Habit 2 of Wild Readers

My next several Monday Musings posts for staff will be sharing my learning as I read Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild. Here’s this week’s post for our staff:

I’m continuing to share what I learn as I read Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller. (Previous posts are here and here.)  Habit 2 of Wild Readers are that they self-select reading material, a habit that I see instilled already in most of our students with the Daily 5 framework solidly in place. Why do we have students self-select reading material?  Miller identifies the following reasons (p.46):

  • Allows students to value their decision-making ability
  • Fosters their capacity to choose appropriate literature
  • Gives them confidence and a feeling of ownership
  • Improves reading achievement
  • Encourages them in becoming lifelong readers
But what about those students that struggle with self-selecting an appropriate book? According to Miller, “Students who cannot successfully choose texts that meet their personal and academic reading goals fail to develop a vital skill that all wild readers possess.” (p. 47)
So what can you do to help your students that are currently unable to self-select?  Here are suggestions from Miller:
  • Read-Alouds
  • Reading Community Suggestions
  • Creating Book Buzz (1 easy example is a raffle drawing to get to be the 1st reader of the new classroom library books)
  • Abandoning Books (conversations about when/why to abandon a book) – Miller recognizes that habitual book abandoners do’t have the reading experience to know how a typical story will flow with building pages to set the stage for entertaining conflicts.
  • Selection Reflections-do they know other readers, online sources or book stores/libraries to go to for book recommendations? Miller shares (in the appendix of the book) a student selection reflection form that can help you as the teacher get to know more about how/why they selected/abandoned a book.
  • Preview stacks- create a stack of books you think a student might like, let them preview/choose from the stack (or reject all to find a different book).
*While I am giving bullet points in this post, the book obviously goes much more into detail to build a better understanding of how/why for each of these.

Identifying Fake Readers


My next several Monday Musings posts for staff will be sharing my learning as I read Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild. Here’s this week’s post for our staff:

As I shared in last week’s Monday Musings, Habit 1 of “Wild Readers” is that they dedicate time to read. I am still devouring chapter one on this habit, spending quite a bit of time thinking about Fake and Avoidance Reading. I’m sure you can think of at least one student in your class that falls in this category.  These are the students that spend more time preparing to read or going to the bathroom than they do actually reading.  You all know from building the Daily 5 structure that just telling them to sit down and read will not do any good, so what do you do?

According to Donalyn Miller, fake reading and avoidance reading commonly occur when students lack independent reading habits, confidence, or adequate reading skills.  To help our fake readers, we need to identify their coping behaviors that are helping them hide the fact that they aren’t actually reading.  Here are some warning signs that Miller identifies:

  • Finishes few books or finishes books too quickly.
  • Abandons books often.
  • Conducts personal errands during reading time.
  • Fidgets or talks a lot.
  • Rarely has a book to read.
  • Acts like a wild reader. (these are the hardest to identify)
As Miller explains this in her book, she actually took her conferring time on a few different days to secretly observe these students during the literacy block to record their reading behaviors (or lack there of) and then delicately confront them about their fake reading behaviors.  (When she met with the student she showed her notes that included “not turning pages,” “staring out the window,” “head on the desk” “turned a group of pages”) A common excuse for these fake readers is that “reading is boring.” These students have probably never had a positive reading experience, such as connecting to a book or even completing one.  She then gave the student an opportunity to reflect and make a plan together.
Do you have a fake reader in your class? Let me know if you’d like to try using Miller’s form to record their reading behaviors and have a discussion with them to move them forward. Want to read the book? We have several copies available in the professional reading library for you to check out.

Sharing Reading in the Wild

My next several Monday Musings posts for staff will be sharing my learning as I read Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild. Here’s this week’s post for our staff:

Read Across America week is probably my favorite week of the year, because I love reading and love any opportunity to promote it.  We celebrate reading in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday (on March 2) this week and encourage all of our students/families to celebrate reading together.  What is great about Dodgeland, is that this doesn’t happen just during Read Across America Week.  You all do a tremendous job of sharing your reading lives with your students, modeling a passion for reading each day, and having classroom practices that promotes building lifelong reading habits.

I am currently reading Donalyn Miller’s latest book, Reading in the Wild in which she shares habits of “Wild Readers” (as a result of surveying over 800 adult readers). I plan to share each of these habits with you throughout the next few weeks.

