Originally I meant to write this post at the beginning of the month, but then among other things I got distracted and didn’t. I haven’t written any posts this month because I’ve been finishing up all the classwork for my masters, and life has just been crazy. But I’m actually really glad I didn’t write this post sooner, because it will be a much better post now. Instead of writing about how I’m going to start a reading journal, I can write about how yesterday I did start my reading journal.
To be honest, I got the idea from a blog post I read last month and reposted to this blog. I want to be able to keep track of what I’m reading, and I find that I need a pen and paper method over a digital method. Digital is great, but I simply don’t spend enough time on my computer to keep up to date with such a method. I always have time for paper and pencil, and there’s no booting up required which is good when I’m short on time.
So, yesterday I grabbed a blank composition notebook and some colored pens. The composition notebook because I’m hoping to have many reading journals and I want them to be uniform in size. The colored pens because color coding is obviously important always. And with materials in hand I started writing.
I wrote about my relationship with reading and thoughts I have regarding reading first. Such writings are just done in black pen because that’s easy. Then I wrote about the books I’ve read this month. Books I read for personal enjoyment I wrote about in pink. Pink is a happy color. And books for student teaching I wrote about in green because that’s how I color code work in my planner.
I recorded the month and the year I read the book; no dates because honestly that’s getting too complicated. What if I don’t write about a book for a week, and I forget when exactly I read it? Then I wrote the title and the author of the book. And then I wrote some of the thoughts I had about the book. If I liked it, why I liked it, etc. This was I can talk about books with my students if I want to, and I know what I’m reading and how much I’m reading throughout the year.
I’m really looking forward to keeping up with this project and eventually sharing my reading with my students. What are your thoughts on reading journals?
I’ve written about annotation already. I think it’s a really important skill to have and to teach regardless of what the subject matter is. I think it’s an especially important skill to teach if you’re teaching English, because so much of English revolves around analyzing and talking about texts. And at the end of the day I like to consider myself a pretty decent annotator. I’ve had a lot of practice, and I’ve come up with techniques that definitely work for me. But there’s one pretty massive thing I struggle with. I don’t like writing in books.
As an English major and a future English teacher, this is kind of a big deal. In these areas of life we annotate our books to remember what we felt and what we thought so we can share it with others. And I don’t like to do that.
I have no problem with putting sticky notes in my books. Nor do I have any problems with writing on articles and print outs. But I have a really hard time actually writing in a book.
I think it stems from growing up an absolute book lover. Writing in books has always kind of seemed like defacing them. It’s always made me cringe and squirm.
I’m working on it. I have certain books I allow myself to annotate in. Maybe one day I’ll be a full fledged annotator.
What’s your stance on annotating?
Annotation is something tricky, and it’s something that everyone has to develop their own style for. We as teachers can provide different samples and guidelines of annotations for students to look at and use as they see fit, but students need to find a method that really works for them, or they won’t use it and the point of annotation will be defeated.
I think that annotation is an important skill, so students developing their own effective and understandable method is important. Annotation ties in closely with close reading, which I’ve written about here and here.) And I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be in any level English class and not know how to annotate. We are constantly asking students to talk about the text, relate to the text, cite the text, and for them to do that well they need to be able to refer back to the text and know what spoke to them. What made their hearts sing and what made them cringe? Annotation is important for this.
Because of all of this, here are some different annotation techniques. Feel free to share your techniques with me in the comments. I’m always looking for new and exciting tips and tricks to use in the classroom and share with my students!
- Highlighting key words and phrases. Be careful not to overhighlight though. Your page will end up covered in highlighter, and you’ll have no idea what you actually wanted to remember.
- Margin notes. This is one of my preferred annotation techniques. I like to write my thoughts and questions in the margins so I can remember them later and use them in discussions.
- Symbols. A lot of people come up with a system of symbols to show what they liked, didn’t like, found interesting, etc.
These are just a few options of what you can do with annotating. Teach your students, but also allow them to teach you and show you what works for them.
I like journaling. I think it can be a really powerful and important tool for students. It teaches them the power of words and writing, and it gives them a voice they may not have known they had. I also understand that free writing can be difficult for students, can get them off task or off topic, or simply might lead to results you never wanted. That’ where journal prompts enter the picture.
Here are a few things that are great about journal prompts:
- They give students something specific to write about.
- They allow you, the teacher, to control the conversation.
- They can lead to really great discussion.
- They’re a great entryway into class and what the lesson will be about.
Chances are, I could ramble on and on about why using journal prompts in your classroom is a good idea. I could certainly expand upon each of the prompts I just mentioned. But sometimes brief is the best way to go, the way to get the point best across.