Day with Donalyn


The focus of the second day of the Longwood University Summer Institute was teacher, author, and now Scholastic representative Donalyn Miller.  In the morning she held a three-hour workshop for all participants and in the afternoon she offered a shorter presentation on conferring.

Donalyn’s morning presentation was titled: Voice and Choice: Fostering Reading Ownership.  Her goal was to communicate the importance of providing students with choice independent reading time in classrooms.  She sprinkled her presentation with photos and stories from her classroom along with research.  Here are some highlights:

  • There is over 60 years of research on the effectiveness of Independent Reading.  She even wrote a piece titled I Got Research Yes I Do for teachers to read and use to support this practice in their classroom.
  • She talked about the importance of creating INDEPENDENT readers (who find joy and are engaged in reading) and not dependent readers (who wait to be assigned a book by a teacher).
  • Giving students CHOICE in what they read is important.  People who lose their choice become disempowered.  In self-selecting books students increase their decision-making ability.
  • Classroom libraries are important.  Classroom libraries should contain between 300 and 2,000 books.  Teachers should get rid of books that are MUSTIE — Misleading, Ugly, Superseded, Trivial, Irrelevant, and Elsewhere.  When we discard books remember to give them to kids…not the garbage
  • Test prep does not increase test performance or reading achievement.
  • We punish children when we give rewards for reading…”Reading is so awful you need a prize to do it.” 😦
  • #1 way to determine what to read next…ask Reading Friends.  Allowing students time to talk about their books empowers them.
  • When a child struggles with finding a book give them a Preview Stack = 4 or 5 books you think they might like for them to CHOOSE from.
  • Read alouds are important to have in every classroom.  Keep track of the books read aloud by posting the titles in the room under “Texts We’ve Shared.”
  • Motivation, Background Knowledge, and Reading Level all play roles in students finding success with reading a text.  Background knowledge makes up 70% of success.

Much of Donalyn’s presentation revisited her ideas in Reading in the Wild.  After lunch Donalyn spoke about conferring.  Her Powerpoint for this presentation (and many of her other presentations) can be viewed on SlideShare.  This one has the picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on it.  Here are some big ideas about conferring:

  • Conferences are about the reader not the book.
  • Great way to start a conference is by asking, “How’s It Going?”  Then the child can guide us to where to go next.
  • There are 3 types of conferences:
    1. Content/Standards Based
    2. Comprehension
    3. Reading Habits
  • To begin the year she completes a reading essentials survey on with each student (see slideshare)
  • Everyone leaves a conference with a goal to work on (teacher and student)
  • Evernote is a great free app to help record data.

After Donalyn spoke I had her sign my #bookaday text since I only own her two books in audio form.

It was wonderful to hear Donalyn speak in person.  We hold the same philosophy on reading instruction.  I thank her for trekking to Virginia for this conference.  She had many travel problems as she describes in this Blog post.  If you are not already a subscriber to The Nerdy Book Club click on that link and subscribe now!

Want to learn more about conferring?  Check out Three Teachers Talk repost from yesterday…it is so good!


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