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Reading Notebooks – Teach Students to Hit the Pause Button!

Reading Notebooks – Teach Students to Hit the Pause Button!

As teachers, we might ask the question, “If all of my students are reading different books at different times during independent reading, how can I make sure they are exercising those skills required to understand the text?" One way is to see what they write about as they read.

What is the Reading Notebook?

The reading notebook is a tool for a reader to jot down the thinking they are producing as they read. In order to explore the purpose of Reading Notebooks, first think of the last time you watched a movie with someone. How many times did you hit the pause button to:
  • ask a question to your fellow movie watcher?
  • process a confusing scene and have the other person help you to construct what it really meant?
  • react to a choice a character is making?
  • connect previous scenes together and have a revelation about how the story is unfolding?
Having a place for a reader to hit the pause button in order to construct, process, and extend thinking is the intention of the Reading Notebook.
Instead of the teacher giving students a prompt or a graphic organizer to complete, the Reading Notebook is intended to be self-directed by the reader.
It sounds a little open ended, doesn’t it? It might feel that way at first, but there will be many opportunities in your reading instruction to support the skills that help readers access text. It is the reader’s job, as they go off to read books of their choice, to decide what kind of skills they need to use, given the text they are reading. After all, all books are different.
For example, let’s say as a class, you are studying character work. You might be exposing your students to strategies that will help them track characters, uncover traits, motivations, and lessons they are learning. As students go off to do their independent reading, they will decide the kind of thinking they need or want to do, and set themselves up in their notebooks to help them with their own comprehension. When you look at their notebook entries, you will be able to see what skills and strategies they are using. 
In the example above, the reader was reading a book where there were several characters. After mixing up a few characters, the reader decided to build a character relationship map to help them organize their thinking. By creating an entry like this, it can also set the reader up to see what they tracked and use it to grow bigger ideas about characters and their relationships. 
It might take some time to get students to build a variety of entries in their notebooks. The more conversations you have with your students about where to hit the pause button in their reading, the more ideas they will have to use their Reading Notebooks to explore that thinking.   

Quick Teaching Tips to Support Reading Notebooks in the Classroom:  

  • Consider modeling sample notebook entries during times when the whole class gathers, such as read aloud. You could use your reading unit goals to help you decide the type of thinking you want to model. 
    • Set up celebrations where students can walk around the room to look at each other’s notebook entries.  They will see the different ways their classmates are thinking through their texts and possibly set new thinking goals in their own reading. 

      Shown below is an example from a class celebration that several students couldn’t stop talking about in their reflections. They noticed and celebrated the notebook entry because it showed not only the information the reader was learning, but it showed how she added her own thoughts about the information.

        • Encourage students to get in partnerships after independent reading time. They can use the jots in their notebooks as a source to start conversation.
        • Experiment with your own Reading Notebook (as a teacher), in case you ever want to show a student a “mentor” example.