With the goal in mind of increasing the time my students (3rd graders) spent actually reading and writing, I knew I wanted to incorporate reading responses into my classroom routine. I decided to develop an age appropriate but rigorous method to train my kiddos to write about their reading.
The students use the guided forms to help them write a reading response. This became weekly homework for my class, but it could be in-class work as well. They write about whatever book they are already reading, at whatever spot they are already at, fiction or nonfiction. They write one well developed paragraph using a hook, topic sentence, and supporting sentences. Each quarter has a slightly more advanced form guiding them in paragraph creation. You can have your students simply fill out the form, or take what they’ve written on the form and write it in an actual paragraph (I recommend moving towards this). I have my kiddos write this in a notebook. I use one form per quarter during the school year, but you could use them to differentiate giving kids the form they are ready for. You could skip right to form 3 for 4th graders, or stay on form 1 and 2 for 2nd graders. By third quarter, or form 3, I have the students use the form as a guide, but don’t require they write on it. I have them write their responses in a spiral notebook. If they can use the form to write a strong paragraph, mission accomplished.
I feel like reading responses help me (and the parents, if you’re using it for homework) keep track of what the kids are reading, the progress they are making, the rate of book completion vs. abandoning books. The students get an increased amount of practice in paragraph construction, summarizing, and applying skills from class (using ‘exciting’ words, varying sentence length, adding description, etc). Students have to focus on their own comprehension, knowing they are going to write about what they are reading. It sets a purpose for their reading. It helps me check their level of understanding as they are reading. It increases opportunities for reading and writing and builds the connection between the two- my original goal.