"I know that many of us can easily talk about our favorite songs, TV shows, movies, places we go, and favorite people. Now that we've been reading books for a while, I want you to start keeping track of your favorite parts."
Post-It Notes as Reminders
I start by sharing with my students what I do to keep track of my favorite parts while I'm reading. I simply hold up my book to show them where I've placed post-it notes (or when I don't have a stack of post-its around, I dog-ear the pages). These sticky notes mark parts that I like and serve as a reminder that I need to write them down to help me process why I like them so much.
For the current book I'm reading, I would then model this journal entry for my students by setting up an entry in my reading journal like this:
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
A Favorite Part
"Because memory is time folding back on itself. To remember is to disengage from the present" (Stein 13).
Here, I've included some background info. that my students will need to understand the context of my journal entry:
I like this part because the narrator (a dog named Enzo) is talking about his owner (Denny). Denny is a race car driver who has shown Enzo countless videos of car races. Denny has taught Enzo important lessons that go with being a race car driver. One of these lessons has to do with the fact that race car drivers "must never remember" or they will lose focus and make mistakes (Stein 13).
Why I Like This Part
Enzo is an elderly dog who knows his time is near. As Enzo narrates these words to me (the reader), I see his wisdom. His words are precise. They seem to say more than the 16 words that are written. They seem to be saying, "Relish the beautiful moments in life. Stay in the present. Stay focused on the now." Perhaps Enzo is sharing these words to prepare me for something later in the book. I'm not quite sure what will happen, but these words seem important. They sound important. They're beautiful. They're words I want to remember.
A Little More Effort = A Lot of Reward
Initially, when I read this part, I probably didn't put this much thought into what I'd read. I knew enough to dog-ear the page so that I could go back, re-read it, and then jot it down. Now that I have, I've processed what I've read in more detail. I feel like there might be a hidden message behind this part. An important message the author might want me to know.
Simply writing down a favorite part is only a small part of this entry. Yes, I use this entry to subtly introduce my students to parenthetical citations (which I will only give a mini-lesson on if someone asks why we have to include the citation). More importantly, I want my students to begin thinking about why they choose certain parts over others.
By spending a little extra time thinking about why we've chosen an excerpt as a favorite, I'm building a positive reading habit in my students. I'm showing them that writing something down is worth it because we'll get more out of what we read. I'm also showing them that questioning why we like something is forcing us to think about why we've taken the time to write it down. Thinking that we might not be aware of while we're reading.
Entries like finding favorite parts build student interest in journaling because they begin to see there's more to reading than just pronouncing the words correctly. Eventually, we'll begin using our Favorite Part entries for Book Talks or short book pieces, but for now, I simply want them to get into the habit of looking for Favorite Parts, copying them down, and explaining why they like about them. Once these entries become routine, we'll start dissecting their content for the types of thinking that happens within them (connections, inferences, etc.). Then, we'll take our reading and our journal entries to the next level...
This is only one of the many types of journal entries I show my students throughout the year. If this is the only one they remember to write down, I'm okay with that. Paying closer attention to what they read is the result I'm looking for. A result that, for some students, makes keeping track of what they're reading rewarding.