Reader response has been an integral part of my gifted classroom curriculum. Now that the first round of testing is done, I am wondering if there is a way I can continue using reader response while integrating testing style writing.
I hesitate to call this authentic writing because God knows I don’t write about every book I read. “Sometimes I just want to read for the pleasure of it,” one student said exasperated by yet another reader response assignment.
But sometimes it is helpful to write to process thinking, or to make that metacognition happen in the first place. I am doing that very kind of writing right this minute. Writing to discover. Could reader response be a discovery? Could we learn as we write?
In my class this morning, we had a discussion about theme. I was pushing my young writer to think deeper about his reader response. He said he thought the theme was stated in the title, “Walk Two Moons.” I grabbed this statement and held on.
“What is meant by the title?”
“Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.”
“Are there examples from the story to prove this theme?”
He continued by recalling scenes from the book. “So, what is the most important thing about your claim that this is the theme?”
I love when we make connections between what we are actually doing when we read with what the testers want us to do. You must support your claim with evidence from the book.
Linda Baie posted yesterday about reader response. Here are some take aways from that post that I want to build into my renewed reader response assignments:
- Think about the book as a whole. What theme arises?
- What imprint does this book leave on your life right now?
- Talk about the author’s craft. How did the author tell the story?
- Is the main character in your heart? Why? Did he/she teach you anything?
It is also important to have book discussions with your students individually. I talked to Jacob this morning about his reader response. He wrote that he would like to go to the moon. I asked, “Can you tell me more about this?”
He said, “I really don’t want to go to the moon. I am scared of how you would float out into space.” He eventually wrote about the earth having an atmospheric bubble that helps you breathe. So much more interesting than the patent answer. I told him this. He became proud and confident in his own personal response to reading. It became about more than the facts in the book. He became an authentic reader and writer, expressing his own fears and understanding about outer space.
I want reading to be freedom for my students, not a burden. Freedom to fly into outer-space or to walk two moons. Freedom to find their own way exploring the world in books.