#cyberPD: DIY Literacy, Chapters 3 and 4

Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts’ book DIY Literacy gets to the meat of teaching in chapters 3 and 4: reminding and motivating with tools that support students to higher levels of competencySkitch-2012-06-10 11_22_09 +0000.

Thank you, Cathy Mere, Michelle Nero and Laura Komos for organizing #cyberPD. What a great “tool” you have created for teachers to learn and grow together.

Chapter 3: Remembering This: When we teach and reteach and don’t find evidence of the work in student thinking it is easy to lose faith. Chapter 3 tells us that forgetting is normal and to be expected. When we ask students to apply new ideas to their work, we need to give them tools to help them remember, to process and to do.

Bottom line: the teach, model, active engagement, now do this whenever you need to do isn’t enough. Learning and making that learning a part of your repertoire takes lots of practice and reminders of when, how and why.

Chapter 4: You Can Do It:  Kate and Maggie differentiate between the two components of rigor: one, meaning the level of difficulty and two, meaning the effort put forth. I appreciate their focus on the later. Working hard is something we want from our students. And it’s a struggle. Motivating and supporting students is what Chapter 4 is all about. The students who push themselves no matter what are few and far between. It isn’t typical.  Why students don’t struggle to reach higher levels of work could be because they don’t believe they can or because they don’t understand how. Students need tools that build confidence. That say, yes you can. And, they need tools to show how.

The Tools: 
I love how the tools work alongside the gradual release of responsibility. Supporting all the way to independence.  Students aren’t there yet, but we are planning for them to get there.  I’ve listed them below from high to low teacher support.

Demonstration Notebooks:
Reminding students what to do is often not enough because students don’t remember how to or their understanding is weak. Demonstration notebooks are perfect for those strategy groups that provide the extra, explicit teach. Students don’t push to what we think they can because they aren’t sure how. The notebooks provide for students who need the tool and the teacher together to reach for more.

One of the big ahas  I had reading DIY Literacy was how to build a progression based on and inspired by students. At the bottom of the progression is what all students can do and at the top is what the most proficient can do with adult coaching. The sequence of next steps becomes a coach to students. Creating these with students from beginning to end creates accessibility: all students can find themselves and their next step. Microprogressions should say: this is where you are, this is your next step. Go for it!

Student-Made Bookmarks:
“Rigor is relative… the journey of rigor comes in all sorts of paces…there are times we need to empower students with their individual plan for how to work rigorously and at what pace. Bookmarks can help.”

I can’t wait to create these with my students. Giving time to reflect and create their tool based on the classroom tools promotes self-assessment and goal setting. How a student uses charts and microprogressions to collect their list of reminders and examples tell the student a lot about where they are in the learning. This personalized tool is a call to action and an artifact to use and recreate as throughout the year.

Reminder Charts:
Being a fifth-grade teacher, my students come to me with so much teaching.  Still, they often don’t do. I’m sure I’m not alone in that problem.

The co-constructed chart of “things we know” can be the tool that reminds students of all they have learned but need to be nudged to do. That chart paired with verbal reminders, mid-workshop interruptions, and quick coaching tips to notice and use a strategy from the chart can up the students’ game without reteaching. We remind. Then reassess. Notice growth and celebrate! Kate and Maggie see charts as “cheerleaders” for hard work. They are reminders for students on their way to independence, the last step in the gradual release of tools.

Removing the Tools:
We want to promote ownership and agency.  We want it to be automatic. Our goal isn’t mastering the use of tools; it’s using tools to foster independence.

Kate and Maggie offered natural ways to remove or test out the removal of tools.
1. Do  it at specific times in a unit
2. Challenge students to try work without tools
3. Poll students as to what charts they no longer need

I am grateful for the time to read, reflect and write about my new tool, DIY Literacy. Thank you, Kate and Maggie. And thank you to the #cyberPD community, who contribute to the thinking around this book.



#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.


#cyberPD: Reading in the Wild (week 2 of 3)

I found the summer #cyberPD posts last week on Reading in the Wild. These posts added so much to my take on Donalyn Miller’s book. It offered insights above and beyond my initial thoughts. Reading those comments inspired me to reread and join in. Thank’s to Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine, Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate and Michelle Nero at Literacy Learning Zone for hosting this. 

