I hope that you can all help me out with my thinking about responding to books...
Reading Workshop in my classroom in its fourth year of evolution and as I learn more, I try to incorporate more. One thing I know for sure is that the more kids read (just-right books), the better readers they become. This became very clear to me when this year, the third grade teacher came to me and said, "I've got to come see what you are doing in Reading. None of the kids are "low" readers this year. They are all reading so well".
The change I had made last year was toward more of an Independent Reading Workshop. My mini-lessons focused on phonics, grammar, and reading skills (compare/contrast, problem/solution, etc., whatever was in the teacher's manual) (This was before I knew about the strategies).
After that, the kids read independently and responded to every book they read in some sort of writing/artsy way. For example, they created a flip flap book with Character, Setting, Problem, Solution. Or they made a paper bag character, listing qualities and attributes of that character. They wrote and drew about their favorite part and why it was their favorite. They made book marks and posters advertising their books.
Every week or two, they chose one to share with the class in a "Book Chat", which they prepared for at home. I feel that this is good experience for talking in front of a group.
I also had "Book Club Groups" - a small group of 3 or 4 kids reading the same chapter book and answering questions in a packet that I had created. Although I know that most Pro Teachers frown on these "comprehension packets" I felt like I was asking them "thick" as well as "thin" questions (not just recall, but critical thinking, inferring word meanings, making personal connections, etc.). I felt like I was modeling for them what good questioning look like.
So, why fix what's not broken, right? But of course, I met Debbie Miller last summer and had to change everything again!!!
I still do grammar and phonics, but the majority of my mini-lessons focus on the strategies. This has been an incredible experience and through "think-alouds", I have come to find out what good thinkers my students are. I love doing this. It is extremely exciting every day and I feel like I'm doing something really wonderful!
I still do "Book Club Groups", but they work with partners now and they meet without me. I meet with one group a day and therefore can meet with every group once a week.
I also still do Book Chats, although not as often as before.
After the mini-lesson, the kids move on to Independent Reading as they always did. From Sept-Dec. (before strategies), they responded to books just like last year.
From Jan-Now, they have been responding using "Strategy Sheets". Which are basically mini-versions of what we have done on an anchor chart during think-alouds.
So, when we switched from "Reading Responses" to "Strategy Sheets", I felt like I was taking something away from the kids. This group in particular, is very artsy and creative. So, filling out basically a graphic organizer, was not sparking their interest.
The major problem I saw was that they weren't filling out a Strategy Sheet WHILE reading, they were forgetting to and then doing it afterwards (which doesn't help with "adapting mental images" or "Predictions and the thinking behind them". But, I figured that this just needed some training and getting used to.
Okay, so last week, I decided that we needed to move on to "Response Journals". This came up spontaneously when S wanted to record her thinking about all these fascinating facts and couldn't find a strategy sheet that would work for that thinking. C said, "I've been writing things down on pieces of scrap paper and will staple them to a "Visual Bubble" strategy sheet".
So, the teachable moment was there and I couldn't deny it. We all stopped what we were doing and began a conversation about how we could respond to what we were reading and record our thinking, but in our OWN way. They seemed excited about it, but time was out so we decided that we would talk about it more tomorrow.
The next day, I gave each child a 3-ring binder and pointed them to different types of paper and a 3-hole punch and we talked about what "response journals" would look like. It sounded good, but when they got down to it, I was really disappointed.
Some kids just wrote down a bunch of questions and didn't even attempt to answer (or infer) the questions. The quality of what I saw just wasn't what I was expecting. They kind of seemed like they didn't really know what to do. I thought that they wanted less structure, but I think they needed a little more direction. It was just a little too open-ended for them.
So, the next day, I said to them, "Recording your thinking is kind of like having a conversation about your book". So, today, I'd like you to write a letter to me about your thinking. You could write about a connection, an image, an inference... and I'll write back"
Okay,so some kids got it, but not all.
I feel like we were moving ahead and now we've taken a step back. I realize that this will take some modeling and lots of practice. But to be honest, I don't know what I'm really wanting them to do.
I know that I shouldn't expect them to write about every book or write every day, but that's not what we've been doing and the thought of that is honestly very scary to me.
I have the lower half of the second grade readers and although they show me that they are doing some great thinking during "think alouds" I'm not sure that they'll remember to do that thinking work when reading independently unless they are forced to write it down.
But writing it down takes time and I want them reading more than writing, which I why I got away from the "reading responses" in the first place.
I feel like I am in limbo right now and I'm not sure what direction to go in. I hope that you all can help me with your wonderful wisdom.