Friday, June 20, 2014

Reading In The Wild: Chapter 1

Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer transformed my classroom these past two years, so I was excited to see a book study was started to discuss Donalyn's new book, Reading in the Wild.  I'm linking up with Jivey to talk about Chapter 1.  

I totally relate to Donalyn's first chapter where she talks about how reading is a part of who she is.  As the daughter of a librarian, I feel like I grew up in a library and have a special love for books.  I love that quote of Meg Ryan's from the movie You've Got Mail where she says, "When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does."  

Some of my most vivid memories of childhood involve books...getting Little House in the Big Woods for Christmas, spending a whole summer reading the Anne of Green Gables series, finishing Gone With the Wind on Christmas Eve and crying my eyes out.  I want all the students in my classroom to feel the same way about the books they read in 5th grade!

Something funny happened today that shows just how dorky I am when it comes to books. My husband and I were hanging out at Panera in Ann Arbor passing the time while we waited for our daughter, Bonny, to finish taking the GRE test.  I was working on a lesson to go with the book The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

I was telling my husband what a great story it was, and I made him read it.  Then I was talking to him about the symbolism I see in the story and some of my favorite parts, and I said, "I love this line...As he went to the door, he turned and smiled, then waved goodbye.  "I'll carry you all in here," he said, and pointed to his heart."  I said, "He's talking about the books!", and I actually teared up.  My husband took one look at me with tears in my eyes and started laughing hysterically until he was literally crying too but for a different reason!  Yes, I am a dork about books!

Donalyn talks in Chapter 1 about reading every day and everywhere.  I do not go to sleep ever without reading first.  Even if it is only for five minutes.  I will often think to matter what, lights out by 9:30, and lo and behold it's 10:15, and I haven't been able to put the book down.  But even on those nights when I could fall asleep before my head hits the pillow, I still read for a few minutes first.  

I love how Donalyn talks about having reading emergencies.  I hate it when I end up sitting somewhere idle for even five minutes and I don't have a book with me to read.  And does anyone else get annoyed that almost every waiting room now has a tv on, interrupting what to me is a sacred reading space?  

I started some things in my classroom this past year after being inspired by The Book Whisperer.  I started Mrs. Rye's Recommended Reads, a part of my library where I display books that I love.  Each week I would add one book to the section.

I talked about this in my post Spark Student Motivation to Read, and you can check it out here.  I also made reading the only free time option, trying to capture all those minutes throughout the day.  Back when I got my masters in reading (over twenty years ago when I was a newbie) I did my final project on how many minutes students actually spend reading during reading class.  I was team teaching at the time and my teammate did the reading instruction while I was in a supporting role.  I secretly recorded how many minutes the students actually spent reading.  It was a shockingly low number!  But that was back in the day of a basal reader where you spent five days on one story.  It made me want to pull my hair out by the third day and changed the way I taught reading ever since.  

There is one part of chapter 1 that I struggle with, the status of the class.  I have done it before and felt like it was a waste of precious time.  Maybe I'm not doing it right, I don't know.  But I would love to hear what you guys think about this.  Do you do it?  Is it useful?


  1. Oh Stephanie, you made me smile! That line ... "I'll carry you all in here" is one of my favorite parts of the book. Love, love, love that book!

    Regarding the status of the class, I was thinking the same thing. I'm not sure about having ALL 34 of my students report out EVERY day. Maybe a few could report out to the whole class and the others would share within their table groups. I like the concept and the form, but have to figure out how to make it work for me. I also noticed that Donalyn mentions that they only use Status of the Class for the first 4 weeks. I'd love to hear more from folks who have used it.

  2. Love your post! I was fortunate enough to attend a " Book Whisperer" seminar last summer and incorporated many of Donalyn's techniques in my classroom. We did use the Status of the Class form twice a week. I would ask the students to fill in the next blank line on the form with the info on the book they were currently reading. We did not share this out loud. However, I would refer to this form during conferences. Helps to hold students accountable.

  3. "And does anyone else get annoyed that almost every waiting room now has a tv on, interrupting what to me is a sacred reading space?" Amen!! Yes, yes, and YES! So true. I loved reading your post. I've really enjoyed reading Reading in the Wild and keep looking for time to continue reading :)

    I really like your bulletin board idea and pinned it so I won't forget! Having the books up as visuals is so smart. Can't wait to get started!!

    Happy weekend :)

    XO, Kelly Anne

  4. I love your story about tearing up over books. My husband always tells me that if I could live anywhere in the world... it would be inside of a Barnes and Noble. My sons and I all agree..... we could totally make that happen!

    Love the bulletin board!
    Think, Wonder, & Teach

  5. I love the display! Thank you for sharing. Regarding status of the class...Nancie Atwell was the first to talk about this in her book Reading Workshop. I believe she also uses it in writing workshop. Anyway, even though I only have 19 students and it does take up a good 5-8 minutes, I have seen it's power among my students. They are really curious about what everyone is reading, especially if many kids are reading a particular title. The SOTC also created mini book trailers that entice others. If they see me having a secretive conversation with someone about what part they are in, it really intrigues them. In the beginning of the year, SOTC is my way of holding them accountable for reading for homework. I talk to them about me being able to see reasonable progress day to day. I believe she also recommends having the kids sign in each day as a SOTC? Here are some ways I've sped it up:
    1. They know when I'm doing SOTC, they need to have their page numbers ready so I can go quickly. Some of them even write the page on a post it and read while I'm doing it! If they are reading the right book, they can tune me out!
    2. I sometimes do it as part of reading conferences. So, I'll get to 6 kids one day, 6 the next and so on.
    3. I often go around the room and peek over their shoulders while they are already settled reading.
    4. If my TA is available, I have her do it. This sounds like the best strategy but I have actually found that I need to see for myself where they are so that I can make mental notes.

    I hope you reconsider SOTC as a valuable tool in a workshop each day. It really has changed and helped me in so many ways!

  6. I'm your newest follower! I love finding other 5th grade makes my day! Are you self-contained or departmentalized?


  7. I love the theory of Status of the Class, but have never actually tried it. I would be interested in hearing from someone who has used it and loved it. :) I love that you keep a bulletin board of book recommendations. My 5th graders love when we've read them same books, so I'm sure these books are immediately scooped up. Great idea! :)