I started using readers response journals a few years ago with my first graders. I loved the growth that I saw! When I moved to Kindergarten, I still wanted to use them. At first, I imagined that they would respond mostly with pictures. By the end of the year I was blown away by the level of writing in their journals! Here are some benefits that I’ve seen:
- increased ability to think about, within, and beyond a text read aloud
- more flexibility in writing across content areas
- evidence of higher level thinking
- more practice on writing skills and strategies
- students are applying writing skills and strategies across the content areas
- a greater awareness of the connection between reading and writing
What do I use?
I wanted to use a notebook so that we could keep all of our responses in one place and not have to deal with so much paper. However, I didn’t want to use a wide-ruled composition notebook because the lines are too small and there is not picture space. I decided to use these:
I also use post-it notes galore! I have little tubs with post-it notes for each table for easy access. Sticky notes are for jotting down new information, predictions, connections, and so much more. The students store their sticky notes on a page of their journal. Sometimes, they pull their favorite one off and put it on a “parking lot” anchor chart to share. This is a great way for me to do an informal assessment as well.
I also use Think Sheets. Think Sheets are prevalent in Comprehension Toolkit, one of the resources that we have in my district. I made my own that would fit in a composition notebook. You can get it here.
I use sentence stems to get students started on their response. I write them on a sentence strip and keep it posted. This year I am going to try something new! I am going to make labels that have the sentence stem on them. When I introduce a stem, the students will put the label on the inside cover of their journal for reference! I’ve made labels for the sentence stems that I use the most. You can get them here.
I also use Thinking Maps. A few years ago I purchased plates and cups from IKEA for students to use to trace circles for circle maps. I keep the plates and cups in tubs for each table.
How Does Readers Response Fit into Readers Workshop?
Students use their readers response journals to respond to the text that I read aloud or to apply a comprehension strategy that I taught using their own books. Take a look at my readers workshop schedule to see how readers response fits in.
Planning for Readers Response
The interactive read-aloud is a chance for students to listen and interact with text that is beyond their independent reading level. It is a chance for students to concentrate on their comprehension strategies that are taught in the mini-lessons. My students will respond to the text from the interactive read-aloud in their journals. Here are some examples of how we might we respond:
- Students can create a circle map about what strong readers do
- Students can make predictions using the sentence stem “I predict…”
- Students can make connections using the sentence stem “It reminds me of….” or “It makes me think about…”
- Students can describe characters using a circle map.
- Students can draw a picture of a character and use labels to describe the character.
- Students can create a double bubble map to compare two characters from the story or from the story and another book.
- Students can write their new learning from an informational text on post-it notes and place them in their journal.
- Students can write questions or ” I wonder…” statements after reading an informational text on post-it notes and place them in their journal.
- Students can create a flow map for sequencing and retelling the events of a story.
- Students can identify their favorite part and describe their justification using the sentence stem “My favorite part is…because…”
These are just some of the ways that you can utilize readers response journals. I would recommend referring to Fountas and Pinnell’s The Continuum of Literacy Learning for more information on grade appropriate goals for writing about reading. The book has a section specifically for writing about reading. It contains a menu for selecting genres, as well as lists behaviors and goals for writing about reading. I use this book a lot when I’m planning!
Please share your ideas for readers response in the comments! I’d love to read your ideas. We are all learning and growing together!
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7 NIV