Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reading Journals

When I started teaching I knew two things for certain. First, I wanted to read aloud every day. Second, I wanted my students to read every day.

I thought I was pretty smart for that.

I didn’t call it readers’ workshop. There weren’t mini-lessons, at least not officially, and reading conferences were informal conversations between readers rather than intentional conferences focused on a specific topic. Students were expected to write entries in a reading journal, but my expectations were often loose and not clearly defined.

As happens for all teachers over time, the classroom strategies and activities that worked well became more evident, and my instruction become more focused on essential material. Of course, we teachers are constantly tinkering and changing and improving our instruction as we continue to learn more and gain more teaching experience.

What follows is how reading journals currently look in my readers’ workshop. (And quite possibly, something will change next week.)

Independent Reading
Students are expected to always have an independent silent reading book which they use for their reading journal entries. Students choose one of the following topics and write about it within the context of their chosen book. As I tell students, reading lessons should apply to all reading, for all students, not just a specific story. (Note: This list focuses on literary elements. As such, topics pertaining to informational text are absent. Rest assured it is still being taught.)

Journal Topics

  • Main & Supporting Characters
  • Protagonists & Antagonists
  • Character Traits
  • Setting (place, time, mood)
  • Plot (introduction, conflict, events, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution)
  • Theme
  • Genre
  • Conflict & Resolution
  • Making Predictions
  • Making Judgments

In the Beginning
As we begin the year, journal entries focus on the question “What are you thinking?” The goal is to get students to pay attention to what they do as readers. Sometimes using our read aloud book, sometimes using my own reading, we discuss, write, and share what we are thinking while we read.

As the Help Readers Love Reading site transition continues, sample journal entries will be posted. Sample journal entries is a format I’ve not seen on children’s literature blogs so I thought it might be a unique change of pace for readers. My goal is to continue to introduce great books to the site’s readers while at the same time compiling examples to use with students.


  1. I'm excited that you are sharing your Response to Reading techniques, to be followed with samples. Although many teachers use this procedure, many do not. Perhaps your blog will give the "do nots" an incentive to get started.

  2. This post came at the perfect time for me. I started a reading goal with my students this year. It is similar to one in The Book Whisperer. Students are to read 20-30 books by the end of the year. They write response letters weekly and I try to confer with them. But they Must have a silent reading book and I Must give them time to read in class. I also do read alouds, when possible. I look forward tp your updates and sample readers notebook posts.

  3. Thanks for your comments. I hope the posts give you what you are looking for. And I hope I can introduce a new book or two in the process.


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