Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reflections from a #cyberPD First-timer: Part 1 of "Reading in the Wild"

First, let me say what a pleasure it is to join this group of amazing teachers for #cyberPD this summer! I just joined the Twitter/blogging community early this year, and the opportunities to grow and reflect as an educator with like-minded individuals have literally blown me away. I've been challenged, encouraged, and pushed in ways I never imagined possible! This experience is proving to be no different.

As a third-year 6th grade teacher (6 years in 3rd grade prior to that), I am particularly interested in the personal reflections and stories that Donalyn (Can I call her that?!) shares. They remind me of my own students and allow me to very easily insert my own classroom into the narrative without any adjustments.

Before I began the book,  I admit I approached with skepticism, wondering how much would "really" apply to the unique and always-changing 6th grade mindset.

I also admit that I was wrong. Completely.

This book is real.

No sugar-coating here. I appreciate how she doesn't shy away from the issues we face everyday or pretend she doesn't have them herself. The tone of the book doesn't talk down to "the rest of us"; she's in the trenches, too,  and provides real and current solutions to the problems that exist in the reading classroom. I literally sighed with relief when I got to the "fake reader" section. Thank God I'm not the only one! And then the suggestions to help tackle issue-- priceless!

To be honest, it didn't take me long to be challenged in this book. The introduction (pg. xviii) states a truth that I have grappled with for years, but haven't had the courage to address:

"If my students were truly independent readers, why did they still need a teacher to orchestrate their reading lives?" 


I hate that.

But it's so, so true. I can choose to live with the blinders on and pretend that the habits we build in Room 606 will last forever, or I can be real with myself. Truthfully, most of my kiddos that move on to 7th grade do not have "wild reader" hearts that will last beyond the micro-reality that is my reading/language arts room. I know this.

So in response to these two chapters, I've decided to make a Top 10 List of my questions, my to-dos, my think-more-abouts, and my new understandings. I could make it a Top 100 very easily--there's that much-- but I'll spare you. Here goes!

1. A guiding truth: "...children who read the most will always outperform children who don't read much." (introduction, pg. xix) So, so true. I can't fail at this.

2. A question: How can I fit in more time for kids to share, converse, and socialize about books? 6th graders need this. They crave that sense of belonging described on page 9 and a reading community can provide that.

3. I am the "lead reader" in my room. I talk about my reading, but not enough.

4. Reading doesn't always fit in the school box. (i.e. Sarah's reading life on pg. 2)

5. I need to teach not just the skill of reading, but the skill of making time to read. (pg. 7) I deal with this every day in 6th grade--"There's just no time, Miss Collins!" Reading on the edge has to become a reality for all of us. We're going to make a list of places we were bored like her class did on page 14. It's a concrete way to make the point.

6. As a 1:1 Chromebook classroom, I loved the online reading response ideas (pg. 34). My kids are very into this right now.

7. I am working on my Reading Workshop "wish list" as outlined on pg. 38--what can I do to make the most of the time that I have everyday?

8. How can I provide more online reading opportunities? Maybe (pg. 51)

9. I want to start my year with a "favorite read aloud" sharing time (pg. 53). LOVE this idea.

10. I've looked for a way to keep my library organized and to perfect a check-in/check-out procedure. Perhaps is the answer I've been looking for! (pg. 82)

So, new #cyberPD friends, I'm sorry if my post missed the boat. I'm not exactly sure what a "reflection" should look like in the forum, but I did my best. I hope that this provides some insights into what I've been wondering about as I read, and I look forward to interacting with all of you during this coming month!


  1. Katy,
    I really enjoyed reading your post. Are you sure this is your first time participating in #cyperPD? Creating a top 10 list to organize your thinking was a great idea. I was also interested in what Donalyn had to say about fake reading. In my first grade classroom we call this pretend reading. Her warning signs and suggestions for working with these students were very helpful. This past year one of my first graders struggled in this area and it was great to see this addressed in the book.

    Number 5 on your list also resonated with me. "I need to teach not just the skill of reading, but the skill of making time to read." This is going to be one of my priorities this year. It is also important for first graders to learn to "read on the edge" as Donalyn refers to it.
    Although I work with primary children, I really identified with your top 10 list. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today.

