I am continually struck that, within the biographical pieces run about the athletes, PRACTICE seems to be a constant refrain. And, of course, practice is something of particular importance to the development of readers as well. Many years ago, the BH and I tool a course in motorcycling. We had decided in our second adolescence that riding together on the back roads of Texas would be fun. So, we signed up for the course to be given over a weekend. Friday evening began with the requisite "blood on the highway" film about safety, wearing helmets, etc. Then we practiced mounting invisible bikes, applying brakes, shifting gears. But first thing Saturday morning, the practice moved to the real bikes. For two days we rode bikes. We jumped obstacles in the way, we rode over bumps, we did loops and turns. At the end of the course, I felt confident. I took my road test, passed with a 97 and began riding the back roads.
What was my take away from this experience? Practice had to be real, authentic. It is fine to talk a bit about cautions and skills, but hands on real world practice means more, especially when it comes to building confidence. How best to practice: real books, real reading, real response. How much time do we provide for real reading in our classrooms? If we do not allow time for reading, what does that say about how we value reading? Do kids see us reading? Do we talk about our own reading? Do we read what our kids are reading? Donalyn Miller spent a lot of time in our workshop today talking about reading communities. Have we built a community of readers in our classrooms? How will we ensure it happens again when school begins anew? Someone asked recently if we remembered any single worksheet we did as a kid? Of course, the answer is a resounding NO. But do we recall those touchstone books? Those teachers who handed us the just right book? I suspect many of us do. I know I do. Let us create those memorable experiences for our students.