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Dedicated to Teachers

Balancing Volume & Writing About Reading, 3-8

TCRWP_9.10.18Most reading workshop experts suggest that students spend no more than 10% of their reading time writing about reading. During the other 90% of reading time, students should be reading, engrossed in books they can read with a high level of accuracy in order to achieve the kind of reading volume that leads to maximum growth.

Readers must also pause at points to distill their about their reading, and writing is a key way to do this. The thinking work that readers are expected to do as they progress through the grades becomes staggering in its sophistication. The way a reader can reach these high levels of thinking is by making work she is doing as a reader visible so that she can share it with others, she can get feedback on it, and she can set goals for how to make it better.

But how to help readers to use writing to move into more sophisticated ways of thinking about books and also maintain a high volume of reading? The key is to teach readers to use writing strategically. There three main ways of writing about reading: short jots to record quick ideas (these are often done on Post-its); longer entries to grow ideas (often done in a reading notebook); and formal pieces of writing exploring a theory about a character or a book (these often take the form of literary essays). It’s helpful to teach readers to be strategic about when and about how often they might utilize each kind of writing in order to preserve their reading time.

Readers might think of each kind of writing as follows: 

  • Quick jots: readers should expect these to be the most frequent kind of writing about reading they do. Most of the time when they write about their reading, they’ll stop to record a quick thought, or a new detail on a theory or main idea they’ve been tracking. Their jots will become more nuanced and sophisticated as their thinking about their reading becomes so, but their jots needn't necessarily become longer. For more on helping students achieve their best Post-its, see The Life Cycle of a Post-it
  • Longer entries: Occasionally, a reader can pause their reading to write in long form to grow an idea. In upper grades, readers might do this for homework, or in the middle of reading workshop to transition into book clubs. Teaching notebook techniques, such as Post-it to theory charts in which readers take a Post-it and used a kind of focused writing to develop a theory about a character or theme, is a way to help readers be as effective and efficient as possible in their longer writing. Many suggestions for notebook techniques can be found in upper grade reading units of study. 
  • Formal writing about reading, such as essays: Virtually all of the time, formal writing about reading is best done during writing workshop. A writing unit on literary essays is a perfect example of this. During writing workshop, students draw upon the thinking work they’ve done in reading workshop, including their quick jots and longer entries. And in writing workshop, they develop a theory about their writing, and write an organized piece using examples from their reading.

At this week’s TCRWP Twitter chat, staff developers and upper grade reading experts Katie Clements and Eric Hand will lead a discussion on ways to help students to balance reading volume and writing about reading. If you teach upper grade reading and wish to help your students both grow their thinking and achieve maximum volume, be sure to join this chat.

Each Wednesday night at 7:30pm eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @clemenkat & @writtenbyhand to chat about balancing reading volume and writing about reading tomorrow evening.

Not on Twitter? Take Heinemann’s free Twitter for Educators course here

AU_Gratz-Cockerille-Anna_AuthorPhoto-3Anna Cockerille, Heinemann Editor and Coauthor of Bringing History to Life (Grade 4) in the Units of Study for Teaching Writing Series, was a teacher and a literacy coach in New York City and in Sydney, Australia, and later became a Staff Developer and Writer at TCRWP. She also served as an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College. Anna has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (Heinemann 2012), and the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3–5 series (Heinemann 2010). Anna is currently serving as an editor on the forthcoming Phonics Units of Study series for grades K-2, and previously served as an editor for the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, K–5 series.

Follow her on Twitter @annagcockerille


Topics: Lucy Calkins, Reading, Twitter Chat, Writing, Anna Gratz Cockerille

Date Published: 10/09/18

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