Habit 1: Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read

The #1 excuse to not read is not having time.  Parenting, work, housework, homework, etc. all excuses to not read.  But Wild Readers make time to read.  They read during small moments throughout the day when they can “steal” an opportunity to read.  What about reading logs to keep track of time?  Most wild readers don’t keep track of their time, they don’t have a concrete amount of time that they’ve read, because they often just sneak in those times throughout the day to read.  Miller points out how a mandate of reading 30 minutes a night can often be interpreted by students as 30 solid minutes. If they don’t have 30 consecutive minutes (because of their busy schedules) then they’ll likely just not read at all, not realizing that 5 minutes here and there can add up throughout the day.   How can you share these kinds of ideas with your students to help them learn about ways to find time to read?   I hope that our “reading storms” this week can help prompt the idea that we can “steal” minutes of reading throughout the day.

As you think about your classroom and Daily 5 block, does your structure give students enough time to read each day?  Donalyn Miller points out that we cannot blame parents when kids don’t read at home and then neglect the need for daily reading time at school.  It is easy for interruptions, special projects, unfinished work to sneak it’s way into the Daily 5 routine, taking away from students’ time to read.  Please be the protector of that time, because every reading minute for our students is precious!


Broadcasting School Events

brandedA great new podcast that I love listening to is BrandEd hosted by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis.  Each episode shares ways that schools can communicate and share their positive news with parents/community.  We all know that we can’t count on news reporters to share the positive things happening in our schools, because the negative stories are the ones that make sensational headlines.  It is up to us to “tell our story” and share the great things we are doing in our school buildings.

I strive to “tell our story” by having a Principal’s Page on our website where I update pictures each month from my classroom walkthroughs to give parents a “window” into our school to see what our students are doing.  I also maintain a school Facebook page to not only share reminders, but easily share pictures/video clips of great things parents may not otherwise hear about.  (*If you’re wondering why I don’t have a Twitter account for our school it is because I surveyed parents and none of them were on Twitter).

Live-brodcastOn the most recent BrandEd podcast, they were joined by Joe Mazza who is well known on Twitter for starting #PTchat (parent teacher chat) and helping to pave the way for administrators and educators to open the door for connections with parents. In this interview with Joe, he shared the idea of broadcasting or having a livestream online from school events to allow parents to view even if they cannot attend in person.

I had heard of this idea before, but since I heard this podcast a week before a scheduled assembly I decided it was time to try it.  I set up an account at ustream.tv, created a channel for our broadcast, created a shortened weblink using bitly.com to make it easy for parents to type in, and then let parents know by sending home a flyer (yes, we still use those!) and put it on our Facebook page.  During our assembly, the highest number of viewers we had was 42, although I’m not sure how many were from our community, because I did also tweet it out.  I did have a few parents comment to me or on our Facebook page that they watched it and thought it was neat that we could do that.

Now that I have our first live broadcast under our belt, I’m wondering what other events should I broadcast to invite parents to be connected from home/work? I’d love to hear from other educators on what events you have broadcasted from your school. 

Wrestling with Feedback

Image from Binghamton Univ

Image from Binghamton Univ

For the past couple of months my evenings and weekends have been devoted to wrestling.  This is a new sport for me, but one my family is enjoying together as we watch and encourage my 8 year-old in a sport that he has found to love.

We have now been to 6 tournaments with the opportunity to watch him improve each time with feedback and guided practice from his coaches.  Whether it is a practice or a tournament I have found that his coaches are quick to give feedback in a positive way that is specific enough to tell him what he needs to do differently.  In addition to the verbal feedback they follow the Optimal Learning Model of “I do, we do, we do, you do” by modeling the move, then physically moving their body to practice it and then watching it as they practice the move with a partner while continuing to provide feedback.

While at tournaments I have been saddened to see how some coaches/parents respond to their wrestlers in a way that is certainly not helpful feedback.  I’ve heard comments such as, “You should have done better than that!” “I can’t believe you didn’t cradle him!” or “You let him pin you!”  I have also seen some of these wrestlers a few times now at different tournaments and see the difference in their progress compared to others.  Those that are given positive, encouraging feedback with specific ways to improve seem to improve each time and enjoy the sport whether they win or lose.  Others that have been given hard feedback only seem happy when they win and are practically devastated when they lose.  I can only predict that they won’t make it long in the sport.

I can’t help, but make this wrestling connection to what I have learned from the book Mindset by Carol Dweck and the idea of having a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.  I am also currently reading Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. Johnston talks about “yet” as a key word to help keep children from having a fixed mindset, that we want them to say, “I’m not good at this yet” and take steps to help them change that.  As I think about giving feedback in the school setting and as a parent, one quote from Johnston that sticks with me the most is:

“How we give children feedback is probably the most difficult for us to change, but it is probably the point of most leverage.”



