“Only A Crazy Person Would Do That”: 2014-2015 Reader’s Notebook

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When I attended my first Becky Koesel training, she showed us her notebook and explained that she was already doing this for her own enjoyment long before she ever thought to use it as a teaching tool. I looked at the scrapbooky insanity before me on the document camera and thought, only a crazy person would do that.

There must have been something insidious about the idea because I became that crazy person, and I do mean crazy. After fighting myself a bit (I talk about that more here), I bought a pack of scrapbook paper and thumbed through it. My mind started racing over which pages were already well suited to some of the books I have read and what type of entries I could do. There were times I lied in bed, both my kids were actually asleep, no one was scratching at my face, and I was awake thinking about the Reader’s Notebook. So I was correct in my assessment that only a crazy person would do this.

Here’s the thing, it’s a good crazy. My craziness began before the last school year ended. My students got glimpses of the notebook here and there and were bummed out we didn’t do ours that way. So, for the last month of school, I let them. The results were amazingly self-directed work that seemed very meaningful to them.

So, I give you, the sections of my 2014-2014 Reader’s Notebook (Note that all pictures are from the notebook I have made. Some are inspired by,  but not copies or photographs from the 2 Chics training.)

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My Reading Life

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In this first section, students will create entries related to themselves as readers. This does not focus on specific books, but rather who they are as a reader. This section is used sparingly throughout the year compared to the other sections. I will be telling them specifically what to do as these assignments arise, though I may leave 3 pages or so extra for anything they might come up with later. 

Lists and Logs

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This is where I couldn’t quite give up on the Book Whisperer and include a reading list for them to track and rate what they have read.  There is also an area to keep reading plans, books suggested by others or that they have seen somewhere to read in the future. I am undecided on whether to actually do the 40 book challenge this year. If I do, it would also go in this section. (I talk more about that kind of notebook here)

Responses

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This is where they come up with creative ways to respond to the books they have read. My expectation is that at least one of these is produced every 2 to 3 weeks. In the coming week I will begin showing you the examples I have made so far. These can be as simple or as scrapbookish as a student feels. It brings in the opportunity to bribe them with scrapbooking materials. Some kids will work hard for fancy paper.

Read Alouds

I very much wish I had attended the 2 Chics training on this. Oh well, maybe next summer. This section is for note-taking or any assignments related to our in class read-alouds.

Class Notes

An area for notes related to mini-lessons.

Note: If using this method, it is important to make your own notebook as a teaching tool. It is also important that you do this based on some books that you are actually reading and not just kid books at their level. Deep down, they will not take you seriously as a reader if you are a grown-up reading only kid books. This poses a problem for you only if you are not reading or you are a reader of filthy smut. It is possible that you can still make meaningful and appropriate reading responses to your books if there is a plot that contains a little bit of smut (as so many of them do), but if you are reading smut that contains a little bit of plot, you are out of luck. It is time for you to make some more wholesome choices for your leisure time reading. I wouldn’t feel the need to make that warning were it not for some of the tragically filthy things that are best sellers these days, recommended around by seemingly normal women. Is it weird that anytime a book lets me down by becoming very sexual without warning, I gasp and wonder if the author let his/her mother read it?

That is the plan for this year’s notebook. Nothing has gone wrong so far, but that is because it is still the summer, a time of magical possibility when all your students are hypothetical and well-behaved. If you think you have what it takes to take on this kind of crazy, do it with me and lets see how it goes.

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