Tag Archive for Monday Musings

Developing Wild Readers

I’ve previously shared my learning from reading Donalyn Miller’s book Reading in the Wild, but am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear her keynote on her research and practices within this book at the Wisconsin State Reading Association Convention (#WSRA15).  I am always inspired by hearing and reading Donalyn’s work and want to go back into my own classroom to inspire students to read, but then I remember I don’t have a classroom.  So, as a leader, I just continue to share my learning with our teachers and model myself as a wild reader for our entire school.

Lunch conversation selfie with my PLN: Donalyn Miller, Tom Whitford, and Pernille Ripp

Lunch conversation selfie with my PLN: Donalyn Miller, Tom Whitford, and Pernille Ripp


Here is the Monday Musings post I’ll be sharing with my teachers:


Over the years I’ve shared my learning with you from Donalyn Miller’s books: The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild (previous posts are HEREHERE, and HERE). I’ve seen many of the practices we’ve learned about from her implemented in your classrooms: reading choice, book talks, stealing reading minutes, sharing your lives as readers, reading goals posted (students and staff), etc.

Even though I have read both of Donayln’s books, I was re-inspired by hearing her speak last week and to hear her story of how she came to research reading habits and write the book, Reading in the Wild. As the well-known Book Whisperer, she always got her students to read voraciously and couldn’t understand what happened in the next grade level up when her students stopped reading, because their classrooms didn’t include the same practices. Instead of blaming other teachers, Donalyn realized that she needed to help her students to truly develop the habits of lifelong readers, not having to depend on her to get connected to their next book to read. How do you do this?

  • Instead of requiring reading logs to track minutes (which most students and parents “fudge” anyhow) having students track their book titles read (that’s what adults do!).
  • Instead of having required amounts of time to read, having students learn and find times to “steal reading” minutes like most adults do, by always having a book with them.
  • Instead of making a specific book recommendation to a student when they finish a book, ask first: “What’s on your to-read list?” (After setting up the structure/habit for students to have a to-read list.)
  • Instead of recommending a specific book to students, she started making a preview stack of books that included books she knows the student will like but included different types of genres to expose them to.
  • Never give up on having a read-aloud, kids are never too old (that’s why there’s such a large market for audio books!) Use the read-aloud to expose students to different authors/genres/series that they may never try on their own.
  •  Help students to build their reading community. If you are their only source of book recommendations, then they will be lost without you next year.
  • And just for fun: skip the “selfie” and take a “shelfie”: a picture of yourself with a stack of books you want to read (or your favorite books)!

If you want to read more “nuggets” from her keynote presentation, there were many attendees tweeting from it and you can find them all HERE.

Take a moment to reflect on how you share yourself as a reader with your students and how are you promoting the habits of lifelong learners in your classroom?

We Are All More than Just a Number!

Education is so consumed with testing, scores, school report cards, SLO’s and new evaluation systems. It has been interesting to see how mandates have been implemented differently across the country in this process and being able to read the honest reflections of educators from my PLN. For example, I’ve seen Tony Sinanis’s reflections on “his score” as an administrator which you can find HERE.  As I read posts like this, I am constantly reminded of why we are in education and that we need to continue to do the great work we are doing with students and not let ourselves get pulled into a test prep mentality. I am also thankful to be in a state that is not as dead set on numbers as other states are.  As I though about this, I decided to share the following message for my staff in my “Monday Musings” post:

We Are All More Than Just a Number!!


I know that many of you are already starting to think about your SLO and some are starting to stress that this year it “counts” for the state. I will have an email to all staff this week on SLO updates and then also in our EP refresher trainings, but the most important message I want you to receive is that the SLO rubric (“score”) does not just focus on the student outcome, but also the process…the process that you use to analyze your students, reflect, make goals, respond to their needs and continue to reflect again.  We are fortunate that Wisconsin has decided on a model that does not just look at numbers, as many other states do.

I am also thankful that we have a State Superintendent that also realizes this. Tony Evers recently posted this video to share his personal message about the school report cards coming out. He emphasizes that the report card only gives 1 measure, that is relatively narrow. Our report card doesn’t take into account everything that we have to offer and provide our students at Dodgeland.

Here is Mr. Evers’ message:

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!


I’m Not a Tech Expert -from the Monday Musings Post

Just sharing with you this week’s “Monday Musings” post to my staff from my memo blog:



Image from Venosdale

I’ve always felt pretty tech savvy…I love learning about what new web 2.0 tools or iPad apps are out and I catch on pretty quickly.  I feel like that all changed when I got my new laptop a few weeks ago…it was only 5 minutes after Brad brought me my new device that I called his office to ask “how do I scroll?” Yes, you heard that right, I couldn’t even scroll down on a webpage.  Go ahead and laugh (I know I did).  You were all witness to my lack of skills with this MacBook Pro in our first staff meeting when I couldn’t get anything to work right.  After a couple of weeks with it now, I am getting used to it, but still turning to google, youtube or “phone a friend” almost daily to learn how to do things that are different than on a PC.  I am also learning really neat features that I could never do before.