Learn How to Be a Digital Leader

Here it is…the recorded PrincipalCast podcast #14 with Eric Sheninger!

You will also be able to download/subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or in BeyondBod on android.

Digital Leadership with Eric Sheninger

SheningerEric Sheninger is releasing a new book this month:Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times. The Principalcast Podcast will be interviewing Eric on Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 8:30 PM CST on teachercast.tv.

The reason we chose to interview Eric is because he has been the champion for the connected educator, specifically, the connected administrator. Administrators throughout the world have benefited from Eric’s tireless efforts to ensure we are prepared for the changing paradigms of education.

Our interview will focus on the practical aspects of the book, and how it can help improve students, parents, teachers and administrators. If you would like to ask questions, feel free to tweet Principalcast. We will also be giving away a signed copy of the book for one lucky listener on Sunday night.

According to Todd Whitaker, Professor of Educational Leadership at Indiana State University:

“This book is THE book on digital leadership. There is no one I can recommend more highly than the most connected educational leader today – Eric Sheninger – to help us navigate all of the changes taking place in classrooms, schools and districts. The book is perfect to help everyone initiate transformational change in a digital world. Whether you are a cutting edge techie or a nervous newbie this book is for you.”

I was lucky to read this book in draft form prior to its publication and had this to say about it:

“I loved this book! It is filled with many examples of how technology is impacting learning in classrooms across the country.  Whether you are a technology guru or learning to embrace technology, every school administrator should read this book to learn ways to prepare their students to be successful in the 21st century. Leadership 3.0 is a mindset that every school administrator needs to embrace and lead with. I am going to request that my superintendent purchase it for my fellow administrators, along with the educators on our district technology team.”

Once again, be sure to join the Principalcast crew as we spend time chatting with Eric Sheninger on Sunday, January 12, 2014 @ 9:30PM EST on teachercast.tv.

My Reading Resolutions for 2014


A new tradition for myself each New Year is to make Reading Resolutions, which I made last year in this post.  Just like any goal, I like to review my progress and make new goals.

In 2013 my reading resolutions included:

1. Use Goodreads to track my reading.  I have used it all year and love using Goodreads. I have found that I get many new book ideas added to my list, thanks to those that I follow on Goodreads that have similar book interests.

2. Have family “Read-to-Self” time with my kids. With sports schedules, I haven’t been as faithful to this as I would like. We read together everyday, but not as “read to self.” I also realize that I often don’t, because I don’t trust that my son is reading. We just had a conversation about this and just as teachers need to extend that trust to their students that they are reading, I need to do the same at home with my own child!
3. Read 1 professional book a month I wasn’t faithful to finishing one each month, but I did read 12 total this year.

4. Read 280 books. In this goal, 55 were to be for novels, professional books and kids’ chapter books.  I hit 51, which is pretty darn close and I am almost certain that number would have been much lower if I hadn’t made a goal at all (that’s why goals are good to have!).  As for the rest adding up to 280 for picture books. I don’t know. I wasn’t faithful to adding books into Goodreads, because I would often read those books to my kids at bedtime, doze off and forget to put them in. I’m not going to put pressure/guilt on myself about recording these this year.

I liked these goals last year and am going to basically stick with them again:

2014 Reading Resolutions

1. Read 55 books (not including picture books)

2. Read one professional book a month

3. Have family “Read to Self” time


2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Jessica has
read 0 books toward her goal of 55 books.


2013 in Review


The wordpress.com stats helper monkey prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.  Please note that I just transferred to this blog from my old site this past summer, so this doesn’t accurately reflect my entire year.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the full report.

PLN Blogging Challenge

If you’re on Twitter then I’m sure you’ve seen people tweeting out the PLN Blogging Challenge, Sunshine Award, Homework Meme, or whatever other names they are giving it.  It’s basically like a chain letter for blogging, which I have enjoyed reading others’ posts, but have been avoided joining in myself.  I have been tagged by numerous people in their posts, including Patrick LarkinTony Sinanis, Victoria Day, Melinda Miller, Amber Teaman, and probably others, but I’ve lost track.  I haven’t blogged in a month, so I guess this gives me a writing prompt.  So here goes…

This PLN blogging challenges gives us bloggers a chance to get to know each other better through this post (and reading each others’).

