Disrupting Thinking


Disrupting Thinking (paperback)

by Kylene Beers & Robert E. Probst


Disrupting Thinking got so much buzz on Twitter and in professional learning communities, I had to add it to my summer reading list.  I bought it over Spring Break, but saved it for summer since I knew it would be a lot to take in.  There were quotes and thoughts posted all over, and someone even said they threw the book across the room when they read how some kids were treated in schools.  So, my expectations were high.

The book is divided into 3 sections: The Readers We Want, The Framework We Use, and The Changes We Must Embrace.  I found the first third to be a little dry.  The second third was okay, and the last third was where I found the bulk of my “ahas” and “yeses!”  A lot of it made me uncomfortable, because I saw there were things I did that I shouldn’t, and things I know people around me do.

There are a LOT of things I could write about, but here are my top 5 “take aways” from Disrupting Thinking (in no particular order).  Remember, every reader/teacher is different, and different things affect us depending on where we teach, what we already do, and what our personal teaching philosophies and goals are.

1.  The BHH Framework  This is something I will implement immediately, like the first day of school!  BHH stands for in the Book, in your Head, and in your Heart.  I’m posting an anchor chart below so you can see the questions associated with each letter.  I loved that the authors included transcripts of recorded conversations between children about the book they read together to show the impact of the BHH strategy.  I appreciated that they shared a primary, upper, and middle school example, because while the depth of conversations are different at each level, they’re still impactful.


from the book

2.  Silent Reading doesn’t improve test scores!  Have you heard that?  I heard it a few years ago, but ignored it.  So as it turns out, that’s only true if the silent reading is UNSUPERVISED.  Instead, the reading should be FOCUSED.  If the teacher is giving mini lessons, having conversations with the reader, and expecting the reader to be involved in the reading, then the results are opposite.  That means that as the teacher, it is not time for me to grade papers, organize my desk, answer emails, or pick up my own book.  I need to engage with my students about their books.  Oh, and more importantly, give them CHOICE!

3.  Doing things because we’ve always done them.  Spelling tests, for example.  We ask students to memorize a list of words, because we did the same thing when we were in school.  Round Robin and Popcorn Reading – I HATED that when I was younger!  I was nodding my head to many of these.  And you know what?  I’m guilty of a lot of the examples.  I do many of these practices because it’s just a practice, not necessarily a best practice.  This is where things got uncomfortable for me as a teacher.

4.  Best Practices Chart  I liked this chart.  I want to refer back to it often to make sure I’m doing the items on the chart.  We also have to be wary about “best practices” and figure out what makes them BEST.  Is there actual research, or is it just a common practice (see #3 above).

5.  Children receiving less because of “differentiation.”  The book pointed out that differentiation that results in a diminished educational experience for some is a form of segregation.  Ugh.  So the 4-5-6 “intervention” class I taught many years ago and prevented kids from participating in the general curriculum with their peers was hurtful!  I an struggling, because I have the top 1/3 of the grade level in a “GATE” class (with only a few identified students).  That means that my 34ish students are getting a different experience than the other 2/3 of the grade level.  However, I have to remind myself that they are receiving this because I am their teacher, not because they are GATE.  We used to be favored by our principal and receive extra benefits, but not anymore.  Equity for all, regardless of how high or low performing students are!

Book 15 of summer 2017!


Reading in the Wild


Reading in the Wild (paperback)

by Donalyn Miller

No AR Quiz (professional development book)


I was a little anxious about reading Reading in the Wild, because while I enjoyed much of The Book Whisperer, Miller’s tone bothered me a bit.  She seemed very condescending, like if you didn’t do it her way, you were doing it wrong.  Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was a bit more humble.  Her goal for this book was to create life-long readers.  In the past, she’d blamed her former students’ teachers (after her) for not allowing the students to continue their reading goals, and that was why they fell out of love with reading.  However, she realized that there are specific things that we as teachers can do to create “wild readers” who will keep it up, regardless of future teachers.

While I did find this book a little repetitive, here are my key “ahas” based on the 5 chapters.  “Wild Readers…”

1. Dedicate time to read.  It is true that silent reading time is the first to go when you have other pressing matters, lessons, etc. to take care of.  Miller suggests the rule of thirds, which I will have to keep in mind:  split your class period into thirds and make 1/3 of that silent reading time.  That time also has to be on task, though.  She brings up ways (and observation forms) to make sure students ARE spending that time reading and not wasting time.  One thing I will definitely do is have my students log their reading times and locations for the first few weeks so we can identify patterns and hold them accountable, but I realize this won’t have to be done throughout the year.  I as a reader don’t write down my times and page numbers when I read.  I will also have the discussion about stealing time to read, like in the car, at appointments, etc.

2. Self-select reading material.  The ways to find materials to read is brought up, including websites like Goodreads and magazines with book reviews.  Students should be able to read what they want to read, as long as it is challenging them and not too far below their level.  One aha was using read alouds.  I like to read the first book in a series to get my students hooked, like The Bad Beginning from A Series of Unfortunate Events.  However, it hadn’t crossed my mind to read from a book of poetry, a website, or informational book.

