What is a reading response journal?
A reading response journal is a reading comprehension strategy used to help readers reflect on and write about their thoughts and feelings about books. Typically, the responses are kept in a spiral or composition notebook. The journals can be very open ended or can be more structured. A structured approach with specific writing prompts for students to explore works great in first grade!
5 Ways to Use a Reading Response Journal
After a class read aloud:
One way to use a reading response journal is after a class read aloud. Choose a prompt that is relevant to the story being read, or a comprehension skill you are working on in class. Have students glue the prompt in their notebook and provide about 10-15 minutes for students to write and draw about the prompt. Provide time for students to share some of their responses with their classmates.
Small group instruction is perfect for reading response journals:
Reading response journals work great during small group reading instruction. It provides teachers an opportunity to have an in-depth conversation about a specific comprehension skill you want to focus on with your students. It works well to have multiple days to work on a book (or section of text in a longer book).
On the first day, introduce and have students read the text. After reading have a short conversation about a specific reading comprehension skill or question that you want students to understand better.
On the second day, have students do a quick reread of the story. Then introduce the prompt for students to glue in their notebook. You might want to revisit or expand on the conversation from the day before. Then provide time for students to write in their reading response journal. It works great to do this “at the small group table” so you are able to guide and scaffold students understanding of the comprehension skill.
Use reading response journals for a simple listening center:
Using a reading response journal at a listening center can help students reflect on and record their thoughts and feelings about the material they are hearing. Have students answer questions or provide summaries of what they have heard in the reading response journal.
This is a great way to assess students listening comprehension. It provides students a meaningful task to complete independently. Best of all, it is a great way to be able to plan your independent centers quickly and efficiently. Have students “turn-in” their notebooks so you can quickly assess their listening comprehension. It works great to write a quick response (1-2 sentences) back to your students.
Teach comprehension skills with a reading response journal:
Are you teaching a specific reading comprehension skill in class? Use a reading response journal during a whole group reading comprehension lesson to focus on that skill. You can use a text from your current basal story, a short passage, or any book you choose that works well for the skill.
This provides an excellent opportunity for students to apply the skill and for you to assess their understanding of the comprehension focus. Again, it’s great to provide time for students to share what they have written with some of their classmates. It is amazing what students can learn from each other!
Need more whole group reading lesson ideas? Learn more about teaching theme in first grade.
During independent reading:
Later in the year (or for higher level readers), students can use the journals during their independent reading time. By writing down their thoughts and feelings about what they have read, students can make connections between what they have read, and express their opinions. It provides an opportunity for teachers to assess student understanding of the material they are reading independently. You may want to have 3-5 prompts available each week for students to choose from for their independent reading time.
I love that a reading response journal provides a place for students to collect their writing about stories they have read all year! It’s fun for students to look back and remember some of the different books they have read (or heard) throughout the year. It also provides an excellent document to share with parents to show the growth in both their reading comprehension and writing skills throughout the year.
If you’d like ready-to-use reading response prompts, I have some available in my TPT store.