READING TO LEARN JOURNALS: Teaching Engaged and Reflective Readers HOW to Comprehend Text Strategically
The Strategic Thinking Journal designed for upper elementary and intermediate grades is a valuable tool to help students capture and organize their thoughts about the text under study and to show in writing that they are thinking strategically while reading. I developed the journal to provide both direct and indirect comprehension instruction for any narrative text. Through very visual graphics and “at-a-glance” lists and charts, the journal keeps the key comprehension strategies in the foreground. It defines terms and helps show how each component of the journal connects to a key comprehension strategy, and how each strategy moves the student toward the goal of better understanding the text. By practicing using all of these metacognitive strategies and reading skills on a regular basis, rather than learned and practiced in isolation, students are more likely to internalize them and make them part of their reading schema.
Below are a variety of inviting tasks found in the Strategic Thinking Journal. Each section was created to direct a young mind to engage with the text, and by doing so, to understand more, form opinions, and create its own ideas about life.
- Synthesize and summarize key points worth knowing, remembering, and retelling
- Analyze, evaluate, and respond emotionally to the author’s words
- Draw on background knowledge and curiosity to evoke deep and real questions
- Seek especially important words in the text worth noticing and understanding
- Record connections through inferences, images, and developments in the plot
- Predict future story events and actions using text evidence
- Consider the literary language and identify noteworthy "golden lines"
- Create mental images to draw or sketch impressions and ideas
- Design graphic illustrations to organize big ideas and important concepts
- Self-Evaluate preparation, participation, and quality work
* Encouraging students to “self-assess” or evaluate their understanding of a text is an important part of teaching them to think strategically. The Self-Evaluation Rubric found at the conclusion of the journal, provides space and instruction for students to “self-evaluate” the quality of their work and the effort to produce it.
* Included in the index of the journal is a form called the Task Tagger Text Coding Key, a comprehension self-monitoring key to develop strategic thinking. Text-coding is an important strategy used in journaling to help students keep “track of their thinking”, enhance understanding, and build schema.
* To use the MIND MAPPER task effectively, select a comprehension skill, such as drawing conclusions, main idea, supporting details or compare/contrast that your students need to practice. For students just beginning, you can provide the graphic organizers you feel are appropriate for the concept you are teaching that week, such as a Semantic Map, Venn Diagram, Cluster Web or Tree Map. As students learn to organize information in different ways, they can begin to design and personally create their own look to these organizers.
* Common Core aligned resource that can be used in a variety of ways such as: Literature Learning Circles (LLC) Discussion Guide, Whole Group Novel Study Guide, Literacy Centers, Guided Reading
* CHECK OUT my free online webinar on Neuhaus Education Center's Reading Teachers Network called Extending the Development of Metacognitive Skills through Book Clubs or get credit for 3 hours of CPE/CEU - Cost $30
In my webinar you can see how I manage Literature Circles or Book Clubs in my classroom. The journal is a great tool for in-depth novel studies and to guide meaningful discussions. Chapter books under study can be divided into four sections, always ending at the end of a chapter. These are the student's reading assignments. There are four completed journal sets in each reading binder, one for each reading assignment. Students write their reading assignments in their journals right away, so that each group member knows what is expected of them each cycle. There is one reading assignment per cycle. A reading cycle may take a week or more depending on individual schedules and time limits.
On "Reading Days" students use their Task Tagger Keys and colored sticky notes or text codes to quietly tag key strategies and text tasks in their books. "Reading Days" are followed by "Journaling Days". When weekly assigned chapters have been read, students supply information in the Strategic Thinking Journal and jot down their impressions. Students are able to easily locate and refer back to the sticky notes they have tagged in the text to help them “unlock meaning.” On “Discussion Days” students use completed Strategic Thinking Journals to guide the discussion.