Writing About Reading: The Struggle

Is there anything more difficult and frustrating than trying to get your students to write about their reading?!

In my class, I only “make” my kids take notes on the books they are reading with their reading groups. There are two main reasons why we take notes on what we read.

  1. So we can remember what happened in the book
  2. So we can have MEANINGFUL discussions about the book with others.

I always struggle with the best way to set up student notes. This year my students are using a notebook but I have tried sticky notes, mini-notebooks, typing, and many apps.

Some of my students take notes on sticky notes and then add them to their notebook, while others go right to the notebook, but I never know if I should give them a specific amount of notes they have to take, or just let the reactions come naturally. I try to balance writing about reading with ENJOYMENT of reading.

Anyway, as a class we have come up with a list of sentence frames that have been a saving grace to my students’ reading notes. It started out with 3 frames, and grew as we learned about new ways to react and reflect on reading.


(Type-B alert! Lines not straight or spaced equally! Guess what? It still works.) This list stays up on my literacy board for all to see, however for some kids, I chose 5 or 6 of these and wrote them on a sticky note that stays in their notebooks as a reminder and a reference.


I constantly refer to these frames as I talk about books, and am encouraging my students to use it as they communicate about literature. It’s a simple tool that has worked wonders! And teachers, you don’t have to spend hrs using pretty fonts and colors to make an effective tool for your class.





“I don’t have anything to read!” I hate when kids complain to me about not having anything to read. It’s not because I’m a jerk, but because it seems like no matter what I recommend they always say “naw” or “I already read that”. So last year I started a Readbox. It’s a play on Redbox and it holds books that students in the class recommend. My students know that when in doubt, they can check the Readbox and grab a book that their peers love. Now I will admit, I sometimes throw in a few books of my own, mainly to keep the genres, levels, and story types diverse. I want to make sure that everyone can find something they can read and enjoy. 20171010_133214

I have seen some teachers do this but with recommendation cards tucked into the books. While I think that’s a great idea, that just wouldn’t work for me. I can see myself after school picking up recommendation cards off the ground, looking for the book they go to and I just don’ have the time or energy for that. The books on the readbox speak for themselves.


Reading Workshop Notes

This is only my 4th year teaching so there are many things I still don’t feel great about. Reading workshop is one of them. As a teacher of 5th graders, reading workshop isn’t so much teaching new skills, but more like reinforcing them to utilize skills and strategies they have already learned. During our workshops, I do a quick 10 minute mini lesson, and then my kiddos are supposed to have 40 minutes of uninterrupted reading. During that time I typically go around and read with some kids, pull a few for small strategy groups like decoding or fluency, and check in 1:1 with others to make sure they are reading appropriate texts for their reading levels and making headway on their reading goals.


In the past I have never had a system for this and to be honest, I started using some of that independent reading time to catch up on grading or to prep something for the next activity. Anyone else guilty of this? So this year I am trying something new. A reading notes notebook.

Now this took me…maybe 15 minutes to set up. I have 23 students this year, so I divided the notebook into 23 sections using tabs.


Each student has 2 pages where I jot down something quick after I meet with them during reading workshop.


This has really held me accountable, and it allows me to quickly see who I have and have not checked in with in a while. Plus, it looks GREAT when I sit down with colleagues or parents to discuss student progress. It is a quick and easy tool that makes this Type- B teacher appear MUCH more organized than I am.