Donalyn Miller’s 40 Book Challenge Reader’s Notebook

The first pages to be glued into student's composition books a.k.a. Reader's Notebooks.

I’ve gone back and forth on this and I have come to a final decision.  So many teachers are out there trying to figure out the best ways to guide students to a love of reading and a desire for learning.  In past posts, I have mentioned books I have read such as The Book Whisperer (again, highly recommended), Beth Newingham (google her), and other research as done by Fountas and Pinnell of reader’s notebooks.  Recently went to a training and was recommended Mosaic of Thought, which I have just purchased (will write my thoughts on that at a later time), and met an amazing woman– Carol Jago.  She has inspired me to be open and share thing with my fellow educators in hopes that we all can work together and improve our instruction for students.  (Just recently purchased her book Rigor for All, as well.)  Yikes!  I’ve got a lot of reading to do…..

Anyway, this year I began a “40 Book Challenge” in Reader’s Notebooks for my students.  Instructions and all are included in this download so I won’t explain any of that.  I’d simply like to take time to reflect on my results thus far, and changes I have already made and what I will plan on making for next year.

So far, I am extremely happy with the results.   The first month of response letters and weekly schedules were a little rough.  I’ve had to stick a couple of reminder lessons of my expectations in my lesson plans.  You know how it is teaching kids a new system…and, let’s face it, even myself.  I’ve had to refine my instructions.  For example, each week I expect ONE FULL PAGE response.  Some of my kids are now typing their responses as their handwriting is just too…..how shall I put it….sloppy?  That’s it.

I would like to see their responses move from simple retells to basic plot summaries and more opinion and critique-type styles, but we’re working on that.  I also had a book talk (included in the download) oral presentation.  I wanted a little more substance so I revised another one which will take place in a couple of weeks.  I’m excited to compare the results!

Overall, getting rid of AR (which I did last year) and starting this has allowed me to treat my students like real readers!! Which they are!! It’s amazing how much more I’m learning about them through these letters.  Yes, it is a major time commitment and at times I question my own program…. Do I need to respond to every kid, every week??? But the answer in my heart is yes, even if it’s just a couple of sentences.  The students feel very special receiving that note.  They know I care.

 

Weekly Schedule signed by both student and parent is to be glued into Reader's Notebook each week along with their weekly response letter. Books I Plan to Read is a heading for one page to be used throughout the year for students to add titles to it. Genre codes used for reading log.
Weekly Schedule signed by both student and parent is to be glued into Reader’s Notebook each week along with their weekly response letter. Books I Plan to Read is a heading for one page to be used throughout the year for students to add titles to it. Genre codes used for reading log.
Completed as a class at the beginning of the year then attached (glued) in notebooks for student reference. Taken from "The Book Whisperer" and adapted to fit my composition books.
Completed as a class at the beginning of the year then attached (glued) in notebooks for student reference. Taken from “The Book Whisperer” and adapted to fit my composition books.
Also, instructions in the form of a letter of what is expected each week in their accountability letter.
Also, instructions in the form of a letter of what is expected each week in their accountability letter.
Student Example to be kept in notebooks for reference and list of possible topics to address in weekly letters.
Student Example to be kept in notebooks for reference and list of possible topics to address in weekly letters.
I have a couple of different rubrics in this file. Adapted from Beth Newingham's rubrics and adapted for my liking and grading system. Similar to my writing rubrics and oral presentation criteria charts.
I have a couple of different rubrics in this file. Adapted from Beth Newingham’s rubrics and adapted for my liking and grading system. Similar to my writing rubrics and oral presentation criteria charts.

Book Whisperer: 40 Book Challenge

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47 thoughts on “Donalyn Miller’s 40 Book Challenge Reader’s Notebook

      1. I am a new librarian and my libraries are all marked AR. I would love as much information about how to restructure my library and help teachers get away from AR. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Welcome to your new role!! I LOVE a good librarian!!!

        First things first, when were the books marked with AR levels? If it was pre-Common Core, which most of the libraries I have seen are, you will need to ensure teachers understand that the AR Grade Levels no longer match up to the grade level expectations now, as the lexile bands have dramatically increased. You have given me the topic for the next blog post. I will post the research I have done and the correlation chart I have provided for the teachers I work with. If you send me your email, I can send you the chart ASAP.

        On another note, I do think it’s important to have a book’s reading level available for parents, teachers, and students; however I am a huge believer in enticing students with genres. But not the sort of bland typical genre. If I ruled the world, the genre labels would be spicier and juicier… for example, not “realistic fiction”, but “Animals Attack!” I’m not sure if that’s possible, but let’s brainstorm maybe what can be done. Are you on twitter? There are some fantastic librarians to follow on there.

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  1. Is there any way you can send me a copy of the expectations for the weekly letters and the student samples? Thank you!

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  2. this is amazing!!!! I moved down from HS to 4th/5th grade this year, and am implementing the 40 book challenge. I hate reinventing the wheel, and making more work for myself. This resource is exactly what I was looking for!! My students need a lot of direction and this notebook will provide just that. Thank you so much!!!

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    1. Oh my goodness! I’m so pleased that this is being utilized and that this format will work for you. I totally agree that we should not reinvent ANYTHING as teachers! There’s not enough time in the world for all the things we have to do for our students. Please check back in and let me know how you liked it. There are other posts on here that show the process I had to go through. Also, if I were in the classroom this year, I would have changed one of the genres to “Graphic Novels”. I’ll probably post about the reasons why and some recommended titles later.

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      1. Graphic novels have already come up many times by my boys! What genre do you fit this in under? And do you limit them in the number? I have one who would read all his “fiction” in graphic novels if I would let him.

        We got it all set up today! Ready to go for tomorrow!

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      2. Hello again! If I were using this in my classroom again, my thought was to revise the genre list changing traditional literature to graphic novels. Why? To be honest, it was difficult to find copies of traditional stories like Peter Pan or Alice and Wonderland at their grade level. Graphic novels are so HOT right now, and the students are SO into it, that’s the genre I would add. Also, it gives students that would have never selected a graphic novel a chance to try it out. I will actually be posting about this change on the blog next month, complete with recommended titles and resources. Otherwise, I would suggest maybe allowing that genre to fall under “free choice” or whatever type of fiction it may be. You could even tell the students to read ___ a year under any genre. Thoughts?

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      3. I totally agree with your idea of adding it in! It’s an excellent way to help them read and understand the classics. (I spent some time stalking through your blog yesterday, hence the many comments!)

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    1. My apologies if I have not replied to this—let me send you the docs now. It’s in a PDF format thought due to the fonts used. If I send in Word, nothing matches up and the format goes crazy.

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    1. Hi Stephanie!

      I worked with 5th grade students. We started the year with the page response each week using a standard composition book. If that was a struggle for students, we met and set individual goals, but expectation was always a page. 3rd grade colleagues of mine started this at my site, and they began with 1/2 a page working up to a full page by the end of the year. I think it’s at your discretion depending on your population.

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  3. We have decided to get rid of the AR program…YAY!!!….and I would love to have these resources please…Please Please Please and Thanks sooooo much~~~

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  4. I am starting the challenge with my 6th graders! Is there and editable word version? I would somehow be willing to pay!!!!! Great work!

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    1. No payment needed. It’s Donnalyn Miller’s ideas–I just formatted it to fit in a composition book. 🙂 What is your email? I will send the pdf and word to you, if you’d like. In order for the word to format properly, you would have to use the same font — downloaded for free at kevinandamandafonts. I’d have to go look what type it was though…not sure off the top of my head.

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