Sunday, February 26, 2012

Just keep Whispering...

Whispering.  Sending positive messages about books.  Transmitting positive vibes about the love of reading.  Transforming my students into voracious readers.  Me.  A Book Whisperer...

Two weeks ago, I read   The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, upon recommendation from our district's Language Arts Supervisor.  Reading the first few pages, I was inspired, and I devoured the entire book over the weekend.   THIS is why I decided to become a reading specialist.  THIS is how I want my students to feel about reading!

With renewed energy and much reflection, I decided to focus on my 5th grade reading support students, who openly express their dislike for all things in print.  (Ok, I am exaggerating a bit.)  I have two very vocal developing readers in the group.  They all read what I assign, write according to the skill or strategy that I teach, but I know that even the quiet students do not read or write with their hearts, fully engaged in the world of literacy.

Re-vamping my lesson plans, purposefully making time for engaged deep reading during my class, I began the first week with book bins full of a variety of non-fiction selections at their reading levels and a smile on my face.  And, when I shared our new plan, with reading choice (in the area of non-fiction, which is our current curricular focus- I couldn't quite let go of all of my control yet...), my students literally dove with excitement into the book bins.  I had told them that they could read any non-fiction books that caught their interest, but they were required to read at least four informational books and two biographies.
What wonderful mayhem!  Some of my students grabbed 10, 12, even 18 books to add to their own book bags.  The room was buzzing with excitement, and I was grinning from ear to ear.  They asked, "What do we do now?" and I replied, "Read."  With a looks of amazement and surprise, they found a spot to sit, and the hum of real reading began.

Except for two.

They picked exactly 4 books.  They looked at me.  They sat.  They looked at me.  They looked at their books.  I smiled.  They opened their books.  They looked at me.  I whispered, "Read."  They looked at their books.

As the week progressed and we came into our habit of reading (real reading) every day, it has gotten better.  We are in a good rhythm now, with mini-lessons, conferences, and we even began writing letters to each other in response journals.

As I read my students' letters after our first week,  I was happy to see that they dutifully wrote reflections related non-fiction reading.  I responded with compelling, probing questions, with the intent to delve deeper into their thinking.  What a great written conversation we would have about books!

Two weeks have passed since I have begun my Whispering.

The first student response letter that I read this weekend began nicely enough, with thoughtful responses to my questions and reflections on her current book.  The conclusion went like this, however:  "My favorite part of the book was the jokes, but I don't like to read."  Sigh.  I know it is unrealistic to change student perceptions about reading in two weeks, but I am still a bit sad.  I know in my heart that she has just not found the right book for her, though, and I am determined to find "the One" that will change her mind.

I will persevere, despite feeling a bit deflated.  My new mantra (adapted from Dory in "Finding Nemo") is, "Just keep whispering, just keep whispering..."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Starting again...

I think I should re-name this blog.  Starting Over?  Starting Again?  Starting and Stopping and Starting? 

I love to reflect on my instructional practice, and I love to write, but often for me the reflection takes place in my head without the writing; hence, my last blog post was over two years ago.  I could blame the lag on many things: moving to a new house, accepting a new position at a new school in my district (I am now a real, live, Reading Specialist!), or on our new puppy...she is the cutest, naughtiest Corgi ever...

BUT, wouldn't it have been better for me to chronicle all of these new changes along the way?  In retrospect at the time of all of these changes, I think it may have helped my stress-induced eye twitch to sort things out in writing.  :)

Reflecting back to my previous posts, I can see that on the surface my world hasn't changed as much as I had thought.  My laundry continues to be a mountain with unreachable peaks, my job still entails implementing reading assessments and RtII interventions, but I still have this feeling as though I have more to learn as an educator and more to share.  

So, here I go again...  Starting.  I tell my students that when good readers get stuck, they can hop over the word, keep reading, and then go back and figure it out by reading the sentence again.  I have been stuck on my blog for quite a while, but here I go, hopping over and Starting Again.