Reading Response: Creating Quality Reflections
Revisiting the Reader's Notebook
My class takes some time each week to reflect on their reading and growth as a reader. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these letters each week. Recently, however, the writing quality has started to deteriorate for a few students. I knew it was time to stop, reflect, and model what meaningful reflections look like with my kids. And although I have posted on the use of a reader's notebook in our classroom, I thought it might be helpful to share how I got our writing "back on track" with a little modeling and review time.
Where Do They Reflect?
My students use Fountas and Pinnell's Reader's Notebook to record what they are reading, what they are thinking (through a weekly reading reflection), and what they were wondering or learned through guided reading. It's a nice organizational tool and showcases growth throughout the year. I have posted on this topic before, so if you are interested in learning more visit my blog: A Blended Approach to Reading and Writing Conferences.
When Do They Reflect?
Using the workshop approach, I ask students to complete a weekly reading reflection the day before meeting with me. So, for example, if you are going to meet with me on Wednesday, Tuesday would be the day to stop and reflect in your notebook. It's also a good time to make sure the reading log is updated. Students are free to write these letters during our reading or writing block.
How and What Do They Reflect?
For the first two grading periods, I made sure to focus on the content of the letters, not the grammar. This was very tempting for me at times, but I also took my observations and used them for my writing conferences. For example, if I noted that a student was not uppercasing their characters' names I looked for that teaching point in their writer's notebook. Most of the time, if a grammar error is found in the reflection, it can be found in their everyday writing. At most, I would offer my suggestion orally, in passing. It might have sounded something like this, "I noticed you didn't underline the title of the book. Make sure you do that next time." For the first two weeks, I never made corrections to the actual letter.
"I ain't going to the fair," the student tells me.
"Oh, you aren't going to the fair. Why not?" I reply.
I essentially do the same thing when I respond back to my students' reading reflection. If the title of the story wasn't underlined or uppercased, I make it a point to put that somewhere in my letter. For example, "I also love Maniac Magee. Jerry Spinelli is one of my favorite authors."
I would like to share some ways I model deeper thinking through written feedback:
"I like this book. It is really, really, really funny. You should read it to the class Mrs. Bunyi."
When I receive this sort of reflection, I usually respond with something like, " What makes this book so funny? Is it like any other book we have read together so far? Please tell me more in your next letter to me!" Again, I am encouraging that student to dig deeper with their reading response with little to no work at all.
"I just started this book. I am on page 14, so I can't really tell you much."
It was a student that helped me figure this one out. If you are at the beginning of a book, you might want to spend some time inferring about what is going to happen. You only need a few pages of reading to do that. You can also write down your questions that you have before and during reading. So when I read a statement like this I usually write, "I am happy to see you are trying this book. It would be really interesting to read what you are inferring or questioning about this novel at this point. Can you take a moment to jot those thoughts down? You might want to look at our thinking stem charts for help."
3. Taking a Deeper Look at Reading Strategies, Conventions, and Format
Bring in the anchor charts! If you have followed this blog, several of these charts have been posted before. Instead of handing my students a long list of possible writing stems, we have slowly added different ways to reflect about our reading on anchor charts. These charts have stayed on our walls all year and will continue to grow as we discuss more reading strategies. At this point in the year, we have addressed three reading strategies in depth and just introduced determining importance. Here is the order of how we have modeled the use of reading letters each week.
The first thing we addressed at the beginning of the year was the friendly letter format found in the reader's notebook. This is a handy resource that stays with each child throughout the year.
Reading Strategy and Thinking Stems: Making Connections
Good for during and after reading- Reading responses might include this natural language instead of the wording " I had a text to text connection." Who says that anyway? This was the first thing we modeled and discussed this year.
Reading Strategy and Thinking Stems: Inferring
Good for before and during reading- After a short introduction to the meaning of schema, this was our next reading strategy that we addressed during reader's workshop. It continues to be the most popular area of reflection in our weekly letters.
Reading Strategy and Thinking Stems: Questioning
Good for before, during, and after reading- Never stop asking questions! This chart includes some of the thinking stems that can be included in our reading reflections. I particularly like "It confused me," as it allows a student to share what they are not understanding.
Reading Strategy and Thinking Stems: Determining Importance
Good for after reading- Rather than just say, "I finished the book," students can take a moment to write about what was important in the story. These thinking stems really help support deeper thinking and reflection.
Stop and Reflect on What We've Learned So Far
Review Chart: Now that we have spent an ample time working on our reading responses, we are stepping up the standards with care to our format, content, and conventions. This chart shows how we reviewed what we have learned so far. Regarding grammar, I will still refrain from making corrections to the actual letter. I will, however, make note of it in my conference book and remind the student to correct or add this into their future letters.
Student Examples: I also think showing exemplar reading responses is a great thing. With permission, you can copy and share some writing from your students. In the above example, the student talks about his reading partnership meetings, he includes a quick summary, and uses wording such as I am inferring to discuss a character's actions. With regards to conventions, care has been given to follow the friendly letter format (closing and signature not shown).
Do You Have Any Tips to Share?
Don't be afraid to post your tips here. I am posting on this because it is an area we are working on. I am sure other teachers and students are working on increasing the quality and meaning as well. I'd love to hear what is working in your classroom!
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