Reading with Meaning

Winston Churchill once said, "I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught."  This quote resonates with me as I dive into Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller.
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My previous Professional Development (PD) provided training with most of Debbie's first chapter entitled, Guiding Principles. I was eager to learn the content presented; However, the PD hadn't provided the level of instruction to make it meaningful to me.

Debbie Miller reaches into my inner thoughts and connects with me professionally.  She provides the right combination of dialogue and descriptive examples with research. It's her way of guiding you through a calm outcome in which the child learns by example that keeps me hanging on her every word. 

I found this image of Debbie Miller on 1st Graders: My Toothless Wonders' blog where Debbie Miller visited her classroom earlier this year.  Just look at the evidence from Reading with Meaning in action on Miss Mary Beth's walls. 

As I began reading the introduction to Reading with Meaning, I was given a comparison of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Common Core (CC). With NCLB, comprehension was grouped with phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, and vocabulary.  Each received equal importance. CC emphasizes high level of comprehension by making meaning.  This is limiting, leaving teachers to determine how to read results defined by common core. 

The monthly chapters include plans for in depth teaching and learning.  Included in the plans are big ideas, summative assessments, guiding questions, learning targets, and formative assessments. 

In the video below, you'll hear Debbie Miller describe new thinking in Reading with Meaning.

Chapter One Summary and Reflections...

Debbie begins her chapter with the principles that guides her teaching and reading comprehension.  In a nutshell, she emphasizes expectations, goals, managing time, starting with trust, and supporting responsibility of new learning from the start. 

Debbie identifies with the pressure to teach programs with fidelity.  She states teachers so often know in their hearts the programs required to teach go against what works best for kids.  Debbie encourages teachers to find balance when presenting opposing points of view by using research and asking questions.
Also emphasized are reading workshop principles.  These include time, choice, response, and community.  This format allows in depth teaching and learning, flexibility, differentiation, and independence. 

The traditional workshop could use a revision.  The format so widely recognized includes...
Mini Lesson: 10-15 Minutes
Work Time 30-40 Minutes
Reflection/Sharing 15/20 Minutes

Why a revision?  Over scaffolding diminishes student energy, engagement and motivation and increases conformity and compliance as stated in the section, Creating a Framework. 
Debbie Miller states, "It's messier nurturing creativity and independence always is - but now the children are the ones digging in, figuring out, and working hard to read words and make sense of stories, content, and big ideas."

Key Point... When stamina is fading or important information has been learned, don't wait for share time or a new lesson.  STOP!  Bring the kids back together.  Address and move forward by sending the kids with a renewed sense of purpose. 

Debbie Miller provides a fisherman analogy to explain the key point above, describing teachers as fisherman and students as fish.  If a fish is caught and held from water too long, what happens?  If stamina is fading, all the fish need to be caught and gathered collectively for a teacher talk to show or remind students of the task before throwing them back into the water.  Fish need more time swimming and less time out of the water to target learning effectively. 

Developing the workshop will take 4-5 weeks for students to reach the full 60-90 minute block of instruction.  Patience and persistence will be needed.

When planning, focus on content standards and the skills/strategies children need to actively engage with content, construct meaning, and grow their understanding of the big idea.

Debbie describes her previous answer when asked what she was teaching.  She responded, "Inferring" or "Synthesizing" or "Asking Questions".  Looking back, Debbie is surprised someone didn't ask, "What are you synthesizing or inferring about?"  Now when asked, Debbie responds, "We're synthesizing our learning about life cycles."  OR, "We're building background knowledge of people around the world."  The power in our understanding will drive the student's understanding!

The use of essential questions have guided my lessons for years, but when I look back 10 years ago and I used the strategy as an answer for my instructional focus, too.  I'm certain that came from years of using a basal. 

When planning instruction, ask yourself questions like:

What essential questions will guide us to our big understandings?
What are our long term goals?
What skills and strategies will children use?
How will kids demonstrate understanding?
How much time do I have? How many days?