Skitch-2012-06-10 11_22_09 +0000.Here is the schedule I “lifted “off of Cathy’s blog

To participate:
  • Link in the comments of the host blog
  • Comment on the host blog.
  • Tweet comments using #cyberPD hashtag.
  • ???  (creativity is always welcomed)
I read RIW over Winter Break, loved it and blogged about it here. . We created the graffiti wall, did more book talks and recommendations.
Interestingly, what I thought I understood about wild readers has adjusted since the first read.  I didn’t get the urgency or necessity of nurturing wild readers in the classroom. Now I get wild readers are readers for life, not just kids who can read in my classroom.

Today I offer my current take aways from Chapters 3 and 4.

Chapter 3 :

A reading community in Donalyn’s world is tribal; it’s personal. She talks of bottom lines and asks us to come up with our bottom line. She tells her students, “you are my people.” In other words, I understand you and you understand me. We seek the same.  There is respect for and expectations of the individual and the community in that statement. It says we value each other and each other’s opinions.

If I could just take quote from this book, it would be this one:

As much as I hope to change children’s lives, my relationships with students transform me. I want my students to remember our classroom as a home that they may leave, but it will never leave them. They are forever mine, and I am forever their teacher.

To create this tribe we need to filter reading and its place in our lives through everything we do. It should become as natural and as important as eating. For this upcoming year I’m thinking about doing more:

  • book talks and book commercials
  • social opportunities surrounding books
  • public displays of book love
  • increased access to books and book recommendations
  • money toward books – where we put our money speaks volumes (no pun intended but maybe there is a slogan in there!)

We need to show we value reading with our actions, by being readers, sharing our reading publicly and honoring others who do the same. Reading doors throughout the school would be amazing, but I’m imagining rmore. We currently display student writing.  How wonderful if we could display top reading picks of classrooms alongside our writing.

Chapter 4

Wild readers make plans. This weaves so beautifully into the previous chapter on community. Book recommendations from our community keep us going!  I had no idea how powerful that really was until I started connecting on Twitter.and blogs.  One recommendation leads to another.  Of course you let the person who recommended it know how much you loved it, and the cycle continues. All of a sudden you get caught up in the fever and your stack never diminishes, but neither does your desire to read.

I hadn’t really thought about how important this rather simple idea is. By having that next book, waiting and someone like you who told you’d love it, you are set up, almost obligated, to get to that book. There is no down time! This matters for our students they can’t afford to miss any reading time.

We need to develop a culture in our classrooms of planning, and being on the look out for the next read.

Students must learn how to make their own reading plans, reflect on their individual accomplishments, and find personal reasons for reading or they will never become wild readers.

Explicitly teaching students how to plan and then reflect thoughtfully on what worked and what didn’t work is crucial. This struck me as a powerful way to honor all readers on their path to becoming wild readers. By planing and adjusting our plan based on what we did, we learn from our hits and our misses..

Aim for commitment and challenge in personal reading plans. Goals and personal challenges should be managed for success. Once we meet a goal, we make the challenge a little greater. We should build from strength..The shorter reads at the beginning of the year or with more fragile readers is so smart.  And note to self: More Series Books! These books provide both commitment and challenge as well as familiarity. They take our a lot of that uncertainty and could help us push ourselves to more complex work.

When reading is relegated to the time allotted at or by school, we are settling for less than what kids need.  This type of reading may produce people who can read, but not necessarily people who want to read.

Students who read on an inconsistent basis never develop an attachment for reading. Those who read only at school remain vulnerable if they don’t invest in reading at home.

As a school community or classroom teacher we can’t control what happens at home, but perhaps our stance in how we approach, model and provide reading opportunities in school needs to change. As long as students are reading for school, they will simply do that. If students are setting and reflecting on  their reading challenges throughout the year, summer time slump will not be an issue. They need to leave our classrooms capable and ready to find, read, and find more reading. If they can do that with out our assistance, they are reading for themselves and on the road to becoming wild readers.