Friday, October 01, 2010

How Well Do You Know Them?

While reading Donalyn Miller's book, The Book Whisperer, I am once again reminded of the importance of really knowing the kids we teach!  Oh sure I know them IN the classroom.  We laugh there.  We share stories there.  We share text there.  I learn a lot about them.

But what do I really know?

She interviews her kids so she can make "book whispers" to them.  She doesn't just ask them "what do you like to read?"  She asks what kind of TV they watch, what hobbies they have, and what websites they visit.  She knows that this is the way to really uncover their interests.  And she knows books (titles and authors) well enough to suggest them to the appropriate students.  I mixed her questions with some of my own and plan to ask these:

  • What kind of books do you like to read?
  • Where do you like to read?
  • How did you learn how to read?
  • What are your favorite magazines or websites?
  • What type of TV shows do you watch? Why?
  • What is your first choice about what to do when you have free time at home?
  • What kinds of things have you collected? What do you do with the things you collect?
  • What is your favorite activity or subject at school? Do you have a least favorite?
  • If you could talk to any person currently living, who would it be? Why? Think of 3 questions you would ask them.
  • If you could talk to anyone from history, who would it be? Why? Think of 3 questions you would ask the person.
  • What are your hobbies?  How much time do you spend on your hobbies?
  • Tell about your favorite games.
  • What was your last favorite book? Why?
  • What career do you think might be suitable for you when you are an adult?

One time at a reading conference Dr. Samuel Betances, diversity trainer, made a profound statement.  He suggested that every teacher should read and know 100 books at their grade level.  Then he added that we should also know 100 books below the grade level (one to two years).  And finally he said we should know 100 books above the grade level.  And when he talked about "knowing"---he nudged us further and suggested that we had actually READ that number of books.

After all, how can I make meaningful recommendations to a reader if I haven't read widely?

This week I made myself read some books I've never read before.  And next week I will interview my students to really dig in and start to know who they are as people.  Then...I plan to whisper away!

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