Miller has convinced me of the benefits of implementing a free-reading classroom- “allowing students to choose their own books and control most of their own decisions about their reading, writing, and thinking (which prepares) students for literate lives” better than traditional instruction. I agree that “actual reading is the most valuable classroom activity. No matter what intervention strategies you employ to support developing readers or what enrichment projects you provide to your most gifted ones, none of it is going to affect the reading achievement…the way hours of time spent reading will..” Are you convinced?
Even though it is hard or scary to give up the control, I’m ready to let go. By doing this Miller has not only inspired all of her students to love reading but she has developed such special relationships with them. Even years after leaving her room, students return to talk books. Priceless.
Yet it is sad as one student stated, “No on promotes reading like you.” Miller writes, “There needs to be more of us, and we need to get a lot louder about telling our administrators, colleagues, and parents what we believe…Students will read if we give them the books, the time and the enthusiastic encouragement to do so.”
Who else is ready to join Miller and to get loud?
I hope as you implement her approach in your classrooms that you will take time to share the books that you and your students are reading. Please feel free to leave a book recommendation so we can continue to chat about books.
“Reading has become schoolwork, not an activity in which students willingly engage outside of school.”
“I think my worst nightmare was last year, when we all had to read the same book, and do worksheets, and make journals after every chapter. – Christina”
“Reading is not a duty, and has consequently no business to be made disagreeable. -Augustine Birrell”
From the end-of-year evaluation: Circle which factor was most important to you. Teacher who reads.
These quotes hit me hard. As I mentioned before, I couldn’t wait to do novel studies once the reading skill lessons had been taught. Novel studies were like dessert after getting through a distasteful meal. But were my activities and assessments I used accomplishing my intended goal of producing life readers who read avidly? Were these activities even preparing my students for the test? Unfortunately, probably not. I apologize to all of my former students for “hijacking” reading from them.
As I think back to my years in high school, reading instruction hijacked reading away from me too. I remember dreading reading class in 9th grade because of the fact that the assessments and discussions ruined the enjoyment of reading the classics. In 10th grade, the teacher gave us a list of assignments for the week. When we finished, our time was our own to do whatever we wanted as long as we didn’t bother him. He sat at his desk behind his open briefcase doing who-knows-what, but never teaching. I have no memories of 11th grade; I guess there is nothing worth remembering. However, I do remember my senior year. At the end of the year, the teacher asked us to choose an author from a long list. Choice. I chose Agatha Christie. We had to read a certain number of the author’s short stories and novels, and then her biography, followed by book reports. I loved the reading but dreaded writing the reports. I even missed the deadline. She pleaded with me to finish and gave me an options of a shorter assignment. This teacher was probably the best reading teacher I had. I would have loved to have been a student in Ms. Miller’s class, wouldn’t you?
Here is a list of things I love about her class:
- Book Commercials
- Book Reviews: I really liked how students read professional book reviews to determine what elements and vocabulary were needed for their personal reviews.
- Not using reading logs: Logs are a sign that you don’t trust the students. As a parent, I even disliked keeping track. (Loved the frank discussions she has with her students. They feel safe with her to be honest.)
- Expanding reading in class: “The only way to make sure that your students are reading every day is to set aside time for it in class”
- Integration of reading & social studies: Loved the example of book choices that showed different perspectives of people/characters during WWII.
- Prepare & practice for oral reading: “Reading aloud on demand is just torture.” Had a knowing laugh when I read this.
- Not being bound to Accelerated Reader: She calls AR the “worst distortion of reading” that she can think of. It sends the message that a “book’s value lies in how many points it is worth, and reduce comprehension to a series of low-level trivia bites gleaned from the book…(it shifts) the purpose for reading a book toward the memorization of plot details and away from an overall appreciation for the book. These statements may be offensive to some, but I feel a sense of urgency for teachers to hear her out. AR may have its good points, but it may be another “slippery slope.”
This chapter is filled with so much valuable insights and alternatives to traditional reading instruction. What were some things she addressed that you see yourself “cutting” from your lesson plans?