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Monday, March 18, 2013

Common Core Reading Journals-A New Road to Reading

While Common Core Standards have stressed me out more than any other set of standards I've worked with, I have to say that I love teaching Reading more now than ever before. Those nine year old basals have gone away and we are finally getting to use good quality, engaging reads with our classes. My kids get so excited when I bring out a new text. We've done four this year- because of Winn Dixie, Charlottes Web, Poetry and Figurative Language, and my favorite--I survived the Sinking of the Titanic. Oh my word...probably the best unit ever! I thought I would share a little about our study and how we organize and record our thinking. Here we go!

Back at the beginning, I bought a class set of composition books. NOT SPIRAL. Those were too flimsy for what I wanted. I found them for a quarter at the old Wally-World. I labeled them with student numbers and names and they were all set to go!

For each of our units, our journals are home to all graphic organizers, writings, and other assignments that we might need during our time with the text. To get things started with this unit, I copied all of my organizers half-sized so that they would fit on the pages (and to save on copies since they were being counted). On the first day, we glued in our title page, vocabulary organizer, and character tracking sheet. (seen below) Every time we read a chapter, met a character, changed setting, etc. ,we recorded it in here. New words were added every single day.. We ended up with two full pages of interesting words!

Once these were in place, we were ready to start our unit. Each day we tried to read one chapter. There was always something that we would do after, whether it be a writing prompt, illustration, response to the day's happenings in the stories, etc. We also focused on the FACTS in the text as compared to the Opinions and fictional happenings. We recorded one of those each day as well.
My main goal at this point in the year was to get kids reading, responding, and writing along with the text. The journal you see belongs to a student who is a struggling reader, reluctant writer, and an ESL student. This text grabbed the attention of my students so much that there were days when I practically had to pry their pencils out of their hands to get them to go to specials.Here are a few snippets from our journey to the Titanic.

The following excerpt occurred on DAY ONE-Chapter One of the text. At the beginning, the students are drawn in by the actual event of the ship going down. The main character George is holding onto the bow of the ship, watching things and people fall past him. My kids were MAD that we stopped when we did but I had them visualize what was happening to George and put themselves in his place and write. Check out the sample below..completely blew my mind that he wrote like this...

I was ecstatic nonetheless..He did get a bit graphic but those were his thoughts..and they were ON paper. This coming from a kid that wrote four sentences as his beginning of year writing sample. So we kept going.

The next couple of chapters were very descriptive so we went with that. We worked together to discern the factual from the fiction. We used highlighter tape as we read to point out factual information and recorded it on an anchor chart. Once that was finished, we set out to do a bit of informational writing. Now, my students hadn't been taught the informational genre yet so this was just a test run.

Not to shabby, huh? We kept on with the informational. We watched videos, read other books, searched for pictures, and jotted down our notes to use when we finally did get to that genre. But the entire class was itching to draw... so we did.. And this is where my little guy put his sparkle in it.. He did better than I ever could!

Our journey toward the sinking got more and more exciting, and the kids got so enthralled with this text! I absolutely loved it. We did several more writings..each one more engaging than the next. And the kids...whoa..the kids... THEY DIDN'T WANT TO STOP!

In one chapter, the main character isn't allowed on a lifeboat because he looks older than he is. My class was FURIOUS! So we put our anger and our attitudes to work--look out STYLE! This one shows a little 'tude' if you ask me...:-) It starts out...Dear Mr. Crewmember...

I think he might've been a little upset. Since the main character was a boy, I decided to change it up and have them write from the perspective of the character's Aunt or sister. Some of them got the idea..but most of them just went with their own reaction to being told to get on deck in the middle of the night.

We finished up the unit with a bang and did a Reader's Theater with the same text. The class was actually sad when we wrapped up the unit. I have NEVER taught a reading unit quite like this one and I can only hope that they continue to be just as good.

As far as our journals go, we are still using them. Yep..our beginning of year journals are still going strong. Covers look a bit shabby but all the pages have held and all of our materials from the entire year have been safely stored away. I like to take them out at parent conferences, PTO nights, and let my kids share their writings with their parents and each other. Ive been asked several times about what is done with 3rd grade reading at my school and this is what I share.  

I hope...just maybe..someone out there might see the value in teaching reading in this manner. I have seen a room full of reluctant and unmotivated readers blossom into a community of avid book devourers. And it all started with a notebook.

Best wishes!


  1. This is awesome - I'm going to borrow your idea!! I have reading response journals that go home once a week but I like the detail of this. I think I need to do a little more guidance with my journals :)


    Fun in the Fours

  2. I'm glad I found your blog! I love your journal ideas. It's great to get ideas from other 3rd grade teachers.

  3. Hello and thank you. I have a question though, did you plan the responses for each day what was happening in the text? Did you know you were looking at theme, one day, characters in another day? Did you make all the glueables? Do you do them with the kids? I have seen several other examples and this seems a little more authentic and organic. I love it, just trying to figure out where to start! lol thanks.

  4. Yes, we had specific skills in mind each day. I read the book ahead and wrote our prompts. The pages we glued in were ones created by myself. I sell my units on tpt and they are set up with plans and everything you need tho journal this way.

  5. Yes, we had specific skills in mind each day. I read the book ahead and wrote our prompts. The pages we glued in were ones created by myself. I sell my units on tpt and they are set up with plans and everything you need tho journal this way.

  6. I love your journal ideas for this novel, but can't find them on TPT. How can I get a copy of printable? I bought a class set of this Titanic novel to use in my 3rd grade class this year (we are just moving in to common core in CA this year.

    1. Here is the link to the bundle that I used. http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/I-Survived-the-Sinking-of-the-Titanic-Literacy-Unit-PlansTestsand-More-854570

  7. Yes! Please put printables on TpT and share the link with me!!!

    1. Here is the link to my unit on TPT. http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/I-Survived-the-Sinking-of-the-Titanic-Literacy-Unit-PlansTestsand-More-854570

  8. I recently purchased this unit and am very excitied to begin reading with my 3rd grade class. Unfortunately when I downloaded the unit I didn't receive Chapters1-4 test , or I didn't download correctly. If possible, will you please email me a copy of chapters 1-4 test? It would be greatly appreciated! mmcgowan@carlsbadusd.net

    1. Hmmm...I just downloaded it and it shows up as a file called Titanic Test chapters 1-4. Try redownloading the file from your TPT purchases page. Open it once downloaded and drag the ch.1-4 test to your desktop. Let me know if it works this time. If it doesn't I'll try to email it. My email server is acting all wonky with attachments lately.

  9. Thank you! I thought it was gone forever!!