7/31 Why Not Consider Debbie Miller & Marie Kondo . #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers. This is day 7 of 31.  


IMG_15107/31  Why Not Consider Debbie Miller & Marie Kondo #sol19

March 6, 2018

I am a product of a Debbie Miller Reading with Meaning age.  I don’t mean the 2nd edition.  I mean my 2002 coffee-stained, dog-eared, autographed copy of the original  Reading with Meaning.  I was a devotee way before I really knew who Lucy Calkins was.  It takes a while for those east coast ideas to get out to the prairie.  What Debbie Miller taught me, among many other things, was that our working/teaching/learning environment was important.  Much like Lucy Calkins calls it a laboratory or a workshop, Debbie Miller created a culture for thinking and learning that included tablecloths, child height tables, pictures in frames, curtains, lamps, and rugs.  Those things are fairly standard in classrooms today, but in my early teaching, having tables instead of desks was pretty unusual outside of kindergarten.photo from Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller

In those early days of my reading (and writing) intervention,  I planned with teachers about not just the mentor texts, the book bags, and partners, but about music during writing, soft natural lighting, and pillows.  School became a much more comfortable place.

Flash forward nearly twenty year and I still have lamps and comfortable seats, colorful book bins, and pillows.  I still consult sometimes with teachers about table arrangements and places for students to do their work.  I think with them about how many anchor charts we have on the walls and how accessible the books are for the students.

I’ll write longer about books in classrooms in another post, but today, Marie Kondo… So unless you’ve been away from social media, you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo, the new guru of tidying up.  To oversimplify her process,  she teaches to respect your space, keep what you love and use, and let the rest gently go with a thank you.

So how does this gentle tidying up connect with Debbie Miller’s warmth and  Lucy Calkins and colleagues’ workshop?  Making the literacy center purposeful, lovely(ish) and easy to access.  Asking myself and others are these materials useful for our students and for our instruction.   I touched each book in this literacy center.  The rough figure for what books came out on the other side is around 12,000 books rough estimate. I think I recycled or repurposed another 1,000 or more books.  I read each book, thought about its merit and grouped it with liked books so that teachers could take them away and use them easily.   The process took approximately five months.

Now the book are organized by type, by use, by genre, by reading level.   I considered their groupings and where those would be located. Their titles are easy to see and they are ready to go out in the world.  The literacy center has been tidied up.  It might take a little more for it to be warm, cozy, and inviting.  I haven’t forgotten what I’ve learned from Debbie Miller.

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Next step, an open house, a welcome from the books to their users.

Thank you to Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan for inspiring this transformation both in me and in the literacy collection through your personal work and through your transformative book,  It’s All About the Books.  sk






20 thoughts on “7/31 Why Not Consider Debbie Miller & Marie Kondo . #sol19

  1. I’ve avoided Marie Kondo for fear of what might happen. I like your question, “is this good for kids?” Reading With Meaning was one of my first purchases as a new teacher. I also love that book!

  2. I’m with you in the 2002 Debbie Miller club! i read Reading with Meaning in an inservice early in my career and wanted to BE Debbie Miller but it always felt like an impossible dream. I’m on Long Island so totally in Lucy Calkins land but Debbie’s work was/still is meaningful to me. I read Marie Kondo’s book years ago before everyone was talking about her and I still think of “thanking an object for its’ service” before tossing it. It’s helped me toss more things. I do need help organizing my books though! My dream is to categorize my picture books and group them so I could do themed #classroombookaday like Carrie Gelson but it feels like an overwhelming task. I never have the time to devote to sorting through the library. I wish for a week of time in my classroom with no other focus that reorganizing my books! Thanks for the post that makes me dream again about how it could be.

    • One ☝🏻 of my coaching helps is to classroom library clean and organize with a teacher. It’s better with a buddy or even with the kids. Read It’s All About The Books. It will motivate you.

  3. I have never heard of Marie Kondo – I am afraid to google her … I agree with Debbie Miller and my original coffee-stained copy! Your space looks great – love the titles on some of those bins. Would love to add them to the photos we share with teachers. What is in the problems bin? Very curious!

  4. Debbie Miller is the best – I love all her books! I do not know Marie Kondo Great ideas and love the photos! Could we talk? I am currently writing a book about reading workshop. Maybe an interview? Best….Lynne

  5. This is intriguing… I wonder what would happen to my classroom books with this attitude and plan? My bookshelves would most likely look much tidier and more organized. It might be time for me to consider doing this. Thanks for the idea!

  6. Oooooh, I feel a sense of contentment and joy just reading your slice of organising and letting go. Marie Kondo has recently taken Australia by storm with her show on Netflix (though I was introduced to her some years ago). Shopping at thrift shops has never been so good! Thanks for the slice!

  7. I too am a product of Debbie Miller, but I’ve never been able to get my space the way I want it. I don’t know about Marie Kondo, but I think I need to look her up and learn a few things. I need better order in my life (at work and at home).

  8. My book room (imagine the unofficial second library for teachers and 3rd-5th graders based purely on the honor system) has been evolving since I first started in my current school. This winter I went in to clean up one section and ended up hauling shelves and books for two weeks (in between coaching and interventions). One thing I tackled was to sort picture books and add them to the respective genre sections to teachers and kids could find them and would use them. The room looked worse before it looked better, for sure! Congratulations on your project. It’s a labor of love.

  9. Debbie Miller’s classroom promise is utilized in my first grade classroom. My co-worker and I also like the to refer to her reader’s workshop Tchart when we are rolling out our roles in reader’s workshop. Now, we are follow Lucy, but don’t want to forget the foundation from Debbie. There is so much satisfaction in a tidy library. I too have shelves leveled my genre, author and reading levels.

  10. Pingback: #SOL19 Day 11:Creating a Shared Book Space | ureadiread

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