Independent reading is not just about reading for pleasure. We are teaching students to read actively and push their thinking beyond being able to summarize and retell.
Recently, I tried something I have never done before. I used one of the books in the classroom library to read, stop and jot, and write in my notebook. I highly encourage everyone to try this work.
I found several benefits to doing this work as though I were a student and kids loved seeing my progress and the possibilities of writing about reading.
I used it time and time again in conferences and during minilessons to show my process for how I was writing about my thinking and not summarizing.
It also helped me to better understand what kids may need to be successful and how the notebook could be used to track thinking in order to write about deeper meanings.
As I read, I would stop and jot along the way, placing the post-its in my book. At the end of each reading, I took 5-10 minutes (no more than 10 minutes!) to look over my post-its and choose a pattern I was noticing and what new understanding I was having as a result of noticing the pattern.
When I finished reading, I found myself jotting big ideas that I could see throughout the book and in my notes.
By doing the work myself, it gave me some new insight about what I want to see students doing which is to read actively in order to think deeper about reading. I noticed how I could better support them and could model how I push myself to think beyond the events. Essentially I am using various lenses, looking for patterns, and coming to a new understanding while modeling for students how to do the same. This needs to be modeled, practiced, and discussed with reading partners regularly.
Analysis is HARD! It needs to be modeled regularly, part of the every day practice, and discussed in partnerships often. It’s not a matter of stop everything and analyze for a few days. It’s not a one and done.. It’s not a sometimes. It’s a daily practice! By doing your own notebook work, you will be able to determine just how challenging this work is and what students may need to be more successful.
One of the great benefits I’ve noticed of using a reader’s notebook instead of separate pages, packets, or worksheets is it becomes a tool and truly promotes real thinking and writing about reading. It shows teachers over time how students are progressing and what they may need to grow. It’s a basic yet mighty tool for both teachers and students.
Fourth grade teacher, Michelle, has started doing this work with her kids and writing about her thinking while reading in front of kids. She modeled the pattern she noticed by looking closely at what characters do and say to think deeper about the character and encouraged her students to do similar work during independent reading.
I’ll leave you with two more examples of tracking thinking in front of students. I recently visited Diane’s eighth grade and Bridget’s seventh grade classrooms and found that both were using chart paper to model for students their own thinking while reading their independent books Girl in Pieces and The Cellar.