Monday, July 14, 2014

#CyberPD: Readers Need Other Readers

I'm joining professionals from all over the world for this year's CyberPD as they explore Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild. I'll be blogging and tweeting my thoughts out as I read. #Cyberpd is hosted by @cathymere at Reflect and Refine@laurakomos at Ruminate and Invigorate, and @litlearningzone at Literacy Zone. If you'd like to join in, check out any of their blogs or follow the hashtag #cyberPD

Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books with Other Readers

Can I tell you how much I want my high school reading classes to look and sound like the classes Donalyn describes in the opening pages of chapter 3?  I want to create that environment, that culture that screams, "It's cool to read!  Reading is valued here!" I've been scribbling notes to myself for an hour. Things I want to remember to do in my classroom to enhance and share our reading community.

And don't you love the questions Miller shared from Jeff Wilhem?
"What's your bottom line? What do you really want to happen for your students? Now, how does what you do every day serve that bottom line?"

Those are such great questions for teachers to ask themselves each year before school starts. I know I will be thinking a lot about them in the weeks to come.

I've taught grades 7-12 for 25 years. I've taught remedial classes, gifted classes, and everyone in between. Here's what I know: Many kids don't like reading or won't admit to liking reading because they aren't very good at it. Others don't like reading or won't admit to liking because they don't want to be labeled as "smart" or a "nerd". Both groups feel like no one would listen to them when it comes to the books they like.


If you can create that reading community and make reading a valuable part of your class time, everyone's voice gets heard.  This year I taught two periods of freshmen English. We read every day. One of my "epicenter" readers was also very quiet and had been homeschooled for many years. She was smart and articulate but hesitant to speak out in class at times. Eventually, though, other epicenter readers began asking her about the books she was reading. And one on one she would share. By the end of the year, she was much better at sharing with others who were not in her small circle of friends.  I truly believe the reason was she knew and others knew that reading was valued in our room.

I need to do an even better job of creating community, of creating a reading valued classroom and I wrote down lots of ideas from chapter 3.

I loved my reading door this year. But it was all mine. The idea of getting kids to take it over appeals to me. I'd love to get them to create their own reading doors on their lockers, but I think that would be too much for high school students (at least this first semester of me teaching these classes). Taking over the door sounds like a great project for my new Individualized Reading class!

I also have plans for a graffiti wall. I think I have a great place for it. Right behind the couch on the wall beside the book cases.  Hope I can get it all arranged so it works out well.

I'm seriously considering having my students create Goodreads accounts and creating a group for them.  I know they will be writing some reviews and blog posts about what they are reading. Will have to think about the timing of it all and how to fit this into a 45 minute class period.

Other things to try: book commercials, book trailers, and more speed dating with books. But this year, instead of students passing books around and jotting down titles that sound interesting, I'd like to change it up once students have been reading a bit. I've thought about having half the class sit with a couple of books they have read. The other half of the class would "date"  them. The students with the books could quickly book talk them and the date could ask any questions they wanted about the books. Then the next time we could switch book talkers and daters.  I haven't worked this out fully in my head yet, but I think it could work.

And I MUST do a better job of conferring--especially in Individualized Reading. I like the idea of recording conferences. My ipad may be getting a workout this coming school year :)  

Chapter 4: Wild Readers Have Reading Plans

And here's where I "fail".  Although I make plans on what and when I'll read, I don't share this with my students, nor do I work with them to create their own. 


First, I want Individualized Reading and College Prep Lit to create a reading goal for the semester. How many books do they think they can read during the course of the semester they are with me.  I'll make one too and keep my results posted in the room. We can talk about how many books that reading rate can translate into if they plan their reading.

And I know that they will tell me they don't have time. 

Because sometimes I think I don't have time either....

We'll look at their how much homework they normally have...if they are in sports....have a job....all the things that fill their days. 

And then, we'll work on carving out time to read. And, we'll revisit reading rates and reading time periodically throughout the semester to make sure those things are still working.

Speed dating and book talks will help them keep a list of what they want to read next. 


Building a Personal Canon
I couldn't not (how do like that double negative?) write about this.....

My shelves at home and at school show this....

Part of my personal canon on display in my room
When kids ask me what my favorite book is, I always tell them I can't pick just one, that I have many. And if they keep pushing, I share a few with them.  I write about books that mean a lot to me. I want to find a way for students to share their own, something other than a blog post.  

Something I'll be thinking about the rest of the summer, I'm sure.


  1. Deb,

    Wow - that is a long list of things to do this year. What do you think will give the biggest bang for the buck when you first return to school? When I work with teachers, I encourage them to focus on changing one practice at the time to be able to build momentum. Too much to do and some people get overwhelmed. What do you think?

    I like the idea of handing over the door to the students is a fairly easy change, and one that I'm sure students will love doing! One teacher I worked with had the students use the ceiling tiles to create book ads. The tiles could be removed and painted on by the students and returned to the drop ceiling. It looked really great.

    Speed dating books - lovely idea! It isn't as formal as a book report and gets students to talk to each other, not just listen to a presentation!

    Hope you keep posting pictures as you implement these ideas. I really appreciate the glimpse into your classroom.

