As we read, our minds can be activated in a variety of ways. Sometimes questions come up that might not be answered, a difference of opinion arises that isn’t cleared up or we want to say something. Our minds often linger on those questions, opinions, or ideas long after we have closed the book. Whether your students keep a Reader’s Notebook or you are looking for strategies that promote written conversations among students about books, here are some strategies for responding to text independently and with friends.
Responding to Reading with Journaling
- Focused Freewrite or Quickwriting – The idea is to simply write for 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t stop for anything. Go quickly without rushing. Never stop to look back, to cross something out, to wonder how to spell something, to wonder what word to use, or to think about what you are doing. Freewriting is an exercise in bringing together the process of producing words and putting them down on a page about a specific topic or subject. You can write about a particular character in the text or a specific chapter or conflict. You can respond to what surprises you, what intrigues or disturbs you in the text.
- Metacognition Reflection – This response involves taking stock of where you are now, where you’ve come from, and analyzing what has happened to produce the discovered growth or change in yourself. In this response you are more self aware about yourself as a reader. Some guiding questions: What did you learn from what you read today and how did you feel about it? What is important to you about the book and what would you like to say about it? What connections did you make between your own life and experiences and what you read about today?
Writing With Friends
- Literature Letters – This response is a way for you to have a conversation with your teacher or another student about what you are reading. You will write a letter and will receive a letter back. All of the letters will record your thinking, learning, and reading. In your letters, talk about what you’ve read. Tell what you thought and felt and why. Tell what you liked and didn’t like and why. Tell what these books said to you and meant to you Ask questions or for help, and write back with your reactions, ideas, feelings, and questions.
- Dialogue Journals – Or written conversations are logs of reflections, reactions, and responses kept by a student and regularly exchanged with student partners in the class (Atwell, 1998). As you read the text, try to make connections between what you’ve read and what you already know. When you prepare to write a dialogue journal entry, think about how different parts of the text relate to your personal experiences, to things going on in the world, or to other parts of the book. For this entry you might pull out telling quotes from the text and respond to the quotes in your own words.
- Write Around (Daniels, 2007) – Form a group of four. Each person gets a large blank piece of paper and puts their initials in the upper left hand margin. As students work, request they follow the following: Use all the time for writing and don’t talk when passing papers. 1. Students write for one minute. Write your thoughts, reactions, questions or feelings about the topic. 2. Pass your papers clockwise. Students read through the entry on the page, and just beneath it, write for a minute. Write responses, reactions, or make a comment or ask a question. 3. Pass the papers again – repeat and continue four times total. You need to allow a little more time with each entry because students will have more to read with each successive exchange. 4. Now pass one last time and you should get back the paper that you began with. Now read the whole thing over and see the conversation you started. You won’t write the answer this time, feel free to continue the conversation out loud for a few minutes.
- Meaningful Discussions Talking Stems –
I know what ________ is like because . . . . [Students make logical connections to their lives]
I agree/disagree because in the text . . . . [Students reference the text]
I wonder why . . . . [Students question why the author does something]
I’d like to add . . . [Students build on what others say]
I am confused by . . . Could you explain . . . [Students ask for clarification]
Tell me more about . . . Why do you think . . . .[Encourage readers to think deeper]
All these strategies are Writing to Learn activities which means students are utilizing writing as a tool to promote learning. Writing to learn allows students to think on paper and helps students clarify and organize their thoughts and improve their retention of content.