I find your approach to standardized testing to be refreshing. Can you explain how you discuss testing with your kids? (I won't ask how you prepare them; that takes place in your room all year long.)
It is February and I haven't talked to my students at all about our state tests. My district conducts benchmark testing that mirrors the format of our test, so I don't see the value in spending more days on it.
As we near the time for the test, I will show my students sample questions and evaluate how the test is formatted, but that is all.Tests are just another genre of reading with its own specific vocabulary, format, and purpose. That's all.
Do you think a lot of the "extras" that are attached to traditional reading instruction come from fear, the worry that kids can't make connections unless we spell it out for them or that reading without the hoop jumping somehow isn't enough?
Honestly, I think that a lot of what we ask kids to do are grade generators or efforts to motivate kids to read because we think they won't if we don't give them an assignment. We don't know how to effectively assess students' mastery and growth, so we attach assignments to reading in order to have some proof.
Can you tell us about the difference between managing and controlling -- both a classroom and students themselves?
Managing a classroom requires organization, planning, structure, and expertise. Controlling involves keeping most of the power. I give a lot of my power over to the children. Does it matter to me where they sit when they read? Does it matter to me if they organize their notebook differently? Does it matter to me if they chat while they are working? Does it matter to me if they want to sketch their rough draft as a storyboard before writing an essay? No.
I don't have complicated procedures for classroom routines, either. My students take down chairs, take lunch count, shelve books, restock the Kleenex, empty our pencil sharpener-all of it without asking. Whenever a student mentions a needed job, we discuss it as a class, ask a volunteer to do it, and we are done.
I want my students to learn what life readers know: reading is its own reward. Reading is a university course in life; it makes us smarter by increasing our vocabulary and background knowledge of countless topics. Reading allows us to travel to destinations that we will never experience outside of the pages of a book. Reading is a way to find friends who have the same problems we do and who can give advice on solving those problems. Through reading, we can witness all that is noble, beautiful, or horrifying about other human beings. From a book's characters, we can learn how to conduct ourselves. And most of all, reading is a communal act that connects you to other readers, comrades who have traveled to the same remarkable places that you have and been changed by them, too.
- Donalyn Miller, THE BOOK WHISPERER
Thank you so much for sharing your book and ideas with us, Donalyn!
Learn more about Donalyn and her book atwww.thebookwhisperer.com.