Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is this year's focus for the Literacy Connection in Central Ohio. Donalyn has once again challenged my thoughts and practice. 

Today's reflection is really more a question as I wonder about reader's notebooks. 

  • What would the reader's notebook look like?
  • How would I use a reader's notebook?
  • How would I manage reader's notebook?
  • Are my first graders ready for a reader's notebook?
  • Do we even need a reader's notebook?

Did you notice the elephant in the room? The notebook seems to be about me and for me! Our classroom is very much designed to be responsive to the needs of the learners. Our classroom is designed to give agency and build independence. So why am I making the notebook about my needs?

I recently had the pleasure to hear Ralph Fletcher speak at the Dublin Literacy Conference, he cautions teachers to not let notebooks become our work, but rather give permission to the students to use them as they choose. 

So now I am looking at reader's notebooks from a different perspective, the perspective of the learners in our class.
  • What do the readers need in a notebook?
  • Would the readers feel a reader's notebook is purposeful?
  • Are 1st grade readers ready to write in a notebook in a way that can be understood by others? 
  • Do others need to understand the thoughts in the notebook?  
  • Would the kids stop using our online tools to respond to reading?
Of course in considering the perspectives of the learners in our room I have to include myself. I am learning alongside the kids. I want the notebook to allow me to assess, design lessons and talk with readers.
  • How can I use this notebooks as a means of ongoing assessment?
  • How can the notebook be organized in a way that's easy to understand and to use and allow the reader the freedom to respond in a variety of ways? 
Our classroom provides a variety of means for readers to respond to their reading; Kid Blog, VoiceThread, A Wonder Wall, A I was Surprised to Learn Wall, and of course paper and TONS of Post-it-Notes. Would a reader's notebook enhance or replace our current practice? Do we need a reader's notebook?
Looking at my reading life, notes in margins, post-it-notes, and this blog I am thinking it has to be a reader's choice!
So, tomorrow the kids will decide! 

Thanks for allowing me to think out loud! I would love to hear your thoughts on reader's notebooks, please comment below! 
You can read the thoughts of #1stchat on reader's notebooks here on Storify thanks to @laurakomos


Debra said...

Hi Deb,
Great questions you are posing. I used readers notebooks when I taught 4th grade. Students and I wrote letters back and forth. I'm not sure if I would do it again that way if I were to return to intermediate grades. My students love post it notes, and while they share them when we confer I feel I miss a lot because I don't read every post it note! And I wonder, do I need to read or see everything they write in response to their reading? And then there is the challenge of balancing the need for students to respond to their reading with taking time away from the actual reading. I am very interested in exploring the idea of a readers notebook in the primary grades. How do we get them started? How do they share them? When I see nearly a whole pack of post it's on a book I have begun wondering if I should be introducing a notebook. But I will be honest-I'm afraid of making more work for me.

Laura Komos said...

I have read your post 3 times now and am still pondering your insight. You have pushed my thinking and helped remind me that my kids need to be in on this decision making. I do love the idea of thinking journals from the #1stchat archive but also agree that we can (and should) have a variety of tools to help us explore/track our thinking. Ultimately, as Ralph said, kids have to own the notebooks and their thinking. I definitely need to keep thinking about this and perhaps write a post of my own to help me sort out my thinking!

Valerie said...

My kids respond to reading in a variety of ways: Post-It-Notes, blogs, packets, activity books (all purpose notebooks) etc. My biggest concern regarding a reading response type notebook, in first grade, is that I want our reading time to be as authentic as possible. I don't want it to be the "work" and I don't want it to take away from the time they would spend actually reading. My other concern is that first graders might focus more on the writing rather than their response to the reading. In that sense, would I be assessing their writing, their reading, or both?

At this point, I'm thinking about next year. I'm planning to use a reader's notebook with my students next year. I think I'll wait until midyear to introduce them (or a bit sooner if I determine that most are ready). I'll provide a lot of choice in terms of how they will use it. Additionally, it will be important to teach and model what that will look like. Some of the choices will include the following: Draw a picture with a caption of your favorite part, ask a question, create a character web, make a list of characters, make a list of interesting or important words, etc. It will look more like an Interactive Read Aloud using a reader's notebook to capture thoughts, ideas, information, and learning. I can also use them as an assessment piece by asking them to choose an entry to reflect on either orally or in writing. As I think about it, an oral reflection might be the way to go. I did interactive read alouds when I taught third graders and I'm sure my first graders are up for the challenge.
Hmm...It's only March! I still have time to use them with my current group. Thanks for writing this timely post. It's helped me to focus my thinking on this subject.

debf said...

It is such a puzzle…One friend commented she begins notebooks in kindergarten by first keeping a class notebook. This allows her to model how they are intended to support readers. She can then gradually release the work to the kids. I can see using this approach, but your point about how I would manage my time in looking at the notebooks is a challenge. I agree we don't need to see all their responses, but having a place to check in is tempting.
Thanks for joining conversation!

debf said...

I often find we make things too hard for ourselves and when we simply ask the kids they no exactly what they need! I haven't presented this to them yet, but I hope to soon! (school calendar and CCSS seem to be interrupting my plans-lol).
I look forward to reading your post!

debf said...

I definitely agree the reading and response needs to be the work of the kids and to enhance their understanding and enjoyment of reading. This is where I struggle, because I also want a place where I can check in on readers I don't see as much as others. Some readers prefer not to be interrupted by me pulling up for a conference, but I would like to have a peek at their thinking and processing of their reading. Again I come back to just asking these kids, maybe not everyone needs a notebook, maybe its the readers choice!
Hmm.. do you see how I keep landing here!

THANKS for joining the conversation!

Mary Lee said...

I struggle at 5th grade with the form and function of readers' notebooks...every year, no matter what I try...probably because one size doesn't fit all...