One great way to lure students into spending more time thinking about the books they choose to read is a journal entry we use entitled Selecting. Each time my students and I select a new book, we write this entry in our Reading Journals.
Here's how it works:
1. What book did you pick? (Include title and author)
2. Why did you pick it?
3. What does it seem to be about?
4. What is your "Reason for Reading" it? (It's fun, relaxing, inspiring, to find information, etc.)
The order of the questions become just a little more difficult as we work through them, but not impossible for even the most reluctant reader to answer. Student answers will vary greatly in length and content. When we choose a new book, this is the first entry we write in our Reading Journals. What I'm most concerned with is whether or not students have answered the questions correctly.
Answering question #1 is simple. However, I want kids to pay close attention to how words are spelled in a title, punctuated, and capitalized, or not capitalized. This may give us some important information about the author, characters, or people in the book.
Later on, when we revise for titles in our own writing, we can come back to our reading journals to discuss why we think titles look a certain way. I also want students to pay close attention to the spelling of author names. This will make it easier to search for other works by these authors and may give us some background info. about where the author is from.
For question #2, many students are genuine in their answers. Sometimes a few hooligans will test your patience by writing, "Because I have to," or "Because my teacher made me." These answers won't fly in my classroom. I remind my students they have guided choice over the books they read, and I'm not forcing them to read a particular book.
Question #3 can be a simple guess based on the cover or the book blurb (located on the back of the book or inside the book jacket). What's better, however, is allowing kids some reading time in class. I usually give them 10 minutes to read, which is plenty of time to for them to figure out a enough information to make a guess about the book's content.
The last question is one that requires more thought than the other three because students rarely pay attention to their "purpose" for reading. If I were to answer this question for the book I'm reading right now, I'd say, "I'm reading if i stay by Gayle Forman because it's an easy summer read that's fun and entertaining. Compared to other books I read, it's relaxing because I don't have to think too hard about what's happening."
While the Selecting entry may seem simple, it's an important one English teachers and even skilled readers shouldn't overlook. The answers provide insight into why kids choose the books they read, what they initially believe the book will be about, and their purpose for reading it. These answers serve as a solid foundation for the journaling work we'll do later. Plus, it's a great way for us to start having "real" conversations about the books we're reading. Conversations that "real" readers have everyday.
Portions of this article are © Copyright 1995-2012 by Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc., and are used by permission. For more information, and free teaching materials, visit www.ttms.org or contact Margot Lester at firstname.lastname@example.org.