One of the major changes to my reading curriculum this year has been adding reading response journals.
We waited a few weeks to get our reading response notebooks set up because I was still deciding what I wanted. I ended up just keeping them super-simple- using 2 sections, split by one tab.
When students open their composition book, they have a genre guide glued in the front. I got this resource from Laura Candler, but needed to adjust so that it would fit in the composition books. I changed the font, too (because I’m a font snob :) but you can pick up a copy of her Genre Chart for free here.
On the other side, we created a reading log. Instead of gluing it in, each student grabbed a ruler and followed directions to copy mine. It worked out pretty well, and now my students know how to create a new page whenever they need it.
You can see that my kids add the genre code, date started, title/ author, date finished, and the rating (1 to 5 stars). I love the rating piece- it allows me to see at a glance what books a student has loved or hated to give book recommendations! (It makes me feel like the Book Whisperer and I love it.)
My students have 15 pages before the Post-It tab that I helped each of them place. They stick in and not one has come off yet. This tab is where the reading responses start for my kids. I require that they write the title on the left and date on the right. Some are still forgetting the date, but overall, most do well with it.
I tell my kids that their response needs to focus on THEIR thinking. Some of my kids will write lengthy summaries, but I tell them if I wanted to know what happened in the book, I’d go read it. This is THEIR reader’s notebook, and I want to read mostly THEIR thoughts! I know a lot of people like to use this for practicing how to write a summary, and that’s fine, but I felt like my kids needed to focus on giving me more than just a retell of the story. It forces them to think deeper!
Most weeks, my students check the Weekly Must Do’s board to see what they need to complete during the (Daily 5-ish*) Reading Rounds of that week.
Usually, students are required to do one free response (where they choose the book and the topic of their response) and one structured response (where the class answers a specific question, usually about a book I’ve read aloud or we have all read together).
At the beginning of the year, I did frequent modeling (including having to sound out some words!). A couple of months into the year, I had students help me make a list of possible topics to write about, and we’ve posted it in the classroom for guidance.
When students have finished their responses from the week, they turn them in to my purple basket. I try to grade a few a night, but lately I’ve just taken the basket home on the weekends.
I respond back and forth to the students, and give them a grade, usually based on completion, following the format, and if they included at least 3 of their own thoughts while reading. This semester, I’ve started writing the grade in the notebook for feedback along with my written responses to them.
When I respond, I try to treat it as a conversation about books, with maybe a reminder here or there. I want them to feel like we’re just chatting as readers.
With almost every student, I’ve seen amazing growth in their abilities to write about their reading. Here is a response from the beginning of the year.
Here is a response from that same student recently.
And from one of my ESL students? His first response:
(I like Some Dogs Are Very Good because is a bad dog.) I can tell you- at the time, I was jumping up and down at this response because it showed such comprehension of the book. But NOW?
(Yes [I will tell my mom about the Cat and the Hat], because my mom will be so, so mad of us. I think that she will say that I’m not going somewhere before I catch that cat.)
Amazing, right? And as my class goes into the open-ended response part of our state tests (this week), I feel like our reading notebooks are probably the best thing we’ve done to prepare for the tests, too- in part because they’ve gotten practice writing and giving evidence from the text, but in part because it’s just made them stronger readers!
Do you have a reading notebook? I’m definitely going to be tweaking mine next year, so I’d love to hear what you do differently!
P.S.- I gave my blog a makeover last night- just playing around with it- and I. Love. It. Let me know if anything’s broken, and check out my new blogroll! :) If you’ve posted recently, you just might be on it!
*The Daily 5 idea and concept belong to “The Sisters” Joan Boushey and Gail Moser.