The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Taking Reading Responses to the Next Level

From the very beginning of the year, I have had my students produce written reflections on their reading. Usually this has related to the reading out of our basal reader, using the suggested Reading Response questions. I have worked hard to get my students familiar with the basic steps of writing a response to any question:

  1. Restate the question as a sentence to introduce the topic
  2. Explain your answer
  3. Provide evidence to support your response.

These three steps are the beginning of the CERCA process: claim, evidence, reasoning, counter argument and audience. I use the CERCA framework to guide students in writing their responses following the outline listed above. Many of the students have quickly picked up on this technique and I have been pleased to see big, juicy paragraphs being written as they reflect on what they’ve read, rather than a few short sentence fragments.

But today we added a new layer of complexity. Instead of reflecting on just one story, I asked the students to reflect on multiple stories at once. Using two of the stories we’ve read for our first basal unit on journeys, the students had to think about how Grandfather in Allen Say’s wonderful story Grandfather’s Journey and Chester from George Selden’s Chester Cricket’s Pigeon Ride (a companion story to A Cricket in Times Square), the students had to compare Grandfather’s journey and what he saw to Chester’s journey. We reviewed the framework we use for responses and then I let the class get to work.

Students got clipboards and spread out across the room, working independently to write their responses. Some asked if they could make a Venn diagram first. I was thrilled and told them that that was a fantastic idea! After creating their diagrams, they then took the information and turned it into a written paragraph. As I looked through the final products (really just rough drafts of responses), I was pleased to see that every single student had written a complete paragraph in response to the question as they thought about the text. Some students even wrote a full page with multiple paragraphs!

The next challenge will be to see if students can write responses like this without prompting from me or any other teacher or tutor in the room. I am willing to bet that they can!

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