3. Share books and reading with others.  I need to identify the experts in my class.  Some will be graphic novel experts, mythology experts, etc. and will be enthusiastic to share their knowledge.  I had a ton of avid (wild) readers who never talked about their books to other students.  What a shame I let that pass.  I will also do more book reviews and encourage some kind of public posting, either through Edmodo or our Haiku page.

4. Have reading plans.  I started having my students keep a “books I want to read” list, but I will go full force with that this year.  I have a pile of “to read” books in my house, but perhaps if I encourage that in my class, it will get kids more excited.  Readers look ahead to future reading plans.  I know I do.  If I apply the things I do as a reader, hopefully my students will also catch on.

5. Show preferences.  The graphic novel bit in this chapter was an eye opener.  Many students read graphic novels because they’re short and easy to read, but there are so many valuable things about graphic novels.  It encourages inferencing, increased knowledge of higher level vocabulary (due to illustrations), and it is motivating!  If I have students who are graphic novel-obsessed, I will try to make sure I find more to provide for my students.

This book has a HUGE index of forms, many of which are available via slideshare in case you don’t want to recreate them.  I, personally, recreated a few to fit my purposes better.  Plus I’m uptight and like things in my favorite fonts.

Book 7 of 10 (summer goal)

The Reading Zone


The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers (paperback)

by Nancie Atwell

No AR Level – Teacher Professional Development!

I know a lot of my friends think I’m nuts, but I’ve been going through a “thing” where I want to set goals for myself as a professional.  I don’t have any plans to leave the classroom, because I really, really like having a class of students for a year.  I love challenging myself and learning new things and refining my craft, though.  Helping others teachers is fun and challenging, but I don’t see a future in administration or adult education.  I would like to someday work towards National Board Certification, and I have Apple Distinguished Educator stuck in my head, but for right now, I just want to be a better teacher to my incoming sixth graders.

This is one of the few teacher professional development books I have read voluntarily.  I bought it, because I was really looking for $7 to spend to get 24 hour shipping on my Math Workshop book, and since I always have those students who I can’t get to pick up a book and stick with it, I figured it would give me some ideas.  Some ideas!  I now want to revise the way I do reading!  I will no longer have AR time, but a time to get in the zone- the reading zone (not auto zone… hee hee, bad teacher joke).  Nancie Atwell is an experienced teacher of seventh and eighth graders in a non-profit school with a diverse population in Maine.  She has been teaching for 20+ years and has done her research on the best methods and strategies for teaching reading and getting non-readers (or kids non interested in reading) to read.

Since this is a professional development book, I won’t stick to my normal “what I liked/what I didn’t like” format.  Instead, I’ll give the top 5 ideas (mostly summarized) I got from this book, in no particular order:

1.  We want our students to be come smarter, happier, more just, and more compassionate people, and they can achieve that through frequent, voluminous reading.  They get to experience others’ lives and worlds through the books they read, which will influence them as people.  Isn’t this every teacher’s goal?  It justifies silent reading and home reading.

2.  Free choice of books should be a young reader’s right, not a privilege granted by a kind teacher.  She advocates spending funding on our classroom libraries, not class sets or packaged curriculum.  Every student has the right to learn, and good literature is necessary to create readers.

3. Requiring students to do work with their reading has the opposite effect.  We want our students to like reading, but if we make them stop to take notes, fill in reading lots, answer questions, take quizzes, etc., it is like watching a movie and making them stop every 20 minutes to discuss or write about it.  I wouldn’t want to do that!  This idea is painful for me, though, and I probably won’t be able to do this completely.  I will do lit circles and book studies in addition to their independent reading, but I won’t do reading logs or summaries.  I will do my best to involve parents here to ensure students are reading in the ZONE at home.

4.  Booktalks introduce students to good literature.  These can be done by students after finishing a book, or the teacher can give a booktalk.  This can be done in several ways, including talking up books by an author, books in a certain genre, books in a series, oldies by goodies (pre-1995), quick reads, etc.  It doesn’t require media presentations, but I might have students do booktalks using technology and post them somewhere so other students can go back and use them to find a good book.  She also has her students keep a list of “someday books” so that when they finish, they have a list of books to get started on.

5.  One-to-one letters help the students to think critically and at length about one book.  She has her students write a letter every 3 weeks after finishing a book.  If they finished multiple books in that 3 week period, they only choose one that they most want to talk about.  There are no summaries involved, because it is assumed they understood the book.  Instead, she has them follow a list of items to talk about, stems, etc. to get them started, and they must quote a part of the book and explain why that quote is significant.  I started book letters, but couldn’t find a way to read all 35 per week.  This strategy has them write a letter every 3 weeks, and they write to friends and her, so she’s only reading about 12 letters per year.  That’s completely doable.

There are so many more “ahas” from this book, but I don’t want to make you think you’re getting it all in this blog.  It is a book that all teachers should read if they want their students to become well-read and read for pleasure.

Book 11 of 40 (year 2)