#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.


7 thoughts on “#cyberPD: Reading in the Wild (3 week of 3)

  1. I had so many of your “ah-has”, too. We do genre studies, but I don’t require that my kids keep track of their independent reading in the same way – so, this is definitely an area I need to work on. Conferring…I can always do better, and it’s good to have Donalyn’s suggestions and advice in this regard.

  2. Congrats on your blog’s first anniversary! I, too, never made the connection that students have to be proficient in a genre in order to truly know and communicate their preferences. I particularly loved this quote of yours: “As I think about my students to be, my planning revolves around this idea– creating lifelong reading habits through practice, reflection and skill development.” I wish you luck in the upcoming year with your conferences and genre requirements. 🙂

  3. Great thoughts, thanks for sharing! I think you are right on about being more intentional about genre. I like your connection that understanding genre allows students to gain reading independence. Have you thought about how you are going to go about introducing genre before you set your requirements? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts!

    • Thanks so much for asking this question. I’m in the process of going through picture books and trying to figure out which books serve as an introduction to the genre and fit with everything else I need to do in the first few weeks of school. There are some wonderful historical fiction books: Crow Call, Baseball Saved Us, Champions on the Bench, Freedom Summer come to mind. I’m leaning toward Crow Call for it’s imagery and character interpretation moves and potential discussions of symbolism and theme. For fantasy I might use Journey by Aaron Becker. The images show so much of what exists in fantasy and it keys into the whole idea of a journey that I want to build in the beginning of school. The Survivor Tree see (FranMcveigh.wordpress.com for a great lesson on this) would be a wonderful non fiction book to introduce the genre but also key into the character trait of resilience. Poetry we work on every Friday so the first month of school I’ll select from a the same book rather than cherry pick poems. Graphic Novels are an easy sell, but I”m not sure what to do with them yet. Each of these wouldn’t be a study, that’s for later. But a quick intro to what each genre consists of.

  4. Hi Julieanne,

    Congratulations on your 1 year anniversary of blogging! What a wonderful accomplishment. We love what you said about genre. Your plan sounds like a terrific way to honor students interests while also expanding what they read. We can’t wait to read your posts as you reflect on what happens in your classroom.
    Tammy and Clare

  5. Julianne,
    First of all, Happy Blog Birthday! I’m so glad you’ve joined the conversation.

    This post was an enjoyable read. The way you structured and crafted the response made your points clear and gave me much to think about. There is much to consider about reading preferences. In your discussion you said, “Perhaps the young are seeking the future, the fantastic, because they are at a place where all things are possible.” This made me smile. I had never thought about it like that. I’ve never really loved fantasy, but I do know some adult readers who do. Perhaps they’re the ones spending a lifetime in search of possibility. ;o)

    Like you, I liked the possibilities of growing student understanding about genre. I think genre conversations, and stretching into new territories (possibly requirements), opens conversation for growing our reading lives. It allows students opportunities to dip their toe in new titles.

    It looks like you have many ideas for the new school year and supporting Wild Readers. Thanks for sharing them.

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