Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Writing about Reading

In 8th grade recently, we've been doing a lot of writing about reading.

Our reading and writing notebooks.

During NaNoWriMo, almost all of our writing time was devoted to working on our novels.

As part of reading, however, we do three types of reading responses each week.

For each installment of A Tale of Two Cities, students answer questions about the assigned reading before we discuss it in class. I post these questions on Edmodo, and they respond using Edmodo's turn in assignment function. Some students write sentences and others write mini-essays. I'm mostly interested in gauging their basic understanding, and it gives me a better idea of who is doing this reading independently and who still needs lots of help.

Independent Reading labels

I also ask students to respond to their independent reading each week. Earlier this year I gave each student a sheet of labels with a variety of reading response prompts. (Actually, I made them last year but we only used a few. I reused the sheets with my new class.) Each label has a different prompt, and each student puts their name on the back of a sheet. I like this because students must vary their responses each week. They can't write each week about their favorite character. It also allows them the freedom to match a prompt to their current book, instead of forcing them to adapt a class prompt to their book. Sometimes students respond generically to a specific prompt, and this gives me a chance to address with them the need to keep a specific prompt or writing task in mind when they are answering a question. Finally, my tidy heart appreciates that I can actually read the prompt since it's typed at the top of the page.

She used an actual prompt, but forgot her label.
Yes, we're working on breaking into paragraphs.
These are good places to rave about books we love.

We have also been answering specific questions to accompany our class read-aloud of Catherine Gilbert Murdock's The Off Season. I hadn't planned on reading this book, but the entire class begged for it. I decided that if we did read it, we would be more deliberate in our approach. I reread it and wrote down prompts every few chapters. Some were emotional responses, and others asked students to notice something specific in the text. For example, the first chapter is about the annual Labor Day picnic, but it ends with DJ the narrator sitting in a hospital, remembering that she used to be happy. On their own, most students read right past this, but I pulled the quote out and asked them to think about it. How is this novel structured? When is the narrative happening? What do you think this means?

Some examples of whole-class prompts.

How do you write about reading in your classroom?

1 comment:

  1. Would you mind sharing the questions you put on the labels? I'd love to try this!