It’s likely that you’ve heard the term “Reading Response Journal” at some point in your teaching career. A reading response journal is a journal where students are asked to record their interactions with reading. This can be simple fact-finding or a personal reflection and connection to the text. The requirements for a reading response assignment can change with the subject matter and as frequently as the teacher wants. Reading response journals can be a wonderful and meaningful way to track authentic growth as a reader—so why aren’t more teachers using them? Read on for THE PROS AND CONS OF READING RESPONSE JOURNALS.

Let’s start with the cons. These are some things teachers are saying:

  • They can become lackluster and repetitive. 
  • They can cause frustration for students who are not strong writers.
  • Some lend themselves better to fiction or nonfiction without options for variety in reading (something independent reading should encourage!) 
  • Many students don’t know what to write, which results in blank pages.

Just as reading response has its pitfalls, so do standard reading response journals. Many students fall into the trap of summarizing what they’ve read without adding their own reflections. Many students make tangential connections, but show no understanding of the author’s message. In other words, reading response journals could offer an opportunity to improve dozens of reading and writing skills, but too many of those chances are missed without proper scaffolding. Moreover, teachers may not have time to scaffold individual reading choices for twenty to thirty students! 

Because it seems that reading response journals can have a limited range of usefulness, many teachers don’t bother with them, even though they know standard reading logs or monthly book reports aren’t thorough enough. That’s where standard-based differentiated reading response organizers are a game changer!

Now let’s take that con and turn it into a pro using Standard-Based Differentiated Reading Response Organizers!

What are Standard-Based Differentiated Reading Response Organizers?

Reading response organizers from Rockin Resources offer a variety of styles and options for meaningful written responses in the form of prompts and graphic organizers for each reading standard. Some lend themselves specifically to fiction while others work better for expository text. Some may help students summarize or connect to text, while others challenge readers to be detectives, searching for specific types of information. Instead of a notebook full of blank pages (which can sometimes be intimidating or dull, depending on your students), reading response organizers scaffold writing about reading. They promote reading comprehension with guided questions, notes, and specific prompts. You can print out the organizers and glue them into a standard notebook, share them digitally for students who are remote or who need to type, or put the sheets in a binder so they are all in one place. Having the skills all in one place will provide students with a reference tool and will also serve as a place for you to review skills with them!

Why use Reading Response Organizers?

There are many reasons to use Standard-Based Differentiated Reading Response Organizers, and many of them share the rationale with reading response journals themselves.

  • They provide a guide and a place for students to write down those interactions with text.
  • They are standard based so you can be sure to cover all the standards.
  • They meet the needs of diverse learners in your classroom. The organizers offer 3 levels of differentiation so that your reluctant learners, on-level students, and students who need an extra challenge are all successful with the same standard.
  • They provide teachers a chance to help with the pitfalls of reader response, such as students overlooking the author’s intended meaning or their perspectives being limited by lack of empathy or experiences. 
  • Teachers can examine readers’ thoughts and what students gleaned from the text. 
  • Students build confidence working on their level.

That’s why it makes sense to support your students with a guided graphic organizer, just as if they were doing any other sort of writing. 

How do I use these Reading Response Organizers?

Reading Response organizers can be utilized in class during literature circles, independent reading time, or at home as part of nightly reading homework. Not sure what you’ll cover or when? Leave blank pages for students to paste in desired organizers. Or, give out the organizers you plan to use for a week at a time. Ideally, if you’re on top of your game, the journal can be used for both in-class and at-home work, traveling back and forth like a lunchbox.

While reading response journals are versatile, here are a few examples of how you can utilize them in different settings. 

Whole Class: Are you trying to complete a dense chapter in social studies or science? Are some of your students struggling to comprehend the material and put it into their own words? Reader response organizers for nonfiction offer a variety of ways to guide students to interact meaningfully with the text to get the most out of it. Use graphic organizers such as text feature analysis and vocabulary study during reading to help students make sense of the text and bolster comprehension. After reading a chapter as a whole class, pass out the reader response organizers you think will be the most beneficial to help students process what they read and put it in their own words. Try organizers such as Main Idea, Text Evidence, and Text Structure to pair with reading response organizers. This will likely lead to a more robust understanding of the text and help you see what your students truly understood. 

Small Group: If you’re like many teachers, you have students splitting into small groups to read novels in class. They’re often grouped by interest or difficulty level. Use the differentiated organizers for the specific skill you are teaching during direct instruction and minilessons for all readers. For example, each reading skill offers 3 levels of differentiation. The differentiated reader response organizers are a wonderful teacher’s helper! All students will be applying the same skill at their own level. 

Or use different skills for the leveled groups. Some reader-response organizers, such as plot events or summarizing will work well for all students. These could be filled out after every chapter so you can monitor student comprehension, even on days when you don’t get to spend time with every group. Additionally, you might have a higher reading group who has moved on from simply summarizing. You could assign them reading response organizers to analyze quotes and create text-to-text connections. Meanwhile, a lower reading group could be scaffolded with reader response organizers that focus on reading basics, such as sequencing and identifying story elements. 

Individual: Do you require nightly reading logs for each student? Do you have independent reading time a few times a week in your classroom? If you’ve ever worried that kids are skimming the pages while their minds are elsewhere, reader-response organizers are your new best friend. It will keep them accountable for their reading. Leave a stack of fiction and nonfiction organizers by your classroom library and tell students to select their favorite one to pair with that day’s reading. Another day, tell students to pick an organizer they haven’t tried yet. On a third occasion, you can tell students that it will be the teacher’s choice. This is your chance to give students the organizer you think they need the most to help them with a specific skill. A packet of reading response organizers sent home at the beginning of the month or week to accompany reading homework will also give you a tangible way to check on your students’ progress as independent readers.

Can one graphic organizer be reused?

Absolutely! They can be reused when applied to a different text. For example, you can use it in class with one text, at home with another text, and later in the year with yet another text! Track students’ progress and use those results toward the end of the year for small group review!

Teachers are always looking for ways to differentiate and offer resources and tools to meet the needs of all learners. Reading response organizers are a wonderful way to upgrade your reading assignments to meet the diverse learning needs of your students and individualize instruction with minimal prep work. This one easy tool can transform the way your students write about reading! It will also add variety and challenge for them while adding versatility and another formative assessment for you! Reading response organizers are a win-win!