Yesterday, my class released two of our Monarch butterflies. We had just finished watching a short video on the migration of the Monarch butterfly. We learned that they migrate to the same place in Mexico when the weather gets colder. My students decided that it would be best to let the butterflies make that journey to Mexico.
We walked out to an area of the school known as the reading garden. It was built in honor of a teacher who had passed away a few years ago. It is a beautiful spot with benches and flowering plants. My students sat quietly while I undid the clasps that held the net over our butterfly habitat. There was a loud cheer when the butterflies finally made their way out into the open air. We had attracted quite a crowd. There were several students who were not in my class watching the release take place.
It was a sweet moment. I couldn’t help but think of all the times I just had to let go. I like to think that I can take on many different tasks all at once. I make myself crazy trying to keep up with everything. Since I started my journey towards my administrative credential, I have had to let go of a few things. I feel bad about it, but I know in the long-run it is for the best. I have learned that it can be difficult to make tough decisions. But, with every decision there is peace.
I have been awakened.
I just finished reading The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, by Donalyn Miller. It challenged everything I thought about reading instruction. It was refreshing.
I read the book in one afternoon. I was very inspired by her philosophy of reading. The premise is that she gives students time at school to read books independently. She challenges her students to read 40 books in the school year. However, she points out that 40 is just a number. Some of her students do not achieve that goal, but all her students read many more books than they had the previous year. Miller’s premise is that this kind of reading where students have a choice in what they read helps them improve. Miller does not follow a “program” or give lots of worksheets. She doesn’t even do test prep. Instead, her instruction follows a workshop approach. What Miller does is encourage habits that will foster a life-long love of reading.
I noticed that the book was published in 2009. I wish I would have read the book when it first came out. I can’t wait to try some of the things that Miller suggests. Of course, I will have to adapt it for 2nd grade. Miller teaches 6th grade. After I type this blog, I am going to create a student reading survey to help me learn more about what interests my students have. When I ordered this book, I also pre-ordered her next book called Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits. It has not yet been released. I am excited to read it.
Today I asked my students to write about what they knew about reading. I got this idea when I read Aimee Buckner’s book Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader’s Notebook.
At first I was skeptical as to what 2nd graders could come up with. I was impressed by some of the ideas that were shared. One student said she knew that reading helped her learn. Another student said that when she read she learned new facts. Still another student said if she could read, she knew she could write. BINGO! I am so glad someone in the class made that reading-writing connection.
While the students were writing their thoughts, I took a moment to respond to the prompt in my own journal. I won’t write everything I said here. I did write down that as a child, I was not a huge reading fan. In fact, I would always choose to play outside over reading a book. However, as an adult, I have come to realize how much I depend on reading in my everyday life. Not a day goes by when I don’t read something. My list included reading street signs, student work, teacher resources, emails, blogs, recipes, newspapers, and magazines. I cannot imagine my life without reading. Now I love to read.
Of course I shared my thoughts with my students. I have a feeling there might be one or two students who feel now the way I felt back then about reading. I hope I am able to ignite that love of reading before they leave my classroom. If not, I hope I have planted the seeds that will bloom later on in their lives.