Added Bonus- Writing a Reader's Response Journal Entry

By Victoria Jasztal on September 6, 2009

Picture showing a post-it note pointing to a quote in Rules by Cynthia Lord

I will be posting this Wednesday about peace, anti-bullying, Pinwheels for Peace, and September 11, 2001. However, I wanted to alert you first to an awesome lesson I am teaching my fourth graders in small groups this week as we approach the third week of school- Writing a Reader's Response Journal Entry (using post-its).

My fourth graders have not used post-its to document their reading before, so this will be a new concept for them. They perhaps have also not kept journals when it comes to their independent reading choices, yet now it is going to be a requirement for them. I adopted response journals three years ago in my classroom (after reading Mosaic of Thought and becoming a "Crazed Mosaic Maniac", and this is the first year students will be writing in them regularly about their books of choice. Often, students of mine have read a TIME for Kids magazine entry and respond to that or take their side on a debate, yet this is something that will be more personal to them and help them to emerge in their writing beyond summarizing.

When I read my students' journal entries last week from home (without telling them exact guidelines yet), basically all I saw was summarizing. Predictions were not being made. They were not making inferences or using quotations/actions to support their thoughts. Sometimes, characters were not even mentioned. Of course, this wasn't terrible because my students did not know how to write an effective journal entry. That is probably what they have done in the past with book summaries of sorts. This week, though, I am going to show my students how they can use post-its to monitor as they read and not just think after they have stopped reading.

Here are some guidelines I will share with my students this week in small groups as I ask them about their book choices so far-

Make connections (text-to-self, text-to-text, text-to-world) to-
-Your own life. (t-s)
-The world’s events or issues (t-w)
-Things that happened in your neighborhood or school (t-w, t-s)
-Similar events, characters or settings you have read in a book (t-t)
-History (t-w)
-Other people and problems (t-w)
-Other writing by the same author or on the same topic (t-t)

Be sure to include: What you are reminded of and why it reminded you of it

Jot down questions that come to your mind as you read. Sometimes questions refer to predictions. Ask questions to yourself before, during and after reading. Try to ask yourself “open”, thick questions.

From what you have read most recently, make a prediction about what will happen next. What are the reasons for your predictions? When you go on and read, did things happen like you expected, or was it different?

What do you see in your mind because of what you have read? Explain perhaps what you could see, hear, smell, feel, or taste. You can make a sketch with a caption.

Summarizing (Determining Important Ideas)
Obviously, share what has happened in your story so far/recently. Share information about events, characters and setting. See how characters “talk” and act. What do you believe is the theme of the story?

Is the author trying to get a certain point across? Which parts of the story are amazing? Which parts would you write differently if you were the author? Critique the author.

This was reworded from something I read on the Mosaic of Thought Listserv, which can easily be searched in Google. It is hosted by, which I HIGHLY recommend. Here are some pictures of the post-it notes I will be showing my students as I work with them this coming week-

IMG_3285  IMG_3287

I then will show how I used these post-its in writing a journal entry. This is my entry-

I am reading Rules by Cynthia Lord and just started the book. Before reading it, though, I looked at the back cover. Twelve-year old Catherine has a younger brother named David who is autistic and makes lots of mistakes. She makes up rules for him to follow.

The beginning starts where they in a way are having an argument. It seems like every day at 5:00, David wants to go to the video store. He always has to touch a lot of the boxes and read whether they are G, PG, PG-13, R, etc. The whole store hears this. Catherine seems to feel embarrassed by all of this. Whenever her dad invites her to come, she says “No, thanks.”

David repeats things, and everything has to be JUST on time. David is routine-oriented.

It is obvious on page 5 that Catherine wants someone to move in who can be a friend (especially during the summer when her best friend is not around), perhaps because she is lonely. It is obvious, too, that she wishes she had a brother she could laugh with and relate to. On page 6, she said, “Sometimes everyone gets invited except us, and it’s because of David.” She also mentioned a familiar look that she gets often, the look that wonders what is “wrong” with David.

David has lots of rules. He seems to remember them, and sometimes at the wrong times. All the rules seem to be things people should already know, but she needs to remind him often because he is autistic. Based on what I read, I think sometime in the story David will be embarrassing, but perhaps Catherine will come to relate to her brother more. I see a fish and a rubber duck on the outer cover, but I don’t know why, so maybe I’ll find in the book where the cover relates to the story.

I chose Rules to write about because it is a type of story that encourages text-to-world and text-to-self connections. Perhaps they have known someone in this situation. When I was young, I had a friend who was autistic. Or, perhaps they have been embarrassed about something before- maybe their little brother or sister was embarrassing in the store.

Additionally, my students have not read the book, and I do not want to journal about No Talking by Andrew Clements because I have shared the book in class the past two weeks and I want my students to think about something I have never shown them. Besides that, this is my first time reading this book, and I am "going through the process" just like they are.

I wanted to share this before we come back on Tuesday because maybe it will encourage you to discuss "thinking while you read" with your students. I don't want students to just think AFTER they have read- it is not natural to just think afterward, despite what they may believe about thinking. I desire them to show their thinking before and during reading just as much, if not more.

