Read and Respond Journals are the glue that holds our Reader’s Workshop together. I like to think of our journals as a map of each student’s learning and reading progress through the year.
On the first day of school, each student gets his/her own crisp journal and we begin mapping out our year. During The First Weeks, students add illustrations of their favorite reading memory and their go-to reading spot. They also learn how to write and share meaningful reading recommendations and record their first Just Right Reading Range for the year. Excitement buzzes as students begin adding to their Must-Read Lists and filling in boxes on their Reading Challenge Record.
The bulk of the journal is used for writing about reading. Every few weeks, I introduce a new Read and Respond prompt, which students use for their nightly Read and Respond homework and later use as an option for blogging.
I prefer to use prompts that have rich academic language so students can incorporate this language into their conversations and writing. I spend 20-30 minutes introducing the prompt using the Tip Sheet and Instructional Posters that correspond with that prompt. During this introduction, students accomplish the following:
Students head home that night and make their best effort to respond to the prompt using the tip sheet as needed. Each morning while my third graders complete their Bellwork in the first ten minutes, I walk around and grade each of their responses according to our Read and Respond rubric. This timely feedback helps them to improve their next response and helps me to know what I need to chat with them about during Reader’s Workshop that day.
Within the first month, their journal pages begin to fill quickly and students proudly share their written responses. They are always shocked with how much they are capable of writing and then maturely agree when I remind them it’s always easy to write about the books you love. By now, most of my students have become greatly attached to their Read and Respond Journals; they are seen carrying them to our school library so they can add to their Must-Read List, whispering and pointing to their latest response as they walk through the door together in the morning (no I’m not exaggerating…it’s adorable), and returning to the classroom 30 minutes after school is dismissed to pick up their accidentally-forgotten journal despite the fact that they can always write their response on a piece of binder paper. I love these first signs that the foundation of our reading community is established.
As the year progresses, we add a few more pages to the back of our journals to support success with reading blogs.