Sunday, September 2, 2012

Catch up and The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

I hope the beginning of the school year has been a positive experience for all of you!  I have to say I’m amazed at how much more smoothly the start of the year goes with 5th graders compared to my former 2nd graders!  It’s a whole new world!  Thank you to all the primary teachers who work so hard to get them ready for us!

I am so happy I made the switch to 5th grade. I truly enjoy my students, and am constantly amazed at their ideas, conversations and maturity. 

However, I know everyone’s brain works differently.  I officially am a “big-picture” person.  I have a hard time wrapping my head around details until I’ve figured out big ideas, and how things work as a whole.  Consequently, I’m taking 5th grade a day at a time, putting the pieces together.  I’m making decisions slowly about how we’ll do our reading logs, use our notebooks, folders, etc.  I have to have a vision for everything until I’ll commit. 

This is why I am absent from blogging.  I don’t have a lot to contribute until I've wrapped my head around my new role as a 5th grade dual language teacher.  I hope to be sharing ideas and activities soon, but right now everything is in the very beginning stages.

One of the ways I’m wrapping my head around the intermediate grades is by reading…I’ve been reading more children's/YA books to keep my book recommendations relevant and up to date.  I’ve also been reading some teacher books.

I want to share one with you that is truly amazing!  If you teach in the intermediate/middle school grades this book is definitely for you.  Teachers of other grade levels this book is still a good read, it might just not be quite as easily applied to your classroom.

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child
The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  Did you ever watch/read Anne of Green Gables?  I remember the main character always carrying on about kindred spirits.  Well, I can honestly say that although Donalyn and I have never met, we are kindred spirits.  Donalyn is a teacher and a true book nerd, of epic proportions!  (She would probably say bibliophile…) 

As a teacher Donalyn initially struggled to find a literacy instruction approach that engaged students and inspired students to become true readers.  In this book she shares her experiences and methods for creating lifelong readers. 

Her book left me inspired, motivated, and wishing I had had a teacher like her!  Donalyn promotes more student freedom, choice and independent reading in the classroom.  Under this approach her students have shown incredible growth as readers, and have proven time and time again that “no single literacy activity has a more positive effect on students’ comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability, and overall academic achievement than free voluntary reading”.

This book is very reasonably priced and is an easy read!    I read it in less than 48 hours! 

What now? 

Now that I’ve read this book how am I going to apply Donalyn’s wisdom to my classroom?  It is important that I strive to be a teacher like Donalyn so that my students aren’t left wishing they had had a teacher like her, as I am now.

Here are some of the things I plan to do…

1.  READ – more books that are geared for my students reading levels.  A huge part of what makes Donalyn’s approach so successful is her knowledge and passion for literature.  She is very up to date on what kids are reading and can make recommendations to any of her students.

2.  Students will be expected to read 40 books this school year, with genre requirements built in to help them expand their lietrary experiences.

3.  Create our reading response journals…because I have about 100 composition notebooks I believe we’ll be using composition notebooks.  Donalyn uses spirals, and a former colleague of mine used three-pronged folders with loose-leaf paper.  Included:
  • Table of contents
  • Genre Notes
  • Literary Terms
  • Bridge (for dual language)
  • Have-Read List
  • Want to read list
  • Lots of space for reader response to text (letters to me, and my answers)
4.  Genre discussion with students – this week!

5.  Continue organizing classroom library by genre using Donalyn’s model.

6.  Build my classroom library – another secret to Donalyn’s success is her HUGE classroom library.  In order for students to choose they have to have books to choose from…so I’ll be working on this too.

7.  Decide what this will look like in a dual language classroom.  I need my students to be growing as readers and writers in both Spanish and English.  So I will have to set certain requirements for language.

This will be a work in progress, but I will be sure to share what works and doesn’t work. 

Have a wonderful labor day!
Mrs. Castro Pin It


  1. So many things I love about this post that I don't know where to start! The reminder of Anne and Diana? Donalyn Miller? How much you are loving 5th grade? Can I be a kindred spirit too? :) I can't wait to follow your journey in applying this to your classroom. I think you are definitely on the right path. Guiding Readers and Writers 3-6 is an older but good book that could help you with the logistics to continue implementing this philosophy. So excited for you and your growing readers!

  2. I didn't know that you changed your top thing! Header? I don't know what it's called.

    Did you know that you can follow Donalyn on Goodreads? I follow her and I love when we like the same books! It makes me so happy!!

    So excited to see you this week!!

    Marvelous Multiagers!

  3. Love The Book Whisperer. The books are the ONLY reason I wish I taught an upper grade. YA was 85 percent of what I read this summer!

    Chickadee Jubilee

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