...Again, I mentioned Wednesday's entry is going to be about a plethora of ideas revolving around peace. I am excited to think about the entry because our school is going to launch our anti-bullying program this week and September 11th is approaching. My students were only a year or perhaps two years old when it occurred, so they do not remember it. We are going to complete a number of activities this week, so stay tuned!


I love the responce it is realy good it is cool.

i love my Reading Response Journal because it helps me a lot. Our teacher Mrs. Dana gave us our Reading Response Journal.


Thanks for giving us tips on different catorgories that is really kind. You must be famous for all the things you do.I will reading your blog evry day it is like i am addicted to your blogs thanks alot and not in a bad way either

Thanks for showing me some additional ways I can set up my reader’s response journal entries. It is refreshing to try “newer” ways, especially if they might entice more students to really get into their reading selections. I will be trying out using more of the post-its and flags to see if this might make it easier for them to locate their connections.

... Thank you... my students have not really caught on to the Post-it notes still, but I am definitely going to have it "down-pat" the end of the year! They have never used them before, but they have plenty of mini-lessons and group meetings to catch up on it.

Thank you for your comments. There is so much frustration in teaching, so many things you can do and "not" do in the classroom. It can be frustrating.

I am using some of these same techniques with my class. I am in a 90-90 school. (90% Low SES and 90% Eld) It makes for some tough days.

Let me say though, I'm seeing that the effective and efficient teaching of writing mixed with strong classroom managment is working powerfully on my kids.

I'm only on day 4 of implementing my system this year but I can tell you it's working incredibly.

I'm using SYMBOLS, BLANK JOURNALS, and BRAIN research to see this happen.

For writing the basic symbols represent sentences and paragraphs. Teaching kids topic sentence structure is KEY. We wrote our first paragraph on 9-11 and it was VERY effective.

My students have a blank spiral notebook for Writing, Math, Social Studies and Grammar. These books are proving highly effective for my students.

They are coming from so many struggles. I have 3 kids at home myself. My wife homeschools 2 of them and the third is in public school. One of the curriculums' of my kids is called the Well Trained Mind and though I don't even know what it is, the concept certainly explains what I'm doing with my kids.

Our class theme is FALCONS, my name is Vic Fulmizi, so they are known as my Falcons!

They come from poverty, violence, gangs and all sorts of other junk that I just can't even list without getting too sad.

Thanks for this post because it is confirming something that I am seeing with them. My falcons are soaring thanks to your efforts.

... Thank you! I would love to see examples. I am grateful that your students are succeeding- it is taking a lot of modeling in my classroom to get what I desire, yet I bet we will be completing routines even more efficiently once we enter the second quarter (at the latest). This is the class I where have had the highest- and the most- goals for writing and reading. - Victoria

Great ideas! In second grade, I use pre-made graphic organizers for my students' reading response journals (Venn Diagrams, character maps, story element organizers). I would like to branch out of the organizers later in the year and get some of the kids' 'fat' thinking ideas incorporated into their notebooks as well. We spend A LOT of time working on developing 'fat' or 'thick' thinking and talking ideas!

... I believe I would do that in second grade as well, Charlene. Eventually for more difficult skills, I know that Scholastic and other places like Eduplace online have TREMENDOUS graphic organizers. We are focusing on main idea a little right now- in this time, I am also focusing on questioning and jotting thoughts so they can look at the details that add up to the main picture. - Victoria

I'll be introducing Reading Journals to my students during the next couple of weeks. I like your idea of modeling your thinking for the students; it is so important for them to not just hear what they should do, but to actually see it.

... Thanks, Barb. I've been working on lots of visuals over the long weekend- multiplication patterns, long arrays, literature circles and more. My students are visual/kinesthetic learners much more than auditory learners. They have to see diagrams, pictures, etc. in order to do their best, and then they REALLY do well. They are an extremely bright group, and I know they will certainly benefit from this visual I showed everyone. - Victoria

Hi Victoria,

I have to tell you how impressed and honored I am to see this! If there's anything you'd like from me to support your study of RULES, please don't hesitate to ask.

When they've finished reading the book, I'm happy to answer some email questions or share some photos from the process of writing the book, if you'd like to do that.

Please say hello to your students for me. I hope you all have a wonderful school year!

Sincerely, Cindy

Cynthia Lord, author of RULES

... Hello, Cynthia! It is very exciting to correspond with you on here. Now, I am using your book as one I am reading and modeling the skill of using post-its for a few weeks, but eventually, we are going to read the entire book. I believe it will be the next chapter book after I finish Andrew Clements' book with them. Right now, I am debating between your book and Chasing Vermeer as the next book, which of neither I have read before, but you have a greater chance of being next because I am modeling mini-lessons with your book.

I will certainly take some photos and perhaps complete a follow-up post after we complete the book entirely (it would be within the next month, most likely). I may also encourage them to come up with questions as they read and think of what excites them most as well as what they would write differently. You may also receive a few very nice thank-you notes. I think this is going to be a sensational year for my kids, as they are going to know tomorrow I have corresponded with more than one author this weekend!!

Victoria :)

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