    1. Thank you for your insightful comments, Valerie, and for encouraging this newbie! :) I think it's amazing that this book applies to so many grade levels simultaneously. When a first grade teacher and a sixth grade one can both find ideas that apply--even the same ones sometimes!--you know it's well-written, right? Thanks for your comments and I look forward to more interactions and discussions!

  2. Hi Katy,

    For us chapters 1 and 2 reminded us that we need to teach our readers strategies for finding time to read and strategies for finding books that live beyond the classroom walls. Thanks for sharing your reflections.

    1. Thank you for your comment-- I agree! More time is essential!

  3. Katy,

    I'd love to learn more about this book! It sounds like it could be a great resource for enhancing our GEAR time as well as encouraging our students to develop a love of reading. I loved your post and am anxious to learn more!

    1. You can be sure I'll have some great stuff to share, Alicia! You'd love the book, and it would have some wonderful resources we could incorporate into GEAR. You are welcome to borrow it after July or read my blog (and others at #cyberPD) for the highlights!

  4. Katy,
    Thank you so much for sharing your reflections and your top 10 list. Here's the one that really grabbed me: "what can I do to make the most of the time that I have everyday?" You are an example for all of us. So often we think, must like are students, there isn't enough time to do this. You instead ask, because you know it's important, "How can I make it happen?". Looking forward to hearing the solutions you find.


    1. Thank you for the encouragement and comments, Cathy! Time is something I am constantly trying to manipulate--like all teachers-- to get the most out of it! I'm looking forward to finding some solutions, too...I think many will come from my new cyber PD friends!

  5. Love your top 10 list and especially #2. It is so important to give kids time to talk about books! Isn't this such a great book? So many great thoughts and ideas!

    1. I LOVE this book, Megan. I am obsessed with the idea of getting kids talking more and building more of a reading community. Can't wait to read future chapters and brainstorm more ideas!

  6. Katy,

    I'm so glad you joined in the conversations! There is no "right" way to respond -- this is perfect! Loved the highlights, your questions and thinking, and throughout your honest writing, your voice and passion shines through!

    Hmmm ... more time. Well, you can't change the set schedule, so you have to look at the time your are given. Think more about the Rule of Thirds Donalyn shared on p. 38. I like her idea of the last 10 min., but I have also utilized the first 10 minutes as students are arriving to my resource room. The students are respectful of others reading and usually get to class right away!

    I can easily relate to #3 ... I have thought a lot about my wild reading behaviors, habits, and preferences. I need to share more with my students!

    Yes to #9! What fun! And let them check out books on day one of school and time to read! That truly sets the tone and priority of reading in your class! Oh, and read aloud! Those sixth graders are still kids. Everyone loves a great book that will bring you together!

    Thanks again for jumping into the conversation! By the way, love the blog design. :) (Same as mine!)


  7. Katy,
    I adored your Top 10!! What a creative, perfect way to share your takeaways! I particularly connected with #6; we have 1:1 tablets in my 4th grade classroom, so we are using them to help us respond to our reading (among other things!) Having this technology in our hands opens up new possibilities, but I want to make sure we continue to respond in thoughtful, authentic ways.

    You will love Booksource's Classsroom Organizer!! I've added my books to it, and it really helps to keep track of what books we have in our classroom. It also helps when I'm shopping and adding new titles!

    Thanks for joining in the #cyberPD conversation!

  8. Missed your post last week so backtracked to find it. Love your question about how can we make the most of the time that we have. I teach preservice teachers, and I quote one line from Randy Bomer so often to them that they probably get really sick of it: "We make time for what we value." Except in school, I think we often make time for everything EXCEPT what we truly value! I will never forget a department chair meeting when I taught high school. Focus of the meeting was on how we can improve reading scores. At the end of the meeting, principal told me to stop giving students time to read in class because it was a waste of class time. I like your top 10 list of questions, wonderings, and takeaways so much, I'm definitely borrowing it for the next time I write about a professional development read!