Summer Book Study: Reading in the Wild


Unlike many other bloggers, I hadn’t read Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer.  After reading so many great reviews, I was tempted.  When I saw this Summer Book Study for Miller’s follow-up, Reading in the Wild,  I was sold.  I ordered both books right away and started reading The Book Whisperer as soon as the package arrived. What can I say?  I DEVOURED the book.! It looks like a porcupine – with all of my Post-It tape flags poking out!

Now, I am devouring Reading in the Wild.  I have so many thoughts about how this book is going to change my teaching this upcoming year.  Furthermore, because I am the Lead ELA teacher for my school, I have tons of ideas for Professional Development for my colleagues.


Right away, I felt a connection with the authors of this book.  On page 3, Miller & Kelley reflect on the reading logs and crossword puzzles that students are required to complete in order to “prove” they did the required reading.  Although I haven’t had the research to back up my feelings against reading logs, I do not use them in my class (but I think I may be the only teacher in my school that doesn’t require reading logs).  Miller & Kelley refer to reading logs and other related assignments as “counterfeit activities” (page 3).

Before I became a teacher, I was a stay-at-home mother for 10 years.  I can honestly say I have raised “wild readers”.  My babies had bathtub books and cloth books they could chew on.  From their earliest days, I read aloud at the dinner table and at bedtime.  Today, my three teenagers LOVE reading!  They almost go through books too quickly (wink)!

When my children began attending elementary school, they were always assigned reading logs.  They HATED them.  I HATED them.  When you are a wild reader, how do you”log” the five minutes in the car, the twelve minutes waiting at the dentist, or the dozens & dozens of minutes at bedtime?  I’ll admit it.  We just faked the log and I signed it.  I knew my kids loved reading.  I knew my kids were reading (more than the required 20 minutes each day).  The reading logs were just  painful, boring assignments which didn’t reflect what my kids were actually doing.

Because all of the other teachers at my school used reading logs, I tried them for the first few months of my teaching career.   This is what I discovered: The students who weren’t reading faked their logs (and the parents signed them anyway) ; the students that were reading, faked their logs and had to spend precious reading time completing a mindless activity.


Finally, there were those few students that didn’t have any parental support.  They were (unfairly) penalized because their reading logs didn’t have the required signature.  For example, I had one student (“Michael”) whose father was a trucker.  Michael’s father would be gone for days/weeks at a time.  Most of the time, he was under the supervision of his stepmother (who didn’t care).  Michael’s stepmother wouldn’t lift a finger for this great kid.  Why should he have to sit out during recess because his log lacked the required signature?  But, that’s how it worked at my school.

After a few months I gained the courage I needed.  I quietly stopped assigning reading logs – and I have never used them again.

As the years have passed, I have had some of my colleagues’ children in my class.  My fellow teachers are always surprised to learn that I do not assign reading logs.  I explain my rationale and rely on my instincts. Frankly, it has paid off.  I have one less assignment to grade each week – and my students always do very well during state testing.

Thanks to Reading in the Wild, I now have evidence (page 3; page 11) to support what my instincts have told me all along.  🙂

In addition, I like the book’s suggestion to have the students use Goodreads or Edmodo to have “conversations” about the books they have read (page 34).  Personally, I use Goodreads myself.  I also like a site for children called “Kidsmomo”.  I am certainly going to have my students use at least one of these sites this upcoming year!


Finally, the other section that really caught my attention in Chapter 1 was page 8.  Miller & Kelley discuss the research about the correlation between reading time and student performance.  I think I am going to type up this information as a “pretty handout”. I will distribute it to the parents at Back-to-School Night this upcoming year!

(Come back in a few days, and I’ll put it up as a FREEBIE!)

Best,   Michelle


Teacher Modeling for Close Reading

Teacher Modeling for Close Reading

Have you ever skied?  Do you play tennis or golf?  Do you swim or play a musical instrument? All of these skills/tasks are taught through modeling and demonstration.

Did you know that modeling can be equally effective in cognitive tasks?  That is why it is very important to use teacher modeling when planning lessons involving close reading. Researchers have found that most teaching is done in the second person (“First,  you add the digits in the digits in the ones column.” or “When you look at this caterpillar, what do you see?”  ).

However, many experts recommend teaching close reading in the first person.  You can do this easily by modeling your own thinking. In order to model a close reading, experts Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher recommend the following steps:

1.  Naming the strategy or skill (visualizing, using context clues, etc.).

2.  Stating the purpose of the specific strategy or skill.

3.  Using “I” statements as you model the strategy with an anchor text (“I can just imagine the amazed look on Harry’s face when he finds out he’s a wizard!”).

4. Demonstrating the strategy or skill with a “think aloud” in the first person.

5.  Alerting students about common errors; and

6.  Assessing the usefulness of that particular strategy or skill.

Teacher modeling of close reading can easily be done with Big Books and/or document cameras.  Start with a lesson that includes a short, interactive reading and try modeling your own thinking during the lesson.  Then, let me know how the lesson went by posting a comment below!