Reading and writing complement each other to enhance literacy development more than most other activities students encounter. So when teachers combine the two to improve comprehension, the results can be quite beneficial. As teachers plan for teaching writing to their students, they might consider writing about reading and having students keep this work in a special reading journal.
Ways to inspire students to use their reading journals
When students use their reading journals daily, their literacy development tends to deepen and broaden. Teachers must help inspire their students to use their reading journals to activate their learning and not simply as an activity to complete. Teachers can take advantage of mini-lessons while teaching writing in order to show students how to use their journals in different ways.
- Allow students to write freely about any topic they have been reading about.
- Provide writing prompts for students to respond to.
- Read and respond to journal entries.
- Allow students to choose which entries they want teachers to respond to.
- Ask students to swap journals and respond to their peers.
Modeling reading journals
One of the best ways to teach students how to respond to reading in their journals is through teaching writing interactively. This is a common strategy for encouraging literacy development. Teachers read a book aloud and stop to discuss thinking as they read. Next, they mark pages of the text to show where their thinking shifted. After reading, the teacher takes out a large reading journal and writes using student suggestions in coordination with the marked pages. The large journal is left open as students work on their own reading journals so they can use it as a reference.
Planning reading using a reading journal
When students are required to track the books they read and the genres they have yet to try, they begin to realize that reading must be planned. When readers have a "to be read" list, they are learning to be lifelong readers. Readers who make lists in their journals identifying which books they like to read will have a reference to go to when they need to choose a new book to read. Helping students plan their reading purposefully increases their literacy development. When teaching writing, teachers must remember to have students write for real purposes so that it becomes a part of who they are and will carry on long after the teaching. Real purposes include list making, letter writing, and information sharing.
When considering the literacy development of each child, teachers should remember that reading and writing is not a competition. When teachers assign journals, it should be to complement what the student is reading and writing about. The students should not be bogged down with assignments and worksheets but rather equipped with solid strategies for becoming a better reader and writer. Students should be writing things down about reading that will help them when they need the information or remind them of how they were thinking. They should not be completing assignments so that the teacher can grade them or rank them against other students. True literacy development occurs when students view books and writing positively.
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