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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Reading Response Letters

Using Reading Response Letters - The Research Based Classroom

I've done a little bit of posting about the challenges of teaching guided reading in the fifth grade over at Focused on Fifth, but today I want to look at one of the really positive things I'm doing with my students.  I need to place a little disclaimer here because I know I read this idea somewhere in teacher blogland over the summer and I CAN NOT find it. So frustrating. But thank you to whoever blogged about this last summer because I love this idea.

So what is going good? Reading response letters. I really, really love these. I am the lucky teacher with only 4 guided reading groups and 24 students. I had to stretch a couple of students to make everyone fit into 4 groups, but so far it seems to be working wonderfully. With only four groups, my students are meeting with me twice a week. One of the things I assign them to do is write reading response letters. One week they write to their reading partner and the following week they write to me. The reading response letters are written in a spiral notebook and we don't tear them out. You write to your partner in your notebook, then give the notebook to your partner. The partner then writes back in the notebook and returns it. The next week the student writes to me in the notebook and then I write back and return it to the owner.  I have these set up so that each week I receive 12 letters. I worried that this might be too much for me to respond to, but with only 12 letters a week and with students turning them in on different days, it has been easier than I imagined. The example above is one of the shorter letters I have received and one of the shorter ones I've written, but it's still the beginning of the year. So here is what I love the most about assigning reading response letters:

  • The students are choosing the topics they write about. Some are writing about the characters, others about the big ideas or themes within their books. I'm not assigning any topics, it's their thoughts about the book.
  • Book conversations are happening between kids. Each partnership has two conversations going in a week (you write to your partner, plus you have to respond to the letter your partner wrote you).
  • I am having private book conversations with each and every student. This is something I have never been able to accomplish before.
  • We are writing about books in authentic ways.
  • I can quickly glance back at the previous letters to spot check the work between partners when their letters to me get turned in.
  • I get a chance to ask questions on an individual basis to help further each student's thinking. Which in return gives my students a topic for their next letter to me if they choose to pursue it in writing.
  • Independent time during guided reading is all spent in reading, writing, and talking about books. 
Consider giving reading response letters a place in your reading block, I think you'll love them too!

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