Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Reading

In between trips, visitors, resting and relaxing, I plan to do lots of reading this summer. I have read a couple of fiction books by Lisa See, many blog posts, tweets and have just begun to dip into some of the books in my professional stack.

I know that I probably won't be able to read all of these this summer but I am going to try. A few of the books in this stack are beloved books that I have already read a couple of times but must remain in the stack because I find myself rereading them frequently. They are Catching Readers Before They Fall by Pat Johnson and Katie Keier and Choice Words by Peter Johnston. I can't seem to get my fill of those two books.

Recently, I just finished More Than Guided Reading by Cathy Mere.

I don't intend to use this blog for writing books reviews (at least not right now) but I would like to use it to help me keep track of the things that I learn and want to remember from the books I am reading.

With that in mind, here are a few things that really resonated with me in Cathy Mere's book.
  • I loved the term "focus lesson" much better than the terms I have used in the past. "Mini-lesson", for example, seems to downplay the significance of the lesson and "whole-group lesson" just doesn't seem descriptive enough. Focus lesson is a much more specific and powerful phrase.

  • I also like when Cathy says that students "needed to understand that many stories involve a problem, a place where the story begins to change." My first graders worked a lot with making sure that their fiction stories had a problem for their character to solve but I think adding the last part of Cathy's idea - "a place where the story begins to change" will help them think more deeply about setting up the problem in the beginning and then allowing the story to change as the problem is encountered. I can't wait to try to use this subtle shift in thinking with my students this year.

  • Finally, I love Cathy's analogy at the beginning of the last chapter. She says, "I looked at reading instruction as a firefighter, running here and there putting out fires; everything was a near emergency that needed my immediate attention" and over time her thinking changed to think of herself "as more of a sculptor gradually shaping a new work." I have felt the same firefighter intensity in my teaching. I don't think I want to lose my intensity but just shift my focus to notice the growth that is occurring rather than only focusing on the most immediate reading emergency. I need to remember one last thought from Cathy, "In fact, more often than not, reading is anything but a problem."
I enjoyed this book and look forward to continuing the conversation with Cathy through her blog, Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and on twitter (@CathyMere).


  1. Jill,
    Looks like a great list of PD books to read this summer! I have many of the same books in my stack. Isn't it the truth that we go back to the powerful books over and over again? I just love that. Thanks for sharing about Cathy's book as well. I've been following her blog for some time, and recently realized that she wrote a book! I'll have to check it out.

  2. Michelle,
    Thanks for reading. I found your blog - love it - and found you on twitter. I am looking forward to learning from you over time.

    I agree with you about the powerful books. I can't even begin to count how many times I have reread Choice Words. I think I am trying to engrave the language that Peter Johnston talks about onto my brain so that it will come more naturally to me when working with students.

  3. Jill,
    Thank you so much for sharing your reflection. For some time now I've been learning much through our conversations on Twitter so hearing your thoughts on the book means a lot to me. I always enjoy knowing the parts that really stand out to colleagues who read it.

    It looks like your summer is shaping up much like mine. Thanks for sharing your summer learning plans. I'm glad you included a few books from your pleasure reading list as I need to think a bit about that too. Let me know when you start reading "Choice Words" as I'd love to converse a bit about it in the Twitterverse. There is so much to think about in Johnston's book.

    Thanks, Jill.

  4. Jill~
    Another great post-I am also planning to read Choice Words this summer. I am bit afraid to open the book as a friend told me I will be afraid to open my mouth again! (this could be a LARGE problem for me,LOL) Never-the-less, I am diving in! I look forward to tweeting with you and Cathy as we read! I am also feeling the need to reread Cathy's treasure. You mentioned points I have forgotten or need to think about again. I just can't get enough of Cathy's thinking, it seems so natural to her and it's so enlightening to me!

    Michelle~ I enjoyed you blog as well! I left a comment and added your blog to my reader! Hope to find you on twitter too!

    looking forward to learning together!

  5. Cathy,

    I agree that there is so much to think about in Johnston's book. I have read it several times and I still always add it to my summer reading pile because I always take away something new every time I read it.

    I, too, feel like I have learned so much from you over the last year or so. Thank you for tweeting, blogging, writing and sharing.


  6. Deb,

    I completely understand what your friend meant when they said that you would be afraid to open your mouth. I want to have the language that Peter Johnston talks about become natural to me. I think that is why I keep rereading his book. I continue to improve but I still have a lot to learn.

    You and Cathy (and Carolyn) are lucky to have such good teammates to share ideas with and to support each other. I am glad that I can join in - at least virtually.