Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reading Freedom- Chapter 4 of The Book Whisperer

Is anyone else's copy starting to look like a neon porcupine? Mine is covered with highlighter and post-it notes sticking out EVERYWHERE!!! I love it.

About three years ago I decided that the majority of my reading marks should come from my student's independent reading. I mean, after all, it's books they want to read, like to read and hopefully, will read. I pretty much gave up all control of the type of books my student's read. They had complete freedom. Like Miller, I did have some genre requirements however I didn't really follow through with it too seriously or really check up on my students. That's going to change this year!

I start every year with quite a few lessons on how to choose books and I love that Miller talks about how she handles the situation when a student says that "books are boring" (page 73). I always make a point of talking with my students about abandoning books and my favourite saying is that "life is too short to read bad books". My students know that it is okay to give up on a book they hate. Would you sit through an entire movie you hated? Probably not. So why read a whole book you hate!?

I am excited to share the rights of a reader with my students (page 75) this year. Teaching Grade 4 (after 7 years of Grade 7 & 8) has been an eye opening experience. I think I will have a brainstorming session with my class to create our own list of the rights of a reader before I share this list with them. I would really like to see what their opinion is on the subject, and it would make a great lesson in Writer's Workshop too...the rights of a writer! Hmmmm...my brain is working away tonight!

When I reached page 76 I heaved a big sigh of relief...oh good, Miller is going to explain why she makes her reading requirement 40 books. I have to admit I totally agree with her when she says that if you have high expectations that your students will rise to meet them but I am a little nervous to set so high a requirement. What if no student reaches that goal? What if every parent complains? What is my administration thinks I am crazy? The idea of creating a genre tally helps ease my fears somewhat although I will be adapting Miller's. I can't imagine asking my Grade 4 students to read 5 poetry anthologies as there isn't much of requirement for poetry in the Ontario curriculum and I would rather guide students through poetry. I would also like to add adventure as a genre because I know so many boys love to read adventures. If I had to decided today what my genre requirement would look like I would go with this:

Poetry Anthologies: 2
Traditional Literature: 3
Realistic Fiction: 4
Historical Fiction: 2
Graphic Novel: 1
Fantasy: 3
Science Fiction: 3
Mystery: 3
Informational: 5
Biography, Authobiography, Memoir: 2
Adventure: 3
Chapter Book Choice: 9

I have also added graphic novels because they are becoming very popular and I think as teachers we need to change with the times, regardless of our own personal opinion of any genre (I hate graphic novels!! Mostly because they all confuse me. It's not a reading skill I have.)

I might change, I might not....What would your genre requirements look like? I love the genre requirement because the very first reading expectation in the Ontario curriculum  for every grade is "read and demonstrate an understanding of a variety of literary, graphic, and informational texts, using a range of strategies to construct meaning". 

I am going to make it my goal this year to truly value the books my students are reading and to read as many of the books they recommend to me. I did this a lot when I taught Grade 7 and 8 because I really enjoy YA...however, the books Grade 4's often enjoy...well, they are a different story. But like Miller points out on page 84 "[b]y allowing and encouraging students to read what they want, I also endorse their culture and their interests". How true. I want to be able to discuss the books my students are reading and that can only happen authentically if I have also read the books.

My second goal for this year is get better at read alouds. I love doing them with picture books, but chapter books tend to get really dragged out. I want to really look at my schedule and see how I can find extra time for chapter book read alouds while still giving my students their independent reading time.

Starting in August (because we go back to school in September here in Ontario) I am going to create me genre lesson plans. I may start my buying this amazing looking package from Clutter Free Classroom.  Why reinvent the wheel right?

Lastly, (because whew...this is a looooong post) I want to talk more and Reader's Notebooks but I will save it for my next post when we talk about the Whisper: Reader's Notebooks. I'll just say this I have basically used the same method as Donalyn explains and I have never known more about my student's reading abilities and as people. I. Love. it.

The end! (Whew).

Discussion Questions:
1) How do you plan to give your students reading freedom?
2) What are your favourite reading lessons to start the school year with?
3) What would your genre requirement look like? Why would you pick these genres?
4) As we are half way through The Book Whisperer what goals have you made for your reading program for this coming school year?

2 Brilliant Teaching Thoughts:

Nicole said...

I blogged about my thoughts on Chapter 4, here:


Have a great day!

Jennifer Gibson said...

Thanks for sharing your ideas. I have to look back over Chapter 4 before I post my response. I loved this book!


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