There is a lot of discussion in the teaching world that centres around choice. Students having the choice in how to represent their ideas and what types of books they read is pivotal in student engagement. At the start of the year I decided that I was going to use reading journals as a way to get my students to reflect on the reading they were doing. I went away from the idea of choice and set up the way I wanted them to reflect and well the results were not great. Summaries a plenty but the depth and individuality of the responses were lost.
Reading Journals are known in different classes as different thing. Double entry diaries, thought logs, reflection books, reading response logs. Some use them as page counters with a question and answer approach, others in book clubs as a way to collect “discussion points”. In my classroom it doubles as their strategy tool box, Any skills that we are practicing are written in the journal then, in class read aloud or their person reading books, they are given a chance to write down their thoughts. Like I mentioned earlier this started out as far more structured and less accessible to some of my readers. The journals themselves remained but the way we used them had to change.
The Return to Choice
Strategies a page turn away that each student had a different level of comfort using. Many going unused or used only when it was “Double Entry Diary Day”, or “Signposts Day” or “Visualization Day” I imagine you see the pattern. Then one day a student said “Can I just do BHH (another strategy) all the time I like it most?” followed by a table mate saying, “Yeah I would rather do Questions and Answers” or “I like highlighting” and finally “I really liked those Quadrants of Thought”. I decided that we would not have anymore set “this is the strategy you use” after the initial teachings. Every student sees a text in a different way and should have different ways to show that. So today I had them go through and find their favourite entries so far. It was really fun to see all the different ways they respond.
Assessing (How do we do it?)
This was and is my main struggle. I am moving towards a weekly checkin to go along with conferencing for next year. They can explain one of the mandatory 5 responses in the week. They will log the book and pages read and then, however they want to, show their thinking/responses/reflections. The best part lately has been the conversations, the Aha moments caught in the moment that are only aided by students tracking their understandings. Noting them and then reflecting on why they are impactful to them.
Next year I plan to have journals take a larger daily role in our reading, the skill level of the reader is not the measuring stick it is the thought they put in. One of my students struggles on the writing down of things, he likes minimal work but is a wizard at finding signposts and loves to talk about them. His minimal notes remind him of what he wants to talk about. For me the point of reading a great book is talking about it with others, journals help my students remember what it is they want to talk about. It is not always an easy road but it is most certainly a fun one. Take a look at some of their work.