A couple of years ago, I was validated and inspired by Ms. Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer. If you have not yet read this book, it is a must. Immediately after turning the last page, I went straight to my computer and tried to format and create an effective and explicit way to begin a book challenge. I cannot express enough how this program has not only liberating me, but also my students. See you later points, benching students with a book in hand, read only at your level regardless of your interest, ugh. I’m over all of it. And Ms. Miller’s book allowed me to feel confident to do what I knew was right all along.
Click Here for formatted documents: Book Whisperer: 40 Book Challenge
Let’s teach and treat our students as real life readers, so that there just might be a chance for them to unlock and cherish the joy of reading as we all do.
This post will be a number of pictures to better visualize how this might work in your class, tips and lessons learned over the years.
Tips for the 40 Book Challenge:
- Composition Books were assembled and explained in class during the first week of school. (St. HW was to bring in photos, mag pics of things they loved or were interested in, already cut out in a plastic bag. We modge podged the covers in class.)
- Read Alouds are a must! Let the students experience the joy the picture book. (Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, Dr. Seuss are some of my favs.)
- I made sure to have 15 minutes of silent reading time everyday! It was sacred-never missed. (I still feel 15 wasn’t long enough. Would have liked 20, but we had SSR during intervention block as well.)
- Get rid or your “extra” stuff. You know, the “What can I do when I’m finished?” type work. Just let them READ if they finish tasks early.
- Start reading children’s books now! You need to be able to recommend and guide students to fit their interests and needs, and you can’t do that unless you have read a great number of your grade level’s books. This was my favorite part of this endeavor. I now choose to read young adult or children’s novels because they are sooooo amazingly crafted. It’s been enlightening and kept me “in-touch” with my students.
- Make your first order with Scholastic Books the MAX, meaning over $250. You’ll get the most points at the BOY and that’s how you build your classroom library. (I’ll post more on that later.)
- Allow students to abandon a book. It’s up to the teacher, but my “rule” was that students could only abandon 2 books a trimester. They had to write a letter explaining why they wanted to abandon this book, only after they had given it a solid try (i.e. read 50 pgs. or a couple of chapters).
- Any book you read aloud to the class whether it’s a picture book or novel counts towards their challenge.
- Share what you are currently reading energetically and often. Let them recommend books to you and actually read them!
- Start a book club. Mine was once a week before school. (I’ll post details later or see earlier posts.)
- Make a book recommendation wall or system. Because you are requiring reads of certain genres, this will help students select ‘good’ stories. Seeing what their friends have read is great motivation.
8 thoughts on “Donalyn Miller: The Hero that Liberated Me”
Love this post! I read The Book Whisperer in my grad class last fall and I’m excited to incorporate these strategies into my classes this year. Are you willing to share any of the resources you’ve created for the notebooks? Thanks!!
Yes, of course. If you send me your email address, I can send it to you via dropbox. It’s too big a file to email. If you don’t feel comfortable sending your email, you can send me a private message on Twitter– @Cortez_Corner
I’m implementing this for the first time this year. I have a class of low testers and lower than should be readers. I love your readers notebook pages, I have downloaded them, and we have them all cut, glued in and ready to go! I do have a question about how you explain your weekly schedule, and do you give them a new one each week? feel free to email me if you’d like. Thanks for all the freebies, you made my life SO much easier!
Glad that you were able to access everything. As far as the weekly schedule, management-wise, I had on bucket in my classroom with around 200+ copies of these. Since I divided up my students’ due date (7 sts turned in notebooks on Mon, 7 on Tuesday, etc.), they were responsible for picking up a Weekly Schedule, completing it, and gluing it in by designated due date. Note: if the students did not have a copied cover of the book they were reading for the top left part, they cut out a white piece of paper and drew it themselves. I only had them complete a cover when starting a new book.
The weekly schedule was something that I used to treat them as real readers and hold them accountable. For example, students were recommended to read AT LEAST 20 minutes a day! However, I know that some things come up in life–appts, sporting events, etc. Taking this into consideration, I told the students determine what schedule worked best for them. Maybe some read more on the weekend while some preferred to read a little each day. Either way, depending on what their personal goal of completion was for each month, they had to assess if they were on track. Students began to check “This schedule did NOT work for me.” when they only read 30-40 pages a week! It was awesome!
Also, as a teacher, you could speak with them when things didn’t quite add up (which happens a lot in the beginning). If they check they are reading 20 minutes each day, but yet completed only 30 pages of the book for the week…well, you do the math. Once you talk this out with them, it becomes evident that it is not only possible, but necessary to read more than a couple pages a day.
I am a literacy coach in a K-5 school and am going to start this with a group of 4th and 5th graders.This is the first time doing this and I love all your resources. I am still trying to figure out how the notebook should be set up. Also, did you send home a letter to parents explaining this process? These are not “my” students. I am pulling them once a week for a lunch bunch. I’ll have about 40 students. How do you recommend I schedule the notebooks to be turned in? I am looking forward to trying this out. Any extra tips and hints would be helpful. Thank you!
Hello! So wonderful to hear you’ll be reading with students! I didn’t send home a letter, per se… I explained on “Back to School” night and had them complete the “Encouraging Words” section of the composition book within the first week. That way they could view the way it was put together while contributing in a positive way. I did, however, find a letter a couple of days ago that someone else used. Here is the link… http://coleses.pwcs.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=887736
Parent Letter is on page 6. I like it. I did communicate with parents each trimester (we were a year round school) the progress of their student to indicate whether they were on or off track to meet the challenge. Hmmmm… if you are seeing them once a week, is there anyway they can turn in notebooks to you the day before? That way you can preview and write notes back to them. If not, have them turn it in the day they see you, and you’ll return them… Well, they’d need to have them back to write in them for the following week. Can you return them to their classroom? a teacher mailbox? Would that work?
Sensational! Thanks so much! They’re even the perfect size for Australian exercise books. Our class started this week! My Year 5s are excited and apprehensive in equal measure, I think. And in a fit of madness, I’ve committed to doing the challenge with them… Thanks again, you’ve saved me so much time and enabled me to actually give the book challenge a go, rather than just thinking about it.
I would love an update on how it’s going!!!