My Slice: A Day of Wild Reading

sols_6First I must confess – my district doesn’t go back till the 13th of January, so I’m still getting ready to go back.

I love how the first day back from break can be like a second first day of school.  I thought I’d rearrange desks, bring out new books. Perhaps new notebooks.

I sit at the dining room table, wondering about revitalizing reading after three weeks away, when I spot my brand new copy of Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild.  I think, I’ll just read a little, and then go back to planning….Not possible. Donalyn, you just picked me up and next thing I know I’m half way through the book.

It’s interesting how some things just float to you. Maybe it was reading Dana Murphy’s post on her one little word that got me to open the book and not put it down. Donalyn’s thinking just floated up as natural as can be.

By page 7, I grab a piece of loose leaf note paper next to me. I start in the center of the page, letting the ideas hit me and then connect.

Image

Image

Book finished. I look over my notes, and think, what can I do now, next week?

1.  Plan to alternate units of study, reading or writing. The elements of my reading and writing classroom are still there: read aloud, independent reading and writing,  as well as small group conferring. But the whole group mini lesson focus is on one area of study, reading or writing. Not both simultaneously, they alternate. I practically cried when I read this. It makes sense. It lessens the teaching time and maximizes the student reading and writing time. It addresses my limitations: I can’t do it all very well, and neither can the students.

2. Tools for Wild Readers.  The whole concept of a “Wild Reader” is a reader who lives the reader’s life outside the confines of the classroom. Readers that sneak reading in those little spaces of time, the in-between moments; that always have a book within reach, a book on deck and a list of books to be read. My readers are mostly at school readers. And I get that. Donalyn gets that too. Which is so real. It’s time to give my students a chance to be wild readers, to take ownership of their reading with new tools.Their notebooks need to have these tools on board: a place to put a TBR list and a place to record their reading in a meaningful way.

3. A Library App: My library is a living, breathing mess, a monster at times. I spend hours reorganizing and discovering missing books. I’ve tried many systems. It continues to be far less than good and time consuming for students and me. But hey, silly me there is an app for that! A computerized check out that scans IBSN numbers. Here’s the free app from Booksource.com called classroom organizer. I downloaded it to my phone, entered student names, and tried scanning a couple of books. Easy as pie. It will take a while to get all the books scanned, but I have energetic 5th graders who would love this work during lunch time and after school.

4. Reader’s Door: I never got this done on the first, first day of school. The reminder in the book plus my new #mustreadin2014 list has inspired me. I’m imagining what I read over the break and my TBR books covering the door with an invitation for students take this over, making their plans concrete.

5. Graffiti Wall: We’ve done this with Read Aloud. It’s time to take it up an notch and get to those independent reads.

2013-12-20 18.15.14
From Wonder

The Bottom Line.  Reading in the Wind reminds me to reflect on the bottom line. What do I want my student to walk away with when they finish fifth grade? Not just the ability to read, but the knowledge in their bones of what reading can and should feel like. This will happen on different levels for kids, but it will happen for all. That’s my bottom line.

It was a great day of wild reading. Not what I had planned to do, yet it turned out  to be exactly what I needed to do.

Inquiry Work: Read Aloud vs. Independent Reading

My students came in today so excited you’d think it was the day before Winter Break. I couldn’t figure out why they were so amped. So I asked.

“What is our new read aloud?!” they shouted.

We have read two wonderful books this year: Wonder and Out of My Mind. With the end of one, they can’t wait for the next one. I love this, but they don’t come in that way after they finish their own books. This behavior coupled with some seeds planted in my head by Steve Peterson, pushed me to do a little inquiry.

Exactly how different is the read aloud experience compared to the experience students have when they read independently? How far a part are they? How different? Is it like apples and oranges or more like tangerines and oranges?

There is a difference, even for me. When I prepare for a read aloud, I have probably read the text at least five times, with many lenses. The multiple reads help as does the multiple ideas I get from student input during read aloud. In the end, my understanding is far deeper than what it was the first time I read the text.

I know students are not doing the deep processing in their independent reading like they do during read aloud — there is no way they could. My wondering is: How can the gap between the two become smaller?

I wondered what students thought the difference was and how they thought they could make their independent reading experience more like read aloud. So in small groups, I asked:  How is read aloud different than reading independently?

Each student identified about two issues. Top mentions included…

  • I jot more.
  • I know when to jot.
  • Hearing and seeing the words help me.
  • I have someone near me to ask when I don’t understand.
  • Group discussions help me understand.
  • You are reading, so it’s easier to think.

Then I asked a follow up …

  • How could you know when to jot?
  • How could you hear the story?
  • How could you get group input about your book?
  • How could you make the reading easier?

Here are some of their responses…

  • I could put post its on pages I’m have problems/wonderings about and bring it to my group for discussion.
  • I could use a whisperphone to hear my story.
  • I could use the signposts (Notice and Note) to tell me when to jot.
  • I could jot when I have a wondering.
  • I could jot when I notice a pattern.

Mind you these are all suggestions and teaching points I have given them in the past, but I acted like it was a huge aha for me.

The most interesting and most difficult comment to address was this:You are reading, so it’s easier to think.

Ideally reading is thinking, but for a struggling reader or the reader who is trying to dig deeper, the thinking work is a second step (or maybe even a third step). So we talked about how we could make the reading work easier so it would be easier to think.

Our discussion went like this:

Me: How could you make the reading easier, so you could think?
Student: Read an easier book.
Me: Yes, that’s an option. What else could you do?
Student: Read a book I read before.
Me: Ok. What else could you do?
Student: I could reread.
Me: Do you have to reread everything?
Student: No, only the important parts and when I’m confused.
Me: So how do you know when it’s important?
Student: (He pointed to the charts with Notice and Note signposts), or when I see a pattern.
Me: Ok. So what could be your goal? How are you gonna make your independent reading more like read aloud?
Student: Re read important parts so I can think about it.

Cool I think. Organic close reading.

I know that they won’t necessarily do this every time they pick up a book, but the goals are written. That’s step one.

It is up to both of us now.

They try. I check. We adjust and try again.

It’s not perfect, but perhaps the gap got a little smaller today and the expectation a little clearer.