#cyberPD: Reading in the Wild (3 week of 3)

Skitch-2012-06-10 11_22_09 +0000This post is the last of the summer #cyberPD  series on Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild. This is my second read of this book and the first one as a group. My experience has proven re-reading is essential for understanding and reading with others provides a third read. Thanks to Michelle Nero of Literacy Learning Zone for hosting today’s thoughts.

At the end of the book this quote struck me as a clear mission statement:

By the end of the school year, our students have practiced all of the lifelong reading habits in our classrooms, they have reflected on their personal reading behaviors, and they have developed the tools and skills they need to become independent readers without our support. (Kindle Locations 3401-3403 emphasis added).

As I think about my students to be, my planning revolves around this idea– creating lifelong reading habits through practice, reflection and skill development.


Chapter five is all about reading preferences and how student and teacher understanding of preference is crucial for growing wild, independent readers.

Like so many kids in our classes, I used to love science fiction and fantasy.  But it changed. Now, as other wild adult readers I gravitate toward historical and realistic fiction. Perhaps the young are seeking the future, the fantastic, because they are at a place where all things are possible. Whatever the reason, it is important to acknowledge this difference between adult and child preference and be mindful of it when we are recommending books or choosing read alouds. What we love, they might not! 

Understanding genre leads to independence in reading.  This is an aha for me.  In the past, surveys about preference in my classroom have garnered responses like funny books, scary books, dog books, or at best, mystery. Most of my students will mention former read alouds as favorites. This is telling.  Reading through this chapter mades me acutely aware of the need to develop students’ understanding of genre as a step toward understanding what they seek in a book. The ability to articulate a preference through genre is a skill and will move them closer to becoming independent readers. They aren’t there YET, but this clearly needs to be a goal.

Genre requirements –– I have never done had genre requirements in my classroom, and I think it’s time. Grow my students’ ability to know what they like is extremely important. The choice of a book should not be a stumbling block to reading. Based on the units of study I’m teaching, my library and the emphasis on the informational text of the common core, I’ve adjusted Donalyn’s minimums slightly.  The minimum requirements will be 4 books from  realistic fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction genres;  2 books each from  biography, poetry and graphic novel genres; 12 books for informational; and 10 books for choice.  It may get sticky, but at the very least they will be aware of what they are choosing.

Students need to keep track of their reading as a means of reflection.  I’d love to have information on where, when and how much students read outside of class, but the daily reading log  hasn’t been an accurate tool. The majority of readers in my classroom either fake, lose, or forget to log in.  BUT I know readers need to keep track of their reading for growth and reflection, so I’m working on a modified versions of status of the class for their notebooks, an itinerary assessment every six weeks,  and cumulative reading log to be maintained at school. My goals would be to get realistic measures of reading without becoming a big take away from reading. In the end my hope would be that students can notice trends and monitor their growth to set volume and genre goals.

Conferring is difficult. Every year I get a little better at it, and every year I re examine how I do it. Most of my students read in partnership or clubs, so when I confer it is often as a strategy group. Students reflections and data collection will enhance my conferring work. Additionally,  I need to monitor engagement more closely. I always know those that are struggling with focus, but I don’t measure their growth very well. Looking at indicators of commitment and book completion in addition to the ability to settle in during reading workshop on an ongoing basis should be a priority.

As an aside, this post marks this blogs one-year anniversary. I had no idea what was “out there” in the blogosphere when I started this.  I thought it would be just me processing my thinking. But thanks to others with like passions (you all) and the organizers of link ups (Michelle Nero, Cathy Mere and Laura Komos), I have found community and professional development. I am so thankful to all who take the time and have the courage to show up and share their thinking.

Looking forward to your posts, comments and the twitter chat, Sunday July 30th at 8 pm EST.