One common comment I hear teachers make is, “My students are reading and can talk about what they are reading but they do not respond well to what they are reading in writing!” Reading and writing go hand in hand…the more the read the better they should be able to write. But, often times the writing is a barrier for students. How can we begin to break down that barrier? I think the answer partially lies in the use of Reader’s Notebooks.
In the last school year our entire county focused on getting back to the basics of the Reader’s Workshop model and getting kids to LOVE reading. Sessions were offered last summer and throughout the school year for teachers in our county as well as the specific professional development in our own building. One part of that professional development was based on the 4 ways that readers respond to what they read. Readers can…
- react to the text by telling what they learned.
- ask questions about things they read.
- make a personal connection to what they read.
- learn something new about things they read.
About mid-year one of my Kindergarten teachers, Mrs. Jen Barlup, came to me and said that she wanted to start teaching her K students to respond in writing to what they were reading. She really felt like they were in a good place with reading and wanted to push them to that next level. So she and I crafted our first version of the Reader’s Notebook together.
In our notebook, we incorporated the four ways to respond with a structured notebook that allowed students to write and still allowed them room to draw pictures if they needed to. We both felt it was also important that this what not something they had to write in every time they read a book…we wanted to keep the joy of reading. Jen decided to use this notebook a couple of times a week. Sometimes she would ask them to respond to one of books they were reading by choosing and writing ANY one of the 4 responses of their choice. Other days she would ask them to choose a book and have everyone write a specific response. For example, she would say, “Today I want you to choose a book and respond in your reader’s notebook by writing down a questions that you thought of while reading.” No matter if it was a day when she gave them choice in their written responses or a specific response at the end of her workshop she would have students share those responses with the class.
By the end of the year word had spread about our Reader’s Notebook in Kindergarten. In fact grades 1 and 2 asked me to craft a version for their grade level. Keeping in mind that I want students to, eventually by intermediate grades, use a blank notebook to respond so I wanted to scaffold a little less in my grade 1 and 2 notebook.
In this next notebook we wanted more space to write. You will see in this version that students have lots of room to write and the back of the notebook includes a genre list and log.
In addition to using Reader’s Notebooks when sharing in whole group, this is also a great tool when conferencing with students. It is helpful to be able to see not only how they are responding to text but the types of text they are reading. This notebook is a great way to set goals with students. I encourage teachers to use post-it notes to record student’s strategies and goals to follow up with inside the notebook.
Keep in mind that it is really important to TEACH and MODEL how you students should respond to their reading through the reader’s notebook. This is not a notebook to just put in their hands and expect them to do well. It might take a week or more of mini-lessons to model the use of the notebook. Also keep in mind that we DO NOT want to kill the LOVE of READING…students do not need to write about what they are reading for every book or every day. It’s all about balance!
If you choose to use this let me know how it goes. I really feel like everything I do on my own and with my teachers is a work in progress. I’m open to feedback and push back because it only makes us better teachers!
Printing notes…in our school system we are VERY fortunate to have a Print Shop. We are able to send this file to printing and they make our books. We have used spirals in the past but we really love this printed on 11×17 paper and folded and stapled in the middle. Our print shop prints on both sides of the front and back covers as well. If you choose to use these files you may not be so fortunate but know that this can also just be run out of standard copy machines and bound as well.