A “Not-a-Book-Report” Report

9780470900307 In a way this is a “It’s Monday, What Are You Reading” post, but I knew I couldn’t get it done for Monday. So, it is just a review of the professional development books I’ve read so far this semester for special methods class.

I’ve written before on this blog about Donalyn Miller’s book Reading in the Wild. Donalyn Miller is one of my teaching idols because I read this book. What I found most helpful about Reading in the Wild is the way that Donalyn shows up how to create readers and build a reading curriculum based on common sense and real life, instead of complicated and realistic pedagogies. I think too often pre-service teachers are bombarded with idealistic classroom tactics when, hopefully, most of us are already readers and know how to be lifelong learners. This books gives us permission to use what we know about reading in our own lives in the classroom. Wild readers always have a book, or two or three, going. They carry books with them everywhere and read whenever they have a few minutes of downtime. Wild readers don’t force themselves to slog through books they hate and they reread books they love. They read series. They push books on other readers. They make note of portions of the book they love but don’t mark each page with sticky notes or stop to analyze every chapter when they are in a reading flow.

In addition to all the great information, Donalyn Miller gives us samples of forms she uses in her classroom at the end of the book. I read a borrowed copy of this book first, but I had to buy my own to be able to refer back and mark up the good parts.

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This book written by Penny Kittle is making the rounds in Special Methods. I read The Greatest Catch on Nicky’s recommendation after she book talked it in class. I think Zach has it now. This is a small book with short chapters but it is long on content. Unlike Penny Kittle’s other books, this is a memoir of her time in the classroom, not so much a how-to book. I think that everyone who thinks they want to teach should read this book to prepare themselves for the heartbreak and inevitable mistakes, as well as the joys, of teaching. I’m not sure that anyone can prepare for an alcoholic elementary student, the mother who shows up to conferences with a Bud Light, or the necessity of reporting suspected sexual abuse, but knowing it may be a reality is one step closer to preparedness.

9781571107800Readicide by Kelly Gallagher is another confirmation that the accepted practice of teaching language arts, and, well, everything else, is damaging the literacy of students. There wasn’t a lot of new information in this book that I hadn’t seen elsewhere or didn’t “know” was true, but it is packed with statistics and alternatives to the usual teaching methods, so it can be a good resource. One thing that was new to me was the Los Angeles school district’s 122-page unit guide for teaching To Kill a Mockingbird. All of the twenty lessons are not included in this book- thank god- but a sample is. The unit could be better titled “To Kill the Love of Reading” or “To Kill the Will to Teach.” These samples settled it: I’m never moving to L.A.

Gallagher is opposed to most standardized testing and the way that testing has changed classroom practices, something I love to see experts do. This book is also short, which is helpful. It is 118 pages long, excluding appendixes and references. One place where I differ with Gallagher is in his advocacy of the whole class novel. I’m am not sold on this practice. I can’t figure out what forcing all students to read the same book does that requiring students to read widely of their own choosing and dissecting shorter, complicated pieces of literature as a class can’t do.

Up next: The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, which for some unknown reason I’m having a harder time with than Reading in the Wild, and the research heavy, but short, The Power of Reading by Stephen Krashen, which might be overdue from the library.

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