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.