Friday, July 3, 2015

Writing About Reading - professional literature

Writing about Reading: From Book Talk to Literary Essays, Grades 3-8
Writing About Reading:
From Book Talk to Literary Essays, Grades 3-8
by Janet Angelillo

I just finished reading Janet Angelillo's book Writing About Reading.  This book was recommended to me a couple of years ago, but I finally got around to reading it because of the push of my voxer group.  I really appreciated having people to discuss and share ideas from this book.  Talk is so important when reading professional literature, whether it's written talk (through google docs) or voxer, all conversations make me stop and think.

This year, after our students took the PARCC assessment, I noticed that writing (and/or typing) responses to reading is still an area of concern.  Having to read, come up with thoughts, organize it and type a well-written response is hard!  This really is a concept that needs to be taught all year.  This is not to say our students never had to respond to reading this year!  But I think it's area we can learn and grow out thinking.

My biggest takeaways from this book (in a very short and brief description):
  • modeling writing about reading should start at the very beginning of the year
  • your first read aloud of the year is so important!  Here's where you will begin your modeling of writing about reading.  Think about what you want students to track.
  • Model model model and then model some more - how do you write quick thoughts down on post-its and leave that thinking in your book?
  • After the book - or important for younger readers, after a few chapters - go back and look at the post it notes... What are you noticing about your thinking?  Is there a train of thought you want to follow?   A pattern?  
  • Start modeling how you can take a thought on a post-it note and write longer in your notebook about that thought.  Incorporate evidence to support that one little thought.
  • The importance of teaching literary terms - narrator, conflict, resolution, rising action, etc.  So important for students so they have a vocabulary base that they can use once they need to write about their reading.
  • Connecting texts to texts.  Look for commonalities between characters, character feelings, character's views, themes and issues.
  • Note landmark texts - those books that make you think, cry, feel.  
  • Assess assess assess.  If you do not assess, you are not teaching.  You are giving activities to complete without seeing students thinking.
I've seen other teachers discuss how they have a "write about reading" day once a week during writer's workshop time.  It's not a set day, it can float and be used whenever appropriate throughout the week.  It's important to note that this is not something you do just at the beginning of the year.  It's something you assess throughout the year and see where the needs are and cultivate your minilessons from them.

This is a great book to add to your writing professional literature library!

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