Why do I share this with you? Because I know that, for some of you, going 1:1 with iPads might feel the same way.  I know that it’s hard to say “don’t worry,” but I do encourage you to not be afraid of them and model your learning for your students.  As teachers, we don’t have to be the experts of everything that gets imparted to our students.  When we show students that we don’t always know how to do something, but learn until we figure it out, we are modeling for them exactly what lifelong skill we want them to have.
I know I’ve said this in a previous Monday Musings post, but want to share it again:
We do not have to be experts at the tools…we have to be experts at learning and show students what it is like in real life to not know the answer or not know how to do something. To be successful in life you need to know how to find it out. Or as Will Richardson says we have to be able to “learn, unlearn and relearn.”
Image from Venosdale

Know you’re in the good old days…

Here is cross-post of my final Monday Musings post from my staff blog for the school year…inspired by one of my favorite t.v. shows…

This year was the final season for one of my favorite t.v. shows, The Office. I’m sure you can all relate to having one (or more) shows that you have come to love, have watched every week for years and then feel a great sadness when it comes to a close.  You’ve grown to know each of the unique characters as if they were actually a part of your life and can even make connections to events in real life.  It sounds silly…I know, it’s just a t.v. show.

 If you are not familiar with The Office, the character Andy Bernard in the image above had left the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company to pursue other ambitions and returned for the last episode as the crew said their farewells.  When he came back to all of his colleagues and friends he realized how good he had it before he left and said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you leave them.”

As I watched this final episode, I couldn’t help but think of our Dodgeland Family.   Just as any year, we’ve taken on a lot this year. There were times where we may have felt stressed, overwhelmed, or thought that the grass might be greener somewhere else, but as I’ve shared before, “the grass is greener where you water it.”

 The work that we do at Dodgeland every day makes it a truly amazing place for our students to learn and grow each day. It is a school that I am proud to be a part of and to send my own children to. I want to thank each of you for the hard work you have put in every day to help each of your students achieve their greatest potential this year. Use this last week together to enjoy your students and colleagues or as Andy Bernard says, “Know you’re in the good old days before you leave them”

Is there a basal series for Daily 5?

Here is a cross-post from  “Monday Musings” post on my staff blog this week…

Recently a principal from Twitter contacted me regarding Daily5/Cafe and asked if I could recommend a reading basal series that is conducive to Daily5/Cafe.  Once I got over my immediate cringe at the word “basal” I asked why were they looking for a basal?  This principal was worried about the amount of time required of teachers to plan to teach with Daily5/Cafe,because it is much easier for them to open up a basal and teach from it.

We had a great discussion on the impact I have seen in our building since implementing Daily5/Cafe and I just wanted to share with you some of my reflections on this, because it does all come back to the work that YOU all have done and continue to do each day…

Teaching from a basal is easy.  Everything is in there ready to go for you, aside from possibly having to make additional copies of worksheets and decide what components will be used, because a basal series typically has too much planned for 1 week.  Essentially, all you have to do is open it up each day, read the teacher notes and teach from it.

There is a great deal of research that supports the notion that this is NOT good for kids.  Stephen Krashen says “we are denying students access to the one activity that has been proven over and over again to increase their language acquisition and competence as communicators: free, voluntary reading.” (The Book Whisperer, page 51).  A reading basal is “one size” and we know that one size does not fit all.

Since we dropped our basal series and implemented Daily5/Cafe, here’s what I have seen change…

  • Students reading and writing.  That’s it.  No more drill-and-kill worksheets with low level comprehension questions that have minimal transfer to actual reading. 
  • Teachers continuing to read/learn to become experts at literacy and teaching struggling students to read and higher readers to comprehend/discuss higher level texts. 
  • Classroom libraries continuing to grow so they are filled with high interest books that students want to read.  These libraries are filled with a variety of genre that are often organized by the students which helps them to know what books are there and where to find them.
  • Students (and teachers) enjoying reading.  I recall a teacher saying that reading used to be the worst part of the day, because it was SO boring.  Now, that teacher says Daily 5 time is the best time of the day.
  • Students and teachers talking about and recommending books to each other. 
  • Teachers sharing their “reading lives” with students, being a reading role model.
  • Teachers using what they know about student strengths, goals and interests to find books to “hook” students that haven’t quite found the right book to get them to enjoy reading. 
  • Teachers using mini-lessons with a variety of picture books or parts of novels to model the meta-cognition that happens while reading text, creating Anchor charts with student input to refer back to in future lessons and giving students time to practice applying newly learned skills with teacher feedback.
  • Teachers introducing new authors through read-alouds that lead students to expand their reading to new genres and authors.
  • Students giving mini book-talks/book recommendations to their peers to help others expand their reading choices. 
  • Teachers conferring with students 1:1 for reading and writing, giving individual coaching sessions on what students are doing well and creating next step goals for what will help that student continue to become a better reader/writer.  Using this conference to model for the student and give practice again to provide feedback to the student, continuing to check in with the student on this goal until it becomes mastered.
Image from Clark Chatter
Yes, this is all much more work than opening up the reading basal, but it is SO much better! You are not just teaching children to read, you are teaching them to enjoy reading, which we know leads to more reading and builds their background for all future learning.  
Thank you for all that you do to lead our students to be readers and writers!

