Recording Responses to What You Read
Keeping a reading journal is a fantastic way to encourage a child to think deeply about whatever he his reading. It works especially well with fiction novels, but can be used with non-fiction as well.
There is no right or wrong with a reader's response journal because it is a collection of the reader's thoughts about what he read. Each person's journal is as unique as the individual himself.
Besides promoting reading comprehension, reading journals are a stepping stone to the literary analysis that is done in high school. So prepare your children in the elementary years by using a reader's response journal.
Keep reading for all about using reading journals in your homeschool language arts curriculum.
Why Use Reading Response Journals - For Homeschool Language Arts
Reading journals keep children engaged with what they read.
Writing in a reading journal helps to clarify thoughts.
Recording ideas in a reading journal means you won't forget them for later. Then you can use them for writing a book report or some other assignment.
Journal writing gives students a chance to reflect on what they read.
Responses to what you read can be developed in to literary analysis in middle school and high school years.
Reading journals are another opportunity for writing practice.
Journals are not finished products. They are considered pre-writing and as such are full of mistakes. Don't dwell on the aesthetics of a reading journal. The ideas are the main point.
When to Use Reading Journals - Before, During, and After
• examine what you already know and want to know
• write down questions
• note new vocabulary words
• respond to the text
• reflect on the story
• analyze what you read
• predict what comes next
What to Write in a Reading Response Journal
Like a personal journal, every reading journal is unique. But unlike a diary in which you write about anything that comes to mind, a reading journal is filled with thoughts about what you are reading. Usually a reading journal is kept with a fiction novel, but it certainly can be used with any form of writing from poetry to non-fiction.
The main idea is to simply interact with what you read. Anything along those lines goes. So after you have read a chapter or two, you stop and write down your thoughts. They may be any of these things:
→ what I'm confused about
→ new words
→ questions I have about what will happen
→ things that make me happy, sad, or angry
→ parts that remind me of something else I've read, seen, or done
→ quotes from the book that seem especially meaningful
→ characters that feel strongly about (either like or despise)
→ weird parts of the story that I think the author should have changed
→ the mood of the book
→ key words that are repeated over and over
→ important details about the setting
→ predictions about what might happen next
→ ideas about what the author's purpose is
For most children new to reading journals, telling them to write down their thoughts and feelings about what they just read will elicit a blank stare. They will need more structure than an open ended task and blank paper. That's where reader's response prompts come in handy.
With prompts, your child has a starting point for his journal entry. Below, you will find links to printable prompt lists that are helpful. You might think that giving your child a four page document is wonderful, but he just might be overwhelmed with all the choices. When starting out, just give him five or so questions to consider.
Basic Reading Journal Prompts
◊ What I read makes me feel.....
◊ What I read reminds me of .....
◊ I wonder ....
◊ I know that .....
◊ I don't understand ....
Remind him that he doesn't have to address each one every time he writes in his journal. Just select the one that seems to fit the best. Another good way to deliver the prompts is through these printable reading response bookmarks. They are easy to find and have just a few key prompts.
If a few questions and blank paper are still intimidating to your child, start with even more structure. Choose a graphic organizer or a worksheet format that guides him in recording his thoughts and feelings. (Some of these -- freebies and retail books --are linked below).
As your child grows familiar with reading journals, you can offer him more reading prompts. As time goes on, responding to the text becomes second nature and the prompts aren't needed at all. When students have independent reactions to the text, they are moving closer to critical analysis of literature that is required in the high school years.
Free Printables for Reading Response Journals
- Reading Journals at Jimmie's Collage
This is my blog post about using reading journals with my daughter. There are free printables you can use to make a reading journal prompt mini office.
- Reading Graphic Organizers
Mariely Sanchez shares two versions of printable reading journals -- one for grades K-2 and another for grades 3-5. Both forms are in PDF and Word format.
- Reader Response Journal Prompts
Sixteen prompts from Newport News Public Schools.
- Reading Response Journal Questions (PDF)
Another nice list of questions and starters for reading journals.
Reading Journals for the Reluctant Student
If your child is highly reluctant to keep a reading journal, there are two tricks to try.
1. Oral Reader's Response
Start out with an oral discussion to the prompts. Get your child talking about what he read. Serve as scribe, and write what he says. Then show it to him, explaining that what he said is exactly what goes into a reading journal.
2. Sticky Note Strategy
Give him a few sticky notes with simple prompts on them. As he reads, he can stick the prompt at the relevant place in the book, filling in the blanks on the note as necessary. Then graduate to blank sticky notes without prompts and finally to whole sheets of paper.
Selecting the Journal
A reading journal can be any one of many different formats:
♦ spiral bound notebook
♦ one page minibook
♦ simple folded booklet
♦ loose leaf paper on a clipboard
♦ blank book (such as the to the right)
When you start out with reading journals, I recommend making individual booklets for each novel. A small booklet is not as overwhelming as an entire composition notebook. But as keeping a reading journal becomes more natural, middle schoolers would probably enjoy a dedicated reading journal like the beautiful one below.
At What Grade Should Students Start Using Reading Journals?
As soon as children can read, they can start keeping a reading journal.
Begin in elementary school with a few simple prompts. Gradually increase the difficulty of the prompts until by middle school the child is so familiar with responding to literature and no longer needs prompts at all.
By high school years, a student can analyze literature, using his journal as a starting point.
Daily Independent Reading Record and Journal
Listen to a Classroom Teacher Talk About Reading Journals
Laura Candler shares how to make and how to use reading journals. The free printable pages she mentions can be found on her website on this page towards the bottom.
Are you a classical educator? Susan Wise Bauer recommends the reading journal method for all ages of learners: grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages.
Reproducible Books for Reading Journals
These Scholastic titles are nice for rounding out a reading journal. Especially when you are beginning the reading journal habit, these reproducible pages give some structure to the writing.
Read my tips for Managing Reproducible Books like these.