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Classroom Reading Activities

Chapter 6 of The Book Whisperer did not apply as much in the homeschool setting, but it was still very informative to me as I have two public school students who deal with the exact classroom reading procedures described in the chapter: whole class novels, comprehension tests, book reports, reading logs, round-robin and popcorn reading and incentive programs. In reading this chapter I can see clearly how these procedures do not work! Donalyn Miller gives some excellent alternative procedures to use that seem as though they would be much more effective in a classroom setting.

There were a couple of things that stood out to me.

Again, are we teaching books or readers? If we teach readers, they will learn all they need to learn about books.

Comprehension tests. "[H]ow many adult readers would choose to read if they had to take a multiple-choice test for every book they finished?"

Accelerated Reader. " ... in which books are assigned a point value and students must complete a multiple-choice test after reading them, [is] the worst distortion of reading I can think of ... a student's selection of a book is limited by its point value and whether a test exists for it ... Instead of falling into a book and traveling on a journey with the characters, readers float on the surface of the story and cherry-pick moments they predict they will be tested on later." No wonder students hate to read. My daughter, who will be a junior this year in public school, does not have any Accelerated Reader requirements for the first time since 3rd grade. I doubt she will touch a book this year. She hates to read.

Reading Logs. Everyone cheats. You did. Your student does.

I know that in the traditional classroom there are procedures that are necessary to engage an entire class full of students, and to make sure they are reading and comprehending. Ms. Miller has some excellent suggestions.

But she also says, "Any activity that does not involve reading, writing, or discussion may be an extra that takes away from students' developments as readers, writers, and thinkers."

This is probably the best tip for a home educator. We tend to want to do arts and crafts and extension projects to reinforce what's being read. For a 2nd grader who loves arts and crafts, it's not a bad thing. But for a 9th grader? It gives me something to consider. These projects have their place. Especially if you have a students who likes to do them, like sketching, etc. I will apply the principle above from now on when we read. I want my students to be primarily readers, writers and thinkers.

How about you?


  1. this sounds like a fantastic book... i may need to read it cover to cover soon.


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