Wednesday, July 9, 2014

CyberPD: Reading in the Wild (Chapters 1 and 2)


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


I bought this book and read it as soon as it came out. But I was missing something--the chance to TALK about it. I was so happy to hear that Cathy, Laura and Michelle chose it for this year's #CyberPD!

Since I am a high school teacher, I come at this from a little different perspective than those of you who teach elementary school, or even middle school. But trust me, I found LOTS AND LOTS of takeaways.

I am a wild reader. I read everything. I share what I read with others. I talk about books with others. And I always have a "next book".  I buy books, check them out from the library, listen to them on audio and read them on my Kindle app.

And I've taught reading in various forms and grade levels for most of my teaching years. Next year, I will be teaching two new classes, College Prep Literature (obviously upper level class for those who plan on going to a four year college) and Individualized Reading (meant for those who need another English credit and are probably not college bound). As I read Reading in the Wild again, those two classes are uppermost in my mind.

Donalyn was right when she wrote in the intro that many secondary teachers don't create a supportive environment for reading. But that doesn't mean all of us. There are plenty of teachers like me. Teachers who put their reading/writing lives front and center in their classrooms. Teachers who share books. Teachers who read aloud. Teachers who recommend great books to kids based on what they know about those kids. Teachers who know that there is a gateway book out there for everyone.

Chapter 1: Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read

I've been thinking for weeks about how I will share the importance of reading with my juniors in CPLit. Besides the obvious--they'll be doing LOTS of reading in college, a lot more than they are used to--I need to work with them on understanding what it means to be a lifelong reader, a wild reader. I also need to convince them they do have time for reading.

Two years ago, after reading Kittle's Book Love, I began giving my students ten minutes at the beginning of class for independent reading. We figured how many pages they could read in two hours, kept track of what we read, and nothing else. No reading logs, no quizzes, no projects. Just read. Even my conferences with them were informal. They were expected to read outside of class to complete their page count. With sports practices, jobs, friends, family, and high school life in general, my job will be to show them how "reading on the edge" will help them continue reading. I need to make sure they understand that they don't have to sit down and read for an hour after school every day, or even a half hour. They need to keep they books handy and read when they have a few moments.

I loved the questions that Donalyn shared in the "reading itinerary" section. I'm going to create my own and have students write blog posts about them. It will be very similar to the writing autobiography that I have students complete in Creative Writing. I think it's important for students to think and reflect on their reading lives and those questions sound like a great blog post to me :)

Chapter 2: Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material

Much of chapter 2 has great ideas I can use in individualized reading. I like the reflection questions and conversations Donalyn has with students. We will definitely talk about getting through the slow parts and abandoning books that we have given a good shot but just aren't grabbing our attention. I want to conference with each of them about books they've liked in the past and how they choose books now. These are readers who may struggle or may just not like reading. It will be my job in the first few days to get past those obstacles and get them to choose books they really like, not the easy ones, the ones with not a lot of pages, not the ones they've read three or four times (although there is a place for that).

I share books in many different ways with students. I put book trailers on my website. I keep a list of books I've read during the school year on my door. I book talk anything new that comes into my room. But I want students to share their books and I'm trying to come up with ways for them to do that without it becoming just another "diorama project". I want to think of ways for them to share, to connect, to try new reads. In Individualized Reading, I can make the sharing part of the class expectations. In CP Lit this is the tough part. I want them to read independently, so how do a I reconcile having them write a review or make a book trailer?  I guess it's something I'll just keep thinking about.....

Curating a Classroom Library
I worked in my room at school today, getting my classroom library put back together again after my room has been cleaned. 

I love my classroom library. I'm very lucky to have supportive administrators who see the value in reading. This is an old picture--I've added more shelves and more books since this one was taken a couple of years ago.  I have library cards in all of my books and students sign them and put them in a box I keep on my desk. When they are finished, they find the card, put it back in the book and put the book back in the returned book bin. I generally put them back on the shelf, although after the first few weeks, many students put them back also.

Do I lose books? Of course.  I have purchased two copies of Insurgent in the last year and both have disappeared. When I taught middle school, I lost count of how many copies of She Said Yes I bought. For whatever reason, books disappear. If it's worth replacing, I do. If not, well, I cross it off my inventory.

How do I get them? I haunt garage sales and Goodwill stores. I've found lots of treasures for little money by doing that. But as I said earlier, I also use part of our department budget for purchasing books and I can also use at-risk funds for buying books. I keep a list of books I want for my room and have an order ready whenever they tell me there is money.  Like a good scout, I am always prepared.

Until next week!


  1. Hooray for reading in high school! Deb - I love how you give students time each day for reading, and help them figure out what books to pick. So many teachers won't take the time to help students stay and become readers - you're making a big difference!

  2. So happy to see this post! I teach pre-service teachers and I am always looking for high school teachers who create effective reading environments for their students. My students have never experienced reading workshop themselves, and even though they want their classrooms to be like Nancie Atwell's, Penny Kittle's, Donalyn Miller's, it's so hard to create something you've never actually seen or experienced yourself and of course much of the literature on reading workshop focuses on elementary and middle school. Will definitely be sharing your blog with my students!

    1. Thanks for sharing. It's hard to create those environments even when you are right in the middle of them. You just have to keep doing what works for your students and your room.

  3. Deb Day,
    I loved loved loved your post. It was fun to peek inside your classroom. Though I teach first grade, I found many takeaways from your post. I admire the work you do in such a short time. One of the gifts of teaching elementary school is that we have the entire day with students. It is much easier to find the time to make these systems work. Kudos to you, for working to find a way to make what you value work in such a limited amount of time.

