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Monday, June 2, 2014

Reading Journals Revisited! Brand New Unit!

For those of you who haven't seen this post, last summer I blogged about how I've integrated the Common Core Standards into a Reading Journal Format that my kids are absolutely loving. For the past two years, we have used composition notebooks and units, printables, and prompts that I have written to help us learn to analyze and respond to higher level texts. We no longer have basal sets at my school. Instead, we have class sets of some really great books..(Many of which I had to buy myself). Yeah, they were costly--unless I found them in the Scholastic $1.00 flyers, but my kids have absolutely outdone themselves with their journals and I love seeing their work.

I just finished up tweaking a unit that I've actually used for the past two years. At the beginning of the year, we read Because of Winn Dixie, and later on, we add in another of Kate DiCamillo's books called "The Tiger Rising". It is great for comparing parallel texts because there are so many similarities between the two books. It's also a bit emotional, and sometimes there are tears at the end, but the kids really learn to love her stories.

Here are a few excerpts and explanations of what we like to do with our texts!

For each unit, there is always a cover page. We also stick in one of those 3M sticky tabs so that it is easy for us to look back at all of the different units that we have completed. The pictures you see are from my own personal journal. I have found that my kids are more engaged and take a bit more pride in their work when I am doing the work myself! 

These are our vocabulary organizers. We take a word or two from each chapter (we read one or two per day, depending on the length), discuss that word, and students add it to their journals. I have lots of ELL students so we also draw to help solidify the meaning.

We also do a lot of work with Character Analysis. We work with the basics, who they are, what we think they may look like, and some of their character traits that are prominent throughout the story. But we also go further into the text and work with the skill of pulling facts and details out and using them to get to know our characters a bit better.

Settings are always evident in our studies as well. We like to watch how the settings in a story change and discuss how things might have been different had the setting been different. For this unit, we did a fun little flippable and then a larger drawing of the primary setting to accompany it. Underneath each flap we wrote what the setting was, and a few descriptive adjectives about each of the places we visited in the story.

I also always try to bring in some sort of art project into each of the units that we complete. For Winn Dixie, we created dogs out of TP rolls, for this one, since our main character was named Sistine, we painted like Michelangelo did. Students taped their papers underneath their desks and had to try to paint upside down. It was tough, and we got messy. But then we had to write! I always try to write after an activity like this one. We also did a bit of sculpturing with this unit as well!

And this is where our writing skills really start to bloom. Throughout the unit, there are several prompts and other writing opportunities that my kids participate in. All of those are done in our reading journals, and the prompts are added as well using a little tiny tag in the corner of each prompt. That way, kids who are absent, or do not finish will still be able to complete their assignments without having to wonder what it was they were supposed to write about. 

The writing portions take up much of the room in our Reading Journals but seeing my students grow as writers is well worth the time and cost of teaching reading in this manner. I love it, my kids love it, and the growth I've seen is tremendous. Not to brag, but I had 100% of my class pass our state Reading exam this year...and my room was home to 13 EIP students, and 12 ESOL kids. Our reading journals hold all of our precious work for the entire year and the kids love to share them when we have Parent Night. 

Hopefully, you have come away with a few ideas for integrating a Reading Journal into your classroom. My units are all available in my TPT store at great prices if you are interested in purchasing one of them. The one you see in the photos can be found by clicking the photo you see below!

As always, thanks for visiting and I hope you all have a GREAT summer break! We all deserve a little rest and relaxation!


  1. This is fantastic! Thank you for sharing :)

  2. That is great! I'm going to check out your different units right now!

  3. Do you sell these activities on TPT? I would LOVE to use them in my classroom!