Last night I devoured the first Chapter of The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. Mr. Mimi has definitely confirmed his lingering suspicion that I am a total nerd, as I fist pumped, vigorously nodded, furiously underlined and may have even shouted, "Now you're TALKING!" as I read. I like to think of reading as a full-body experience.
What a fabulous segue into discussing this first chapter - it's like I planned it or something! Mrs. Mimi is BACK!
Because I am a
Super Dork Thoughtful Reader I also read the Introduction. Where's my gold star? In the introduction, we learn that in 2000, the National Reading Panel did not include independent reading on it's list of recommendations for improving reading instruction because they were unable to find a positive relationship between large amounts of independent reading and improvements in reading achievement.
Um, what? Does this make sense to anyone? I want to ask one of them to repeat this statement out loud to see if they can hear how crazy it sounds. To me, it's like the time I was afraid that mice would eat the pair of high heels I had left behind on my classroom carpet in the middle of the night. Mr. Mimi made me repeat, "I'm afraid the mice will eat my shoes" until even I could hear the underlying crazy. (Note: The shoes were fine. Crisis averted.)
Back to Chapter 1...
Chapter 1 sets the stage for this book, giving us an idea of where Donalyn Miller has been as an educator and what her philosophical grounding is as she tackles developing a love of reading in her students. Ms. Miller (who I think we can officially send a cape because she is clearly kicking ass in her classroom and is a Super Colleague), is very candid about her experience, showing extensive evidence of reflecting on her failures in an effort to improve her practice. Right away, I want to hug her for this.
On page 13, Ms. Miller discusses the influence of her past experiences in school on her own practice in the classroom and how, oftentimes, these experiences factor more readily into our instructional choices despite contrary information we may have received in our preparation or professional development. Specifically, she references the teaching of the whole class novel (kill me now!) and how despite detailed and thoughtful planning, this idea flopped in her own classroom. She also reflects on how she despised this instruction herself when she was in the student's position.
To me, some essential take aways from this first chapter include the importance of the past, critical reflection and student voice.
If I may put on my Dr. Mimi hat for a moment...some of the findings of my dissertation serve to underscore the notion that our experiences in school greatly influence our decisions in the classroom. (Y'all, I can sound fancy too.) Bottom line, it isn't just a waste of time to think back to our own experiences. Let's discuss for a moment...here are a few questions for you to swish around your fabulous noggins:
- What influences from your past experiences as a student do you see evidenced in your teaching today? Are those choices working for children?
- What would your (insert appropriate age here) self want as a leaner? (Hint: You lose major points if you say "more gym," "more lunch," or "more recess" although I think there is more there than meets the eye.)
- What do your students want? (This implies that you've actually asked them directly.)
PS - I've created a group page over on Facey Face for us to use to discuss our reading more collaboratively. (Also, it's another opportunity for you to "LIKE" me, which feeds my inner Me-Monster.) Here's the link.