    I'm so glad you are joining the conversation,

  4. Deb Day,

    Thank you for so generously sharing how you support readers in a high school classroom. I know it can be done, because I've done it, but your post makes it so concrete and, like Elisabeth said, I will be sharing this with many pre and in-service teachers. I've struggled with organizing a classroom library, and although I've often seen the neat and tidy baskets of books in elementary classrooms, it never dawned on me to use that idea in my upper school classroom. Thanks for the pictures!

    I look forward to learning more with you,

  5. Deb,
    I was going to write last night, but fell asleep after reading to my kids. I feel fabulous this morning, but am still cleaning up last night's mess. Oh well!
    So, I was thinking about your post last night. In this book club group we have teachers from across the grade levels, kindergarten to college! We all feel we want to create students who love reading, and it leaves me wondering why this isn't simply accomplished early on so that by the time a student gets to a college prep level course Wild Reading and "reading on the edge" aren't firmly established habits. In a higher level high school course, where all the students will head to college SOON, I'd sort of expect they'd have developed these habits, and I feel sad that they haven't. I certainly know a few who have not! I was thinking it would be really interesting to do a Wild Reader's Survey of students across the grades and try to figure out if that number goes up as they age. Maybe in my grade 2 class I will have 2 wild readers in September, hopefully 75% of my class or more by June. But I'd hope that a high school CP English teacher would start the year with at least 75% of her class already reading in their spare time, talking about books with friends and family, and generally leading a reader's life. Maybe we'd find the a person's wild reading waxes and wanes over the years: lots of reading at age 8, but less in the teen years, then increasing again as one approaches the end of an education career, finally exploding later in life. I know that I am reading more now than I was a year ago. My kids are more independent, I am not nearly as exhausted now that my baby is two. I am still, however, reading less than I was 5 years ago when I didn't have children and could binge read basically all summer (and on weekends, and during Winter Break) if I felt like it.
    I have been looking for an essay Donalyn Miller shared about her daughter reading 3 books for her high school English class. That's 3 TOTAL for the entire semester. I can't find it though. I did find this one, which I think is good for any high school teacher to read. (Maybe you have already?)

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Sorry....forgot the link!

    Also, sorry for posting with another account. Confusing, I know! :) But Blogger hates me and likes to make my life tricky.

    1. I have read this Nerdy post by Donalyn. I'm with her...I hate summer reading lists and don't assign books over the summer. although this year my 9th graders did ask for a list of books I'd recommend for summer reading. And several took a stack home with them on the last day.

      Also, I plan on surveying my juniors and seniors this year and finding out what their reading habits are and have been. It will be fun to see if their ideas change by the end of the semester!

  8. So key to her the high school perspective. Donalyn's book dovetails nicely with Penny's - wild readers need to be encouraged across grade levels. I think, though, that it's the habits that are cultivated in the early years that allow our high school kids that longing to continue reading books they want to read, even as they make their way through the AP lists, and so on. And, they need high school teachers like Penny and you who allow them (and encourage them) to find ways to fulfill that longing.

  9. Wow, Deb, as usual ... I see you have been doing lots of thinking! I love that you are thinking about how you will approach cultivating wild readers in each of your two very different classes. And I'm glad we get to TALK about it too! You are an amazing teacher and I love hearing how you are reaching your students. (Your words are so easy to read ...)

    Love hearing about your independent reading plans with your students. That is exactly how it should be! No quizzes, no reading logs, no projects. Just read. And the edge reading conversations are key, especially for those extra busy high schoolers!

    And that library ... you should be so proud! Access to books is essential and your kids can never say, "I can't find a book ..." Lucky that you get to start organizing your library already! (I can never get into my classroom but a week before school starts!)

    Keep doing what you are doing. And I thank you for making a difference in so many high school students lives ... creating wild readers with such passion because even though you think there are plenty of teachers like you. I say otherwise. You are pretty unique!

    Can't wait to hear more next week!! So glad to hear your voice. It's been awhile ...

  10. Deb,
    Your post made me smile, because #cyberPD participants are teaching at all different grade levels, we have so much in common. We all struggle with having our kids respond to their reading in thoughtful ways, we all feel the need to teach our students about reading in the "edges," and we all want to foster wild reading! After reading your post, it sounds like yours is a high school classroom I would've enjoyed. You also reminded me that I need to go back and reread Penny's Book Love book!

  11. I so wish that I would not have to require my students to take quizzes after reading! Unfortunately, we have AR even in high school! I loved taking a peek at your classroom library. I can't wait to get to reorganize mine in August (can't get in yet as painting is taking place). Have you found any great (great content) books for high schoolers who read at low reading level? Any recommendations on how much time for choice vs. required reading in high school setting?

    1. UGH.. I am so glad that AR is not required in our district (although some teachers use it) I give my students the first 10 minutes of each class period to read. Every. Day. On our early out days, I give them the whole 20 minutes.

      Many of my low readers went back to what they were familiar with at first. I keep Gary Paulson, Jerry Spinelli, Judy Blume and other middle grade books in my room. Kids like to start with what is familiar. Once they get started reading and I know them better, it is easier for me to recommend some other books.

      Try Wonder by RJ Palacio, The One and Only Ivan by Applegate, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. The Buford High books are also popular with some.

    2. Thank you Deb! Many of those books I have. The One and Only Ivan is now on my TBP list!