I recently read an interview with Donalyn Miller titled “Creating Readers.” Her teaching techniques are truly inspiring to me as I am studying to become a middle school teacher in English and mathematics and she teaches language arts and social studies to sixth graders
The focus of her class is reading comprehension and not just passing a standardized test. She mentions that she does not implement the Accelerated Reader (AR) program because it forces students to be focused on “memorizing discrete facts from books.” She does utilize silent sustained reading (SSR) in class but does not tie it to any exams like some traditional SSR programs. According to Miller, students who start reading their book in class will be more likely to continue it at home.
I am impressed with her dedication to the students. As she explains in her article, she raises the bar with high expectations but provides an environment that allows her students to have control over the books they read within a particular genre. It is enough to keep them on track with the curriculum but still sends the message that she values what they think and how they feel.
She shows compassion (which I personally believe is often lacking in an education system that gets funding based on test scores.) When she addresses the students that are still struggling with reading and are possibly below grade level, she steers away from finding blame and looks for a solution instead. She starts by referring to them as “developing or dormant readers” and allows some leeway for them to read something on their level and of interest to them. She rewards their efforts with praise, not prizes.
I suspect that her students’ lives are greatly impacted in areas other than reading as well… Boosting their self-esteem. …Providing a role model. …Allowing personal self-discovery and problem-solving by providing book choices that deal with issues they presently have. My plan is to implement some of her ideas and passion into my own future classroom.
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