I have a problem. I’m highly impressionable. Every career choice I ever considered was based on the last movie I saw: paleontologist, detective, nun, soldier, governor of Texas, even teacher.
This presents its own problem during summer professional development. Each time I attend a training, I go in with my guards up, muttering snarky things to myself as I sit, a captive audience. Somehow whether it is a book study or a seminar, I come out of it all starry-eyed and ready to spread the good news and methods of the guru I’ve just seen because I drink the Kool-aid, every time.
The problem is when these methods conflict with other trainings I fell for and I have to hash it out in a Pedagogy Death Match to either merge them or ultimately declare one the winner.
This first match featured here is between a book study I did on Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer and a 3 day workshop I attended on Getting Started with Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop through 2 Chics (Becky Koesel and Elizabeth Martin.)In this death match we will focus on only two topics: Reader’s Notebook and Reading Logs.
Disclaimer: All of these people have a great deal more good advice than is going to be covered in this comparison post. I would highly recommend reading or attending trainings by any of these women. My comparisons are based on my memory and perception of the book and training only, which considering how little sleep I get, is incredibly unreliable.
Round 1: Reading Logs
Reading logs are in both cases a separate issue from the Reader’s Notebook. It would seem to me that not putting them in the Reader’s Notebook serves a few purposes:
1.Preventing loss of the notebook from it going back and forth from home to school.
2. Proving that they might be evil by keeping them out of your precious little cocoon of a notebook.
In the Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller takes a stand against the reading log. Having students write down how long they read and how many pages at school and at home saps the joy out of reading which is counterproductive in making life-long readers. It gives parents homework by having them sign or initial the chart. Some students, even the good students are just making it up. What reader actually times themselves and writes it down when they are engrossed in a good book? It gives teachers the menial task of checking and enforcing another layer of homework. Oh my goodness, I emphatically agree.
Counterpoint: Becky Koesel of 2 Chics holds reading logs in high regard as a diagnostic tool for conferring with kids. Knowing that they will be expected to show that log when they sit one on one with the teacher for a reading conference might put the fear in them enough to do it. It is a really valuable tool in seeing what they are doing. Without a reading log, you wouldn’t know that the kid sitting in front of you reads 20 pages and abandons a book repeat repeat, or that they are not reading enough pages in the amount of time they are spending, and so on.
Who wins? In this case I’m going to go with 2 Chics. I have fought the fight with reading logs and felt they were futile. I didn’t use them last year believing they add misery to reading. This year I will fight this sentiment in myself and see if I am able to set this expectation for reading conferences.
Round 2: Reading Responses
Here is the biggest difference for me. Donalyn Miller has the kids write a letter to her about what they are reading and she writes them back in this section of the notebook. The idea is that it builds a community of readers and a good relationship between the teacher and students as mutually respected readers. In practice, it is a nightmare writing them all back each week, especially if they are repeatedly not doing what you ask. You can have them write to each other at times. I did this last year, but more on that later. 2 Chics offer a more customized view of the reading response which is both more fun (for most students) and less work for me because I should not be writing in their notebook at all, it is their little world. It is very scrapbookish in a way in that you may be collecting things or gluing things in to go with the entries. The kids are making decisions about what type of entries to do, but you use your own notebook as a mentor book.
Who wins? Well I agree with the reason for both, but in practice, I’m going to have to go with 2 Chics on this one, at least for next year.
Round 3: Other Stuff
Where they Agree
Both camps include a section for reading plans or future books to read. Both camps, depending on who you ask include a class notes section for curriculum content from important mini-lessons. With 2 Chics, Elizabeth Martin included this section and called it something like “What We are Learning” and it has more of a scissors and glue, interactive notebook feel to it.
A Few Last things
2 Chics include a “My Reading Life” Section in the notebook that is for entries related to the student as a person who reads rather than related to the books they are reading. I find this valuable in that it is yet another fun thing to pull out when you are starting to lose them and in that it requires them to reflect on their life as a reader. What could be better? They also include a section for read-alouds. Read alouds are the mentor texts from which we do much of our teaching and modeling, this gives them a section to glue in a little printout of the cover and have at it with sticky notes or teacher prompts or free write about the story during and after the read aloud.
Who wins overall? Who is bloodied and shamed? The answer is that they both win because they are both making good money spreading the message that reading is important and can be taught in a way that cultivates a life-long love of the subject. This is a case where I choose to merge these methods to create a Frankenstein monster of a Reading Notebook which I will be laying out for in 14-15 school year in a post this week.