Monday, December 1, 2014

The Ultimate Reading Journaling Post

I am posting some of my older, well-viewed posts this evening, redirecting viewers to here from my old weblog. I apologize my old weblog cannot be opened for you all to peruse, but my old domain (which was called, not the new .net version I am debuting soon) was hacked with malware. There are some things on that weblog that have to be cleaned up, but these posts are still there and need to be reprised. Thank you! 

I am not a Language Arts teacher anymore, but this was a very informational post for you! Definitely something I would have loved to read when I was first starting out as a Language Arts teacher. I am reprising this because there are some phenomenal ideas out there. I did my best to compile as many as I could together when I wrote this. 

Written at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year-- 

Journaling in reading class... how often do you use it? How do you use it? How do you convey to your students how important it is? Journaling remains one of my fascinations because it can bring in many ways of self-expression. However, at the beginning of fourth grade, not all my kids appreciate writing for what it is worth. 
What kind of teacher do I want to be when it comes to teaching the importance of journaling? I most certainly do not want to be ogre who croaks (insert gargling, deep-throated voice from the bowels of the Earth here), "You NEED to get your journals done in thirty minutes. You NEED to write approximately a page. You NEED to ask questions and reflect." 

(Insert long pause) (All of a sudden, all is quiet...)

...IhavebeenthereandIdon'twanttobethatkindofteacheranymore. Yes, that was intended to have no spaces whatsoever between the words because I intended you to read it as one fast jibber-jabber. I have ventured into the realm of the Incredibly Boring at times, and journaling has not been as exciting as it could have been. 

How do I blast my way out of that crevice? I am going to share my philosophies about journaling this year and how it is going to be interesting. 

It all started when I joined Blogspot five days ago. I found Leanne Bongers' weblog and was fascinated by many of her posts having to do with Reader's Workshop. I came across a checklist her students use for their Thoughtful Log entries here and thought, This is very comprehensive and can serve as a really good guide if I am consistent in using it. I like how she made the list small and glued it on the side of the students' entries. The Black Beauty entry impressed me farther because the entry was organized and included some excellent details. However, by looking at her guide, I immediately saw what could improve the entry farther. 

My Own Reflection:
Good readers make predictions and inferences, determine what are the most important events in a story or the most important facts in an article, analyze text features, ask questions, and summarize. When they read fiction, they put themselves in the “shoes” of different characters and identify with those with whom they can make personal connections. Reading response journals are a wonderful tool for monitoring reading. 

Students should write in journals at least three times a week. You should take the time to respond once every 1-2 weeks on something particularly interesting you find in the students’ journals. To make this task not as daunting, you can assign a “turn in day” for every 4-5 students. It is nearly impossible to check every student’s journal daily, so it is an excellent idea to be consistent and tell students which day you expect to see their entries for the week. (Leanne's guide comes to light again.) 

There are many different kinds of journal entries for reading response entries in the classroom: 

Reflecting on personal literature selections
Reflecting on a specific skill in reading (with personal literature selections and literature presented in class)
Reflecting on poetry
Summarizing by cutting apart the literature
Responding to debates or opinion questions
Reflecting on author’s craft

Reflecting on Personal Literature Selections: 