Here are the rules of the challenge:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

11 random facts about me:

1. I have two boys, ages 8 and 3.

2. Both of my boys share the same middle name, along with my husband. We absolutely could not agree on names and this made it easier!

3. I am originally from Bemidji, Minnesota; the home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox.  I just returned from a Christmas visit there and feel like it’s colder than the North Pole.

4. I lived near Phoenix, Arizona for 6 years. I enjoyed the summer climate for the first two years, but then missed having seasons, which is why we moved back to the midwest and landed in a rural town in Wisconsin.  I love it here!

5. If I had to, I think I could survive on chocolate and coffee alone. I often do.

6. I love to run, but only do so in the non-snow months (which doesn’t seem to be that many), because my brain can not handle a treadmill.

7. If you would have told me when I was a teacher that I would be a principal I would have called you crazy.  I had no intentions of ever becoming a principal, it just happened and now I love my job.

8. I’m the co-moderator of the #educoach chat with Shira Leibowitz and Kathy Perret. We are also co-writing a book tentatively titled, “Putting on the Coach’s Hat: How School Leaders Can utilize Instructional Coaching Techniques to Support Teacher Growth”.

9. I wrote a children’s novel geared towards those that are obsessed with the game Minecraft, because it is the only topic my child is interested in reading about and I can’t find much out there for reading on it.  You can read my blog post about this HERE or purchase it on kindle HERE. I’d love to get it published through Scholastic so it can get into more hands to read, but I just haven’t taken the time to find an agent.  I learned through this process that publishing books in the fiction world is much different than professional education field.

10. I can play almost any musical instrument (I once planned to be a band teacher and even did a long term sub position as a band/choir teacher), but I cannot learn to play the guitar my husband got me for my birthday 4 years ago. If I don’t figure it out soon he swears he’ll sell it on Craigslist.

11. I love my android smartphone, but I am well known for hitting send on a text message before checking to see what autocorrect did to me and I say some very interesting things that way.  I can just hear the laughter now from some of my friends now.

Now to answer the other 11 questions from the challenge (ok, everyone had 11 different questions, so I cheated and picked the ones I liked!)

1. What is your favorite tv show? Hard to pick just one, but I’ll go with: The Office, The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother.

2. What is one app or resource you’ve learned about on Twitter that has been a game changer for you at work? Just being able to use my iPad to keep me mobile and out of my office. My top used apps there are: Evernote, Simple Goals, and Google Forms.

3. What is your typical bedtime? I can not seem to get to bed before 11.

4. Best book you’ve read in 2013? I read so much, that’s hard to choose, so here’s a few: The Fault in our Stars, These Broken Stars, Gone Girl, and the Divergent series. 

5. Favorite Twitter Chat: I’m biased towards #educoach on Wednesday nights at 9pm CST. Also #principalcast is the hashtag when I co-host the PrincipalCast podcast with Theresa Stager and Spike Cook.

6. Best place you’ve vacationed? We’re not big vacationers, but we do like to go camping where there’s a lake to fish, nice pool to swim in and nice bathrooms. I grew up camping with outhouses and I prefer the nice bathrooms instead. ;)

7. How has your PLN impacted you? I honestly feel like I could not do my job without my PLN to get ideas and advice from. I have established close relationships with quite a few of my PLN that I have great conversations with on a regular basis outside of the 140 character limit of Twitter.

8. What motivates you each day to be an educator?  It was great teachers that helped me when I grew up and I want to do the same for other kids in need. I also often feel like I’m doing it out of selfishness, because I want our school to be the best school for my kids (it’s their school too!)

9. What was the most amazing lesson you ever facilitated or observed? I’m always amazed when I see my teachers leading mini-lessons in reading/writing during the Daily 5 block. I wish I could go back in time and teach that way, because it’s so much more engaging and student centered than how I taught. Our students are so lucky!

10. If you had a whole day to do just what you wanted, what would it be? Read great books and drink coffee all day!

11. Favorite tv show when you were growing up? Hard to recall, but a few that come to mind are 90210, Full House and Growing Pains.

My questions are the same for the following bloggers that I’d like to see complete this challenge:

1. Tom Whitford

2. Leah Whitford

3. Joe Sanfelippo

4. Tim Lauer

5. Erin Simpson (Yes, you’ll have to start a blog Erin, but what better first post than this one?! Love the peer pressure?)
6. Matt Renwick 

7. Jay Posick

8. Mindy Reid

9. Theresa Stager

10. Spike Cook

11. Eric Sheninger