Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Answers!!

Here are the answers Donalyn emailed back to me as part of our Book Whisperer read along! She even had them done a day early because she was heading off on vacation...I hope she is having a wonderful, and well-deserved great time. Don't forget that we are going to have a second Q&A so if thought of a question since I closed the comments, or your question didn't get answered then you can always post it again.

My question for Donalyn is: I teach a first/second grade multiage class. In your book, you talk a lot about making time for independent reading and also students taking advantage of down time to read. This makes complete sense in sixth grade, since I'm sure many of them are reading novels, but how could I adapt this for first and second graders? I just imagine a thirty-minute independent reading time with students getting up and switching out books constantly. The only thing I can think of is to have them start with a huge pile of books on their desks... Do you have any other ideas of how I can incorporate many of your ideas into primary grades? Thanks! Jill

Donalyn's answer~
In a primary class, I think your idea about stacks of books on every table from which the children may choose makes good sense. You could have the children help you select the books for their tables every week and rotate piles among tables or select books that connect to the authors or topics you introduce in class. Consider adding your read alouds and books from guided reading into the piles, too.

I recommend Debbie Miller's books (No relation, although I'll claim her!) on workshop teaching and comprehension. Her ideas are geared toward younger grades, but her philosophy embraces similar ideas

Hi Donalyn, thanks so much for agreeing to this! I just finished your book today--I feel so empowered and READY to transform my students' attitudes about reading. I used to love to read as a child until my high school teachers started requiring us to read books I was NOT interested in. Almost 10 years later and in my 20s I am starting to get back to what I used to love. I want to pass on my passion and excitement to my students. Here is my dilemma....I also teach in Texas (yay STAAR). My grade is departmentalized and I am the math teacher. I will also teach my homeroom science next school year. I plan to (somehow) squeeze in time to at least read to my homeroom about 10 minutes per day, but that is all I can do. I also use whatever math literature I can get my hands on for my lessons, which my students LOVE. How do you suggest I get my students motivated and passionate about reading when I teach math and science and not teach Language Arts? Froggycupcakes

Donalyn's answer~

You can still promote reading even though you are a math and science teacher. Here are some suggestions:
Show students that you are a reader by suggesting books and sharing what you are reading with them-- even if by casually mentioning it. It is important for children to see that many adults are readers-- not just English teachers.
Encourage students to bring a book to your class to read when they are done with their science or math work for the day. They may not need the book most days, but you are sending a strong message about how much you value reading. My math and science teacher colleagues would rather students read when they finish their math practice, science reading, or projects than draw, visit, or goof off.
Go to the library and check out books about science and math topics you are studying. Your librarian would be overjoyed to help you. Put these books along your marker rail or dedicate a shelf (facing the books cover out is best). At the beginning or end of class, ask students to select one book to skim. Students can pick one fact or one text feature (charts, diagrams, etc.) to share. Encourage students to read these books when they are done with their classwork for the day, too. This activity builds background knowledge for the topics you are studying and exposes students to more nonfiction texts.
I think that reading aloud a book to your homeroom is a marvelous idea, too. What a great community builder for kids who you only see for a few minutes each day.

These are the other questions posed by our fellow read along members...perhaps we can discuss them together and come up with some solutions?

Question #1- A dear friend's son is not interested in reading at all. She has modeled reading with him. She bought him books that he would be interested in. She went to visit a librarian for suggestions. Nothing has worked for several years. He still dislikes it. Any other suggestions for him?  Tamara

Question #2- I know a child who reads aloud VERY slowly and sounds each letter out. He is in fifth grade. Yet, he scores very high on comprehension. Should his slow reading be a concern. Will he gradually speed up as he reads more and more?(Sometimes this is a problem when he has to take timed tests.) Thank you! Tamara

Question #3- I love the idea of a reader's notebook, how would I incorporate this for my first graders? I have a few ideas, but would love your take on this. Janine 

Don't forget we will all be talking about reader's notebook from July 16th-18th along with 

Ashley from
Laral from

Little Miss Kindergarten who will be hosting.

Question #4- My system using a basal program that places students in ability level groups. It is a very skill based program but it does expose kids to many genres and types of texts each week. How would you suggest I encourage a love of reading with such a program? I read aloud of my kids all the time and talk about books I am reading but I worry that this program will squish any desire to read! Thanks for your time and your brillant book! Katie

Question #5- My question is regarding English Language Learners. I teach newcomer ELL students in 4th and 5th grade. My class uses interactive stories online, listens to books on iPods, and I read tons of books aloud (so they can comprehend and enjoy more age-appropriate books). It's the independent reading I worry about at times. Many are just learning to read in English, so it can sometimes be challenging to find high-interest books at their reading levels. Do you have any advice regarding students just learning to read in English? Thank you! Kristen

5 Brilliant Teaching Thoughts:

Michael Edlavitch said...

Have you heard of Hooda Math Games yet? at, Check out their featured math games at

Jill said...

OMG! I can't believe she answered my question!!!! I am just smiling away, how exciting!!

Magnificent Multiagers!

Nicole said...

I would love to get a message to Ms. Miller to tell her that as a result of me being in this book study and posting my thoughts on it, TWO OTHER HOMESCHOOLING moms (I do not know either personally) have started reading her book. She is going to make a big wave through the homeschooling community, I just know it!

Beth said...

@Nicole- I am thinking that for the final celebration I might have people post their comments, thanks, etc for Donalyn so we can thank her.

Susan Case said...

Hello - I'm your newest follower from the K Expo Linky Party. You have a wonderful blog! Hope you'll visit mine.

Post a Comment

Thank you taking the time to leave a comment.
I truly appreciate it.

Pin It button on image hover