Few of us doubt the importance of teaching reading. Parents want their children to read and teachers have resorted to practically begging their students to read. But how do we make it happen?
According to Donalyn Miller, author of Reading in the Wild, teachers must build and depend on a “framework that exists every day throughout the school year.” This framework, or what Miller refers to as “non-negotiables,” should be the foundation against which teachers check their lesson planning, assessment, resources, classroom management, and virtually every aspect of their instructional design.
We’ve pulled five of Miller’s classroom “negotiables,” and listed them below.
5 Non-negotiables for Reading Teachers
Time to read; time to write
Miller’s students spend a significant amount of time reading in class—approximately one-third of every class period, in fact. During this daily independent reading time, she confers with several students about their reading and meets with small groups of students who need additional instruction and support. In addition to this, she encourages students to read at home and removes or reduces homework and busy-work activities in order to provide time for additional reading.
Students need to feel that they are a part of a community of readers and writers
To help students develop confidence and self-efficacy as readers, Miller places emphasis on ensuring students nurture relationships with other readers in reading communities. These communities include both their peers and teacher. Whether students read below grade level, meet grade-level goals, or surpass grade-level expectations, all of them fully participate in activities and conversations that value individual strengths and viewpoints.
Miller argues that students need to make their own choices about reading material and writing topics. So in her classroom, students self-select all books for independent reading. She encourages them to read widely, and helps them select books from a variety of genres and formats including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic novels. She also supports and challenges students through reading advisory—that is, guiding them toward books that match their interests and reading abilities.
Students need the opportunity to respond to books in natural ways
Miller stresses the importance of providing students with daily opportunities to respond to what they read. Students share book recommendations, write response entries, and post book reviews based on their independent reading. In addition to this, they talk about books daily with their peers and us through conferences and classroom discussions.
The workshops are built on structure and predictable ritual
In Miller’s classroom, reading workshops follow a consistent routine of lessons—and time for sharing and reflection. Regular conferences, reading response, and reader’s notebook records hold students accountable for their reading and provide information about their progress toward personal and academic reading goals.
If you’re interested in learning more about Donalyn Miller’s approach to reading instruction, check out one of our recent blogs, “5 Simple Ways to Increase Independent Reading Time.”