When I first started teaching, I knew I wanted my kiddos to engage with text in a meaningful and purposeful way. Not just a worksheet that went with what we were reading… But a real way for my students to share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions as it related to what we were reading. My solution? Reading Response Journals or RRJ as I like to call them.
Reading Response Journals
What are Reading Response Journals?
Simply put, a Reading Response Journal is a place for students to write, draw, and share their opinions, ideas, or respond to text we have read in class. There’s nothing fancy about these. They are just cheapy spiral notebooks I buy at BTS time for like 15 cents each. Then, we make a cover and keep them in our desks. You can grab the cover I use for FREE right here.
But let me set you straight on one thing about our Reading Response Journals…
It is used as a grab and go, a quick write, share my opinion, write a sentence or paragraph, notebook.
How Does it Fit into my Routine?
Well that is the best part of a Reading Response Journal… it’s a chameleon of journals. We use it for quick writes on a specific topic, or as a place to share our learning from particular unit. But most importantly it is the place where we WRITE ABOUT TEXT.We use them before reading, during reading, and after reading. We also use them during center time, and sometimes we even use them during Science and Social Studies!
(Read more about how we used our RRJ to improve our sentence writing HERE)
How to Use Reading Response Journals in Your Classroom
Here’s a peak at a few ways I’ve used these journals in both second and third grade.For Quick Writes…
This is the main reason I started using Reading Response Journals. I wanted a place for students to write down their thoughts quickly… No passing out papers, no big long drawn out process… just a quick and dirty write up.
Here, we had just read the story, “Animals Should Definitely NOT Wear Clothing”. This book is perfect for making an inference, but I wanted to engaged my kids before we started reading, so I had them tell me why they thought animals shouldn’t wear clothing. This was a simple way to get them thinking without all the hoopla!
For Responding to Text… This is by far how we use our notebooks the most. After reading a text (and possibly SNOTS-ing it up!) We’ll use what we’ve read for writing about it.
You can read more about this activity here!
We even took some notes on the Constitution after learning more about it on Constitution Day.
How to Grade Reading Response Journals
You know I am the queen of easy. When it comes to grading, I follow the “less is more” mentality. (You can read more about that here)
I’m sure most teachers would say, “Oh I collect their notebooks every week to check and correct every single page we’ve done..” and you know what? Maybe you are that teacher and all I have to say is good for you… But for me, the LAST thing I need is another thing to grade or collect!
That’s why checking my student’s Reading Response Journals is always done on the fly. If I am spot checking their work, I’ll usually just put a star on the page that says, “hey- I saw this”.
If I’m looking for something in particular, as students finish their writings, I’ll go around and check what they’ve written.
Here we had documented how Officer Buckle reacts to different events in the story, “Officer Buckle and Gloria”. A check plus means they’ve got it!
As I check over student’s work, I can easily see who’s met the objective and who still needs coaching. This allows me to reteach and provide immediate feedback as needed. No need to lug home tons of notebooks for review. Ain’t nobody got time for dat! I also use the information that I can gather from their responses for forming my small group lessons later in the week. Class struggled with finding the main idea of a paragraph? Looks like I can cover that in my small group.
So, those are the ins and outs of my FAVORITE routine. Do you have your students keep a Reading Response Journal? If so, tell me what you have them write!
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