    Best wishes,

    1. Thanks, Suzanne. I do some of these ideas in one way or another now. Just thinking about ways to up my game a bit. And I will definitely be blogging about them :)

  2. Thank you for sharing. Enjoyed reading your reflections and plans!

  3. I heard a piece on NPR today about a man who has created a curriculum to try to combat that feeling that starts in middle school that says you can't be smart, you're a nerd if you get caught with a book, etc. What a sad thing. He thought that if we could get parents to model more, kids might change their attitudes, that sometimes parents forget that they need to show they're readers too. I'm not sure that parents can do it all, but it was interesting to hear his concerns about this attitude & then hear you say it too, Deb. I love all those ideas too, & talked about Goodreads accounts-great for the older kids, but for me, maybe a school account where families could share their ideas, maybe get them on board too along with their children. I love the door idea, & to see if you can get your students to take it over. And nice to hear about your own 'epicenter' girl. Best wishes for all these ideas.

    1. I really think this has so much to do with school culture! I used to live in an affluent community in New Jersey, one where schools published the percentage of their graduating seniors that were heading to school. Many of them even published the name of the university/college/trade school their students had been accepted to along side the student's name in the school newspaper in June! (Pressure!!) Nobody thought learning was nerdy because in that community it was expected and celebrated. I don't think it is a teenager attitude problem, but a difference in community expectations. By contrast, I next lived in a community where university was considered a luxury. Many of the adults in the community would proudly proudly state that they hadn't been to university (or even finished high school!) and "I'm doing just fine!" In that community there was a high drop out rate. Not a coincidence if you ask me.

  4. Deb,
    As an elementary teacher I love reading about how you could apply all of this in your classroom. It sounds very do-able. Even in elementary school some of the kids think it is not cool too love reading. That was a big mindset shift that happened in our class this year- when some of the "hardened" "I don't like to read" kids started sharing books they loved. Thank goodness for your epicenter readers! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Deb, I too enjoy this high school perspective. I am wondering if popular series, such as Twilight or Hunger Games, do anything at all to make reading un-nerdy. Is there any positive peer pressure to get to the "cool" books? My niece (age 14) was at a school where there was often a waiting list at the library for certain books (Fault in Our Stars, City of Bones, etc.) so that made me think that reading was cool for a certain number of kids, at least where certain books were concerned. I know that here in Ontario there is a book award given every year by kids through the Ontario Library Association. (Forest of Reading) The books become hot commodities and everyone wants to read the book that might become the winning book. Very exciting stuff! I'm not sure the excitement is transferred over to other books though. I suppose the right teacher could make it so.

  6. Great to have the high school perspective, Deb. I think that a lot of readers are "lost" in middle school - 7th. and 8th.grades in particular, when class novels which take weeks and weeks to read become the norm. Our 7th. grade class spends an entire quarter on "The Outsiders" !!! No wonder our kids tune out on reading by the time high school arrives.
    Love all your insight and goals for the new year - I've been keeping a list, too - and it's getting long!

  7. Love your posts on this book, Deb. I had my college students create reading goal this time, and it met with mixed success. In my Adolescent Lit course, students loved it and set very specific and ambitious goals. In Children's Lit, where students aren't yet committed readers, the goals and plans were very vague because students don't know who they are as readers yet. I'm planning to postpone goal-setting in that course next time and see if that helps. I had students write check-in letters to me every 3-4 weeks and I was able to work with them individually on carving out time to read, finding books to enjoy, etc. Really like being able to do more individual work with students. I really fall short with individual conferences. Just can't seem to make them work in my class. Got to try harder next year!

  8. Deb,
    Where to begin? First of all, I just always enjoy stopping by your blog. Your words and reflections just flow on the page and I find my eyes just moving along effortlessly.

    I enjoyed reading about your plans for next year. I admire your goal to confer with readers and know it must be a challenge to make that work in limited time periods. As an elementary teacher, I do have the gift of time (though it rarely feels like there is enough).

    Love love love your new dating idea. It seems like a bit more of a "long term relationship". Sorry, I just couldn't resist. It does sound like it would allow students to get to know books a little more before making decisions and also require more of the person sharing titles with others. I can't wait to hear how it goes.

    I'm so glad you have joined the conversation. I think this book is perfect for thinking about changes we want to make in the upcoming school year.


  9. Love you ideas and suggestions for implementation, and I want to hear more about "book speed dating" !

  10. Deb,
    I so wish my daughter could be in your high school english class! She thinks it's cool to NOT like reading! She had a teacher in 10th grade who used GoodReads to help readers share and discuss books. It was interesting how she was had readers all talking about book even which each reading their own book choice! I think this was a hook for a lot of kids who didn't realize there can be teenage drama in reading…LOL prior to this I think my reader thought reading was all about bubbling in answers!
    I love the speed dating idea, I wonder if kids would go for- What book of book character would you take to homecoming or prom?

  11. Deb,
    I love your honesty in your post!! Those types of reflections are so powerful in helping us to grow as educators. I had a lot of those really honest conversations with myself this year as I made the transition to 4th grade.

    I absolutely love the way you display some of the books from your personal reading canon!! I might have to borrow that idea...

  12. Love the Speed Dating idea...
    Not sure about this use of the word 'canon'.
    Isn't it more like a shrine, a monument or even niche or sanctuary? But I like the idea of the display of favorites.
    How about having students create "doors" and "graffiti" for the school's library, cafeteria and/or halls also? It might be kind of fun to do a "sneak" attack on a classroom or office door!