Pathways to the Common Core: Part 3

Here is Part 3 on Pathways to the Common Core that I shared on my staff blog in my Monday Musings Post.

Monday Musings – Pathways to the Common Core: Part 3

I’ve finally made it to the section on Writing in Pathways to the Common Core.  I will be completely honest with you all and admit that when I taught in the classroom, writing was my least favorite subject to teach.  Ironically, I’ve now grown to love writing and think if I were teach again it would probably be my 2nd favorite (right along with reading).  This is only because I continue to write myself on a regular basis and enjoy it just as much as I do reading.

Prior to the CCSS, there really hasn’t been much for writing standards, because NCLB put emphasis on phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.  If you sit down and look at the writing standards in the common core, you will find that they are organized into three broad categories or types of writing:

  • opinion and argument
  • informative/explanatory texts
  • narratives
While we often put our focus on the writing process in our classrooms, the # of pages in the CCSS for writing actually devote 1/2 of the pages to the 3 types of writing. In addition, the standards call for a “distribution of writing experiences that gives students roughly equal amounts of time and instruction in argument, informative, and narrative writing” (p. 104-105).  Just like the reading standards, the common core standards for writing have a “shared responsibility” for other subjects to incorporate writing into daily learning. 
At Dodgeland, we have done a great job of shifting our literacy time to provide students with the time to read so they can become better readers.  The common core standards also call for students to write often; “write routinely” to make writing a habit.  
I was surprised to learn how specific the standards are on expectations for what students should produce in a sitting. For example, 4th graders are expected to produce a minimum of one typed page in a sitting, and fifth graders, a minimum of two typed pages in a sitting!
As I reflect on what I’m learning about the common core writing standards I wonder if our current instructional time allows for students to practice writing daily, not just for narratives (which I know we’re probably best at in the elementary)?  What does writing across the curriculum look like currently for our students throughout the day?
What should student writing look like at each grade level?  You have all of the annotated examples at each grade level in your binder from Appendix C (also found online HERE), but I’m going to include a snapshot from each grade level. Please note that for some of them, the pieces are more than a page and this is just a snapshot.

Pathways to the Common Core: Part 2

Here is Part 2 on Pathways to the Common Core that I shared on my staff blog in my Monday Musings Post.

Monday Musings – Pathways to the Common Core: Part 2

Last week I shared my first reflection with you as I am reading Pathways to the Common Core. This week I’ll share what I’ve learned about Reading Informational Texts. (I will warn you, since it is informational text, it is a “heavier” read than previous Monday Musing posts…at least it is for me!)

The common core standards have increased our expectations of how much informational text students read. They provide the following recommendation for reading

One important clarification here is that this does not mean  that the CCSS call for dramatically more nonfiction reading within the ELA classrooms/literacy block.  This literacy expectation should be shared responsibility across the content areas, meaning that 50% of a 4th grader’s day (using the chart) would be reading informational text.

So, what is the CCSS expectations for reading informational text?  The CCSS emphasizes synthesis, evaluation, and comparative textual analysis. 

Got that?

I didn’t.  What exactly does that mean?

Let’s look at each standard…

The first 3 anchor standards for reading informational texts are the foundation for the rest of the reading work students will do.

Standard 1: Read closely and make logical inferences
This means reading the informational text to determine what it says and NOT focusing on how you can make connections to it.  This was a surprise to me, because I always taught my students to think of what they already know about the topic and make connections as they read.  However, the CCSS don’t concern themselves with what you know, think you know, or how you feel about the topic.  You need to focus on what the text says explicitly.

Standard 2: Read to determine central ideas and themes
This standard asks readers to determine central ideas and summarize the text, linking key ideas and details.  This is hard to do if you didn’t do standard 1 very well and you may have to go back and reread. (I found I had to go back to standard 1 several times as I read this book!)
To get to standard 2 you can ask yourself the same question that you would if you were reading fiction, “What is this article starting to be about?” Then as ideas emerge, gather up some of the information in the text as evidence for those ideas.

Standard 3: Reading to analyze how individuals, events and ideas develop and interact 
Here is where you need to notice the sequence of events, analyze relationships and connects and determine cause and effect.  As readers, you should be able to analyse all of the individuals and events and be able to see how they are connected.

I’m sure you’ve read enough by now, so here’s a short summary of the rest (you can borrow my book if you want to read more!):
Standards 4-6 get into the the craft or how the text is written.
Standards 7-9 require the reader to integrate knowledge/ideas by reading other texts on the same topic.
Standard 10 read/comprehend those informational texts at grade level

If you’ve read this far, then I’d ask that you reflect on informational reading in your classroom…Are your students spending 50% of their reading each day in informational text? Are you teaching your students to apply reading skills aligned to these common core standards as they read informational text?  How do you support students that are reading below level to read and analyze informational text?