The process seems daunting.  It's not! Think about the big picture, determine the outcome, and ask the above questions. Daily planning happens backwards from this point.  Once you know what to teach, think how you will teach it.  This is widely known as Understanding by Design (UbD). 

Benjamin Franklin was quoted saying, "Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn."  This sums up why we use the Gradual Release of Responsibility!

The above graphics shows The Gradual Release of Responsibility Model.  I've taught under this model for several years and speak of this model when implementing my interactive journals

In Reading with Meaning, Debbie has the reader make connections to their own learning about various topics.  For instance, how to canoe, play golf, or drive a car.  She says, "If you watched somebody do it first, practiced under that person's watchful eye, listened to his or her feedback, and then one fine day went off and did it by yourself, adding your own special twist to it in the process, you know what this model is about."  She really has a way with words!

In the video below, you will hear professor Jeffrey Wilhelm, of Boise State University, discuss The Gradual Release of Responsibility.  This three minute video gives background similar to that shown in the graphic above!

One point that resurfaces several times in Reading with Meaning is that Gradual Release of Responsibility isn't linear.  We can begin with guided practice to quickly learn where the children are and then model our explicit teaching. 

Teachers need to be flexible in their learning.  David Pearson is repeatedly sourced in Making Meaning.  One of the most profound comparisons came with Gradual Release entitled the "Goldilocks" phenomenon.  We want balance in releasing responsibility: not too much, not too little, but just the right amount.  Needless to say, we should demo less and provide enough scaffolding for students to perform.

The next video is a real treat!  Marten Frazier, a 5th grade teacher from Citizens Academy Charter School in Cleveland, uses Gradual Release with his students.  When you watch his lesson progress, you can see the power in releasing responsibility. 

When you hear about culture and climate for thinking, what comes to mind?  As Debbie points out, creating a culture and climate for thinking is more than the design, promise to each other, or portraits and photographs hung around the room.  It's real communities that go beyond the design and includes the voice of students.

Culture and climate is achieved by forming genuine relationships and mutual trust is established.  Building relationships comes when you teach children how to listen and respond to each other in a respectful, thoughtful way.  This can help foster new relationships and caring communities. 

Modeling how to take interest and ask questions will help build relationships.  Share how you are paying attention to the little things: haircuts, clothes, discussions AND how to ask questions about recitals, family visits, or new additions to the family.  Each of these go a long way to building trust. 

Debbie emphasizes the power of small moments by giving a rock to a student to add to their collection or writing a poem about cats for a little one that loves the feline variety.  Tapping into what drives a student will help the bond between student and teacher flourish. 

The best opportunity to show kids expectations, like listening respectfully, happens when you acknowledge and give immediate feedback.  Ask the students why it's important.  Use their words in combination with your own to explain.  Once students understand what you want them to do and why it's important, the expectation becomes habit.

Debbie miller gives a few teachable moments and how to approach the topic with a gentle reminder!
 Click image for teachable moments.

I'm overjoyed to share this experience with you!  I will be back to share more on the following chapters.  It's my goal to share these experiences as they are implemented with the kids throughout the year, providing meaningful images of plans in action.  I encourage you to pick up the book, read, implement, and share any reflections you may have.  

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Brittney Henry said...

Thanks for sharing your reflections! I would love to see a breakdown of your reading workshop time. :)

Deedee Wills said...

What an amazing post! Thank you my smart friend for sharing your thinking!

AND I love that book Debbie Miller is reading in your post. I cry EVERY. TIME. I read it!


firstgradestamper said...

I have had this book for a couple of years and I always seem to pick a different book to read. You have inspired me to read it this summer.

I agree with Brittney. I would love to see more posts about the book.

Is the book Deedee is talking about Country Dog, City Dog?

SunnyDays said...

Cheryl! What an awesome post. I just want to come back and devour your blog for more goodies like this. I feel like I just got more out of this one post than I do sometimes out of whole week workshops!


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