Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Walking the Walk - Chapter 5

The saying “Do as I say, not as I do” does not apply to Donalyn Miller’s class.  She is very much an avid reader and this is why her students really trust her opinions and recommendations concerning books.  They see her reading along with them and they know she values reading with her whole heart.  This is not something someone can fake either you love to read or you don’t.  In Chapter 5 Walking the Walk, Miller gives us her views on how teachers are such important role models to our students sometimes even more so then parents.  It is popular to blame parents for the students’ lack of good reading habits or disengagement of reading altogether.  Miller’s reminds us that at one point these same parents were once are students as well.  Who then will become the role model for the student?  It is not uncommon to say our students are more likely to spend more awake time with their teacher then their parents.  We are in a society where both parents will have to work to support the household.  They might have had a bad reading experience when they were younger.  They could also be like our students today where they have no good role models of passionate readers.  Miller mention’s Rosenblatt’s transactional theory in which she states the teachers who have no love of reading will usually teach reading as more of efferent style which a more skills based approach.  Whereas teachers who love reading teach it with an aesthetic approach and these are the teachers who will have a greater chance of making an influential difference with our students reading habits.  “If we want our students to read and enjoy it for the rest of their lives, then we must show them what a reading life looks like” (Miller 110).

So how can we become good reading role models to our students?   We have to find our inner reader and self reflect on our reading history.  We have to be honest and share our experiences with our students, the good ones and the bad ones.  This is a great way to connect with our students, show them we once were just like them.  Miller also has a reading improvement plan we as teachers can follow:

o   Commit to a certain amount of reading per day.

o   Choose books to read that are personally interesting to you.

o   Read more books for children.

o   Take recommendations from you own students.

o   Investigate recommendations from industry sources.

o   Create your own reader’s notebook.

o   Reflect on what you are reading.

This chapter was a great way to remind us how much influence we have on our students and ways we can improve our own reading habits.   

Monday, November 4, 2013

Reading Freedom - Chapter 4

How does a good reader choose a book?  Is there a right way or a wrong way?  In the opening of this chapter Miller leads a discussion with her students on ways to choose books.  It is all about honesty in her classroom, so it is nice to see that she does address how she herself chooses book by the length, since most students usually look at length when they are required to read a book.  I’ll admit I do the same thing during my own courses when I am given a selection to choose from.  It’s in this discussion the dreaded comment of “Books are boring” is spoken.  How do you respond to a statement like that in the classroom?  As I think to myself, “Yeah, some books are boring especially that one I read a couple of months ago!” Again it’s all about honesty in her class so it’s refreshing to see that she backs up her philosophy.  Miller agrees to this statement and even shares some of her experiences with her own set of boring books.  Her students have the right to abandon books if they are not a good fit or “boring” and they have a right to explore the different genres and levels. 

Miller also gives some more insight on her 40 book requirement in this chapter as well.  She breaks them up into genres so all students can be acquainted with the different types out there.  Not only does this help the students find their reading niche, but it also helps her design this type of curriculum to meet the states standards and district mandates.  Do all students meet this 40 book standard? Most do but there still might be a few who do not, yet the fewest number of books read was one particular student who read through 22.  Twenty two is still a staggering number of books to be read through a school year.  “It is important to celebrate milestones with students and focus on their reading successes, not their failure to meet requirements, which only serves to discourage students” (Miller 83).

Some of her students would read books about video games, or even comic books.  Are we as teachers supposed to discourage this reading and force them to read books that we feel are better literary works?  “Teachers lose credibility with students when they ignore the cultural trends and issues that interest them and instead design classroom reading instruction around books that are “good for you”” (Miller 85).  Miller has a great way of introducing different authors and books to her students by keeping Read-Alouds in the class.  Another great way she introduces different books is by learning about the different genres.  As she sets out tubs of a certain genre, students use their prior knowledge and notes from previous discussions to better identify the books.  This will help them to learn what is available to them in their classroom library.  These students and even Miller will then use a notebook to track reading progress of each genre, each book read and abandoned, recommendations, and response entries.  Miller uses these to create a dialogue between her and the students when they meet.  This type of communication is authentic and real.