Saturday, January 18, 2014

Reader Response Journals

Okay, confession time. I am a teeny tiny bit obsessed with fourth grade, and some of my bestest ideas emerged from this unofficial mentor I worked with my first year teaching fourth grade. She had all of these little tricks and behaviors that come about when you’ve been teaching for a while. One of my favorites is the Reader Response Journal. I truly believe that this is a tool that can be used at any grade level and it bring quality writing to a whole new level.

BTW it is differentiation at its best!

So, anyway, the Reader Response Journal. In the past, I have gone all fancy pants and bought the official Fountas and Pinnell Response Journals, with neato dividers and tabs and printed pages, but there is no need. This year, I bought two subject notebooks. One subject is for mini versions of our classroom anchor charts. GENIUS. I shrink down all of those anchor charts (and then some other great printables) to glue into the first section of the notebook. Totally accessible resource for kiddos. Fostering independence? Yes, please!

The second section is the letter writing section. I start the year by modeling, modeling, modeling…a little more modeling...and eventually they get it! We write letters back and forth. I allow the first paragraph to be totes personal, an awesome way to get to know your kiddos throughout the year. The rest of the letter focuses on independent reading, read alouds, and guided reading texts. Depending on the ability of the child, we might write a two paragraph letter or we might be writing for pages and pages and pages!

My students flourish as writers, and I totally owe it to my Reader Response Journals. This year, I used an “Evidence Statements” bookmark so that the kiddos use those while writing. We talk a lot about sounding smart in our writing by using evidence statements and transitions.

And I'm not writers, my kids blossom. The stamina required for writing a letter is intense. Plus, most of my kids use a highlighter to highlight the questions I ask in my letter and then answer them in their letter. IN ADDITION, during the school year, I start noticing little Post It notes with labels created by the kids. They tend to stick a Post It note on our character traits list in the anchor chart section because they use it all the time. It's cute, seeing my teeny tiny dependent fourth graders (whom I often use the statement, "I have a shadow, I don't need another. Please stop following me around the classroom all the time.") grow into independent kiddos who figure things out on their own!

So, try this! And let me know how it goes for you, in your classroom. I’m curious!

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