If you are focusing on a specific skill that week in a mini-lesson, have your students write about that skill in their Reading Response Journals, connecting it to the literature they are currently reading. Again, students should journal about what they are reading at least three times a week. Some different skills to focus on are:
  • Character Development
  • Mood or Tone of the Story
  • Theme
  • Important, Story-Altering Events
  • Text-to-Text, Text-to-Self, Text-to-World Connections
  • Predictions
  • Making Inferences
  • Context Clues and Vocabulary
  • Questioning
Reflecting on a current chapter:  
  • What were the most important events that occurred in the past chapter? 
  • What do you think could happen next, based on what you just read? 
  • Mention a few vocabulary words from the last chapter. Write out the sentences where you saw the words and what you believe they mean. 
Reflecting on Characters: 
  • Is the main character encountering a problem or a challenge in this story? 
  • How has the main character changed throughout the story? 
  • If you were in the main character’s position right now, how would you feel in his or her situation? What would you do to respond to the main problem or challenge in the story?
  • Who is the antagonist? Make a WANTED poster in your journal for the antagonist. Write some of the antagonist’s character traits on the poster. 
  • Pretend you are a talk show host and two characters are guests on your show. Which characters would you choose? Why? What would you ask each character while interviewing?
Reflecting on the overall story once you have read the entire book: 
  • Was the setting described well enough that you could picture it in your mind? Why or why not?
  • What is the theme of the entire story? 
  • What are some text-to-self, text-to-text, or text-to-world connections you made while reading this book?
  • What kind of reader does this book appeal to?
  • If you could, what would you do to change the book? 
  • Do you still wonder anything, now that you have finished the book? 
  • How did the setting affect the story? 
  • Pretend the book you are reading is nominated for a national award. Explain why you think it should or should not receive an award. 
Positive and Negative Tones:  Creating Positive or Negative Moods in the Reader: 

Have your students analyze the author’s craft to determine whether books have positive or negative tones.The most important thing is that your students should choose the books to analyze- particularly the book (s)he is currently reading. Some books are written in positive tones. Some have negative tones. Today you are going to tell about a few books in our classroom library (whether they have a positive or negative tone). 


In your journal, you will write about both books. You will write a separate paragraph about each book. 

Here is an example: 
I read the first few pages of __________________________________ by _____________________. From what I read, the tone of the story is ________________________ because ...

Another twist to this assignment is to analyze the tone of a book at different points in the story. It is neat to have your students try to find both positive and negative tones in stories. 

Reflecting on a Specific Skill in Reading (Literature Presented in Class):
First and foremost, ask your students an inquiry question a day- it WILL keep the reading doctor away! For every story my students read in class this year, I have developed a few discussion-based higher-order inquiry questions and then one that starts as a journal response. Here is how I will carry out those types of questions daily:
  • Ask the question. Tell students they have five minutes to respond to the question. They should know to date their entry automatically. 
  • Nobody talks during those five minutes at all.
  • Then ask students how they responded to that question in their journals. Record some thoughts on chart paper that the entire group of students can see easily. Focus on only one skill and one state standard for this inquiry question. 
  • Your selections should be: magazine articles (fiction and non-fiction), poetry, those in your reading anthology, excerpts from chapter books, picture books, non-fiction science/social studies books, and even really strong stories students have written. You can share your selections on Elmo or make copies for every two students. 
  • Your questions should be “Author and Me” questions, not so much “On My Own”. Then there should be no "Right There" questions at all and just a smidgen of "Think and Search" questions. They should be questions where you do not find the direct answer in the text and are open-ended to invite discussion. 
A Great Plan for Metacognition: 

Your students can cut apart printable magazine articles/poems/etc. and write their thoughts next to sections they glue in their journals. This idea worked well this past year. 

Magazine Resources to locate articles for inquiry:
Entries brought on by "mini-lesson charts" like the one I made above for Waves of Terror, a Scholastic Storyworks article
The Composition Book:

My students will use composition books to make their reader's response journals, yet they will be put together with a dash of creativity. Students will cover the books entirely and glue covers of books from favorite authors on the front as the school year progresses. They will also receive a list of words to cut apart and adhere to the front of their journals (such as inferring, main idea, supporting details, etc.). 

Students will have their day of the week for turning in their journals, and they will know to pick them up the next morning. I will grade 4-5 journals daily.

A unique touch: Journals and Foldables You Can Make:

You can sometimes make smaller reader's response journals for specific books or units, if you would like. Journals can also be made for vocabulary purposes. I will have a composition book for my main journal like I mentioned above, yet sometimes my students will also be crafty and make unique little journals.

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