that should be off my TBR shelf and on to the library’s shelves. Yes, I am keeping someone from discover the treasure I am hoarding. But I can’t help myself.

Ranganathan’s  laws of library science state that

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his [or her] book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.

By cultivating and maintaining my TBR pile, I am violating the first three of the laws. But I don’t feel guilty enough to stop. And besides. summer is coming. There are only 4 weeks of school left and once that is here, I plan on devouring all the books I can.

 

 

Something old, something new

24 Dec

I’ve been dipping into a couple of professional books lately. I don’t always read these cover to cover. Sometimes I do, but often I just open and read a chapter , paragraph, a section.

I’ve been thinking about reading of course, but also about being a better writing teacher. I am fascinated by the National Writing Project and I often think I’d like to do the Oregon Writing Project. One book I’ perusing these days is

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It was published in 2003, but still has lots of interesting things to say about writing and the teaching of writing:

..all students can learn to write and that writing is the most visible expression not only of what their students know but also of how well they have learned it.”

“A key element in such systemic change is finding a core group of teachers who write and are enthusiastic about teaching it.”

“…teacher qualifications account for 40 percent of the difference in overall student performance and that teacher quality is more powerful than a student’s socioeconomic background in student learning.”

There is a lot more in there. I just need the time to dig more deeply.

I’ve waited a while for Donalyn Miller’s new book

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Here is her essential question: How can we encourage our students to become independent readers after they leave our class? It mass me wish I was back in the library or teaching middle school Language Arts again.Reading in the Wild is a companion to Miller’s previous book, The Book Whisperer. It explores whether or not we are truly instilling lifelong reading habits in our students and provides practical strategies for teaching “wild” reading.

If your new year’s resolution is to make some sort of change in your professional practice, either or both of these would be excellent resources to help you on your journey.

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