Using Reader’s Notebooks in Middle School

About Katie Sluiter

Katie Sluiter is currently an 8th English teacher in West Michigan. She has taught middle school, high school, and community college and has her Masters Degree in Teaching English. Her writing has been featured on Writers Who Care, The Nerdy Book Club, and Dr. Bickmore's YA Wednesday. She is a member of the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), the Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE) and ALAN (the Assembly on Literature of Adolescents of the NCTE). She is a National Writing Project participant, has presented at both state and national conferences, and has been published in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan multiple times.

I’ve been approached by many teachers who ask me, if you don’t use reading logs to monitor how much your students are reading, what do you use?

I've been approached by many teachers who ask me, if you don't use reading logs to monitor how… Click To Tweet
 a Glimpse of our Reader's Notebooks

a glimpse of our Reader Notebooks

According to experts like Penny Kittle, Donalyn Miller, and Kelly Gallagher, giving students choice in what they read is paramount in getting kids to read more and to read better. While I would love to institute a full-blown Reader’s Workshop in my classroom, I have other curriculum requirements that I must meet. Therefore I do a modified RW schedule.

Three days a week (usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) my students read for 20-25 minutes at the beginning of the hour. They can read anything they want, and I have been working hard to provide a classroom library for them to choose from (however they can also hit up the school Media Center if I don’t have what they are looking for). During the time the students read, I either conference with them about their reading or I read alongside them.

Once the reading time is over, students get out their reader’s notebooks. I give students 4-5 minutes to respond to their reading. They can respond anyway they want, but I always put up a suggestion in case they need it. This past week’s suggestions included:

“Describe a cause-effect relationship in your book, or create a multi-flow map showing causes and effects of one of the conflicts in your book.”

“Create a bubble map to describe one or more characters in your book.”

“Write about how you connect to something (or someone) in your book.”

“Write a letter to a character in your book giving them your opinion about what is going on and what they should do about it.”

Because I can only conference with 3-4 students during a 20-minute reading session, having my students write after they read ensures all my students are thinking about what they read. I strictly enforce the no talking while writing rule, and now that we are halfway through the school year, it has become a regular part of our classroom routine.

Our Reader’s Notebooks aren’t just for accountability after reading time, though. My students also keep track of words that they don’t know, quotes they love, grammar constructions that we have studied that they see in their own books, and more. They use them when they create projects and write papers.

They even read mine and each other’s from time to time because they want to know what other books might interest them.

Plus the notebooks are interactive. When I do “checks” I always write comments. They know I will bring up what they wrote when I conference with them. I even have kids who pat their notebooks at the end of class and say, “I bet you can’t wait to read what I wrote this time!”

Using reader’s notebooks rather than logs or summary sheets has helped my students to make the jump from just rehashing what they read to actually thinking about it, analyzing it, and evaluating it.  My students are reading and writing every single day, and best of all it’s about books and topics they have chosen and are invested in.

Of course I still have a few students who moan and groan about reading and writing; they don’t want to because it’s hard or it’s “boring”. But it’s only February. In the next four months, I bet I convert them because once they find The Book that excites them, they will be dying to talk about it both in person and in their notebooks.

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By | 2016-11-01T13:54:10+00:00 February 5th, 2016|Featured, Instruction&Curriculum, Literacy|8 Comments

About the Author:

Katie Sluiter is currently an 8th English teacher in West Michigan. She has taught middle school, high school, and community college and has her Masters Degree in Teaching English. Her writing has been featured on Writers Who Care, The Nerdy Book Club, and Dr. Bickmore's YA Wednesday. She is a member of the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), the Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE) and ALAN (the Assembly on Literature of Adolescents of the NCTE). She is a National Writing Project participant, has presented at both state and national conferences, and has been published in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan multiple times.

8 Comments

  1. […] I’ve been approached by many teachers who ask me, if you don’t use reading logs to monitor how much your students are reading, what do you use?  […]

  2. 38 before 38 - Sluiter Nation February 18, 2016 at 9:54 am - Reply

    […] at The Educator’s Room regularly? Check out my posts about why Reading Logs have to go and how I use Reader’s Notebooks with my middle school students. I also have a post on Writers Who Care about my writing process and how procrastination is a very […]

  3. Donna L Washington August 10, 2016 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    I am a professional storyteller and educator, and I love this post. Will be sharing it with some friends.

  4. Donna L Washington August 10, 2016 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    Oh, I just did a blog post about deep reading. A friend of mine sent me here to read yours. I blog at http://donnawashingtonstoryteller.blogspot.com/

    My blog is called Language, Literacy and Storytelling

  5. Kathryn August 26, 2016 at 12:53 am - Reply

    Test Comment

  6. Jennifer September 25, 2016 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    So true! I love offering my students time to ‘relax and read’, and then to respond however they choose to. It’s one of the most popular activities in my classroom!

  7. Michal November 18, 2016 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    In my school system we use a scripted reading program. Number one, I hate the scripted program. It deletes any creativity a teacher might possess. Two, it takes away the freedom to have a “reading” time in your classroom with any fidelity or consistency. So, my question is…..any ideas on ow to incorporate a reading response notebook in this situation? Also, I teach reading to 114 fourth graders. I believe in reading to be a good reader. I just am not allowed to follow my beliefs. Looking for inspiration!

  8. Autumn June 29, 2017 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    I love your ideas here! I do something similar but I’m never very happy with my prompts. Do you have a list of prompts you use that you would be willing to share?

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