Discussion is the necessary culmination of reading response writing; it brings the act of reading and writing full circle. Discussing reading responses gives students the added benefit of using literary terms in a natural way.
Students read and respond to the best of their ability, each from his or her limited but personally informed perspective. Then, they engage with each other, voicing their own thoughts and listening to others. They explain, defend, and refine their ideas; they collaborate and go deeper. And when a group puts their heads together, they not only gain a fuller understanding of the text; they become stronger readers and thinkers than when they began.
If the prospect of writing "from scratch" feels daunting for many students, most settle into a routine and become comfortable with the method and the constant demand for writing. Of course, a reading response practice is not writing completely from scratch—it contains scaffolds to help students face the blank page in a meaningful way.
The directions for writing a meaningful reading response are direct and applicable to any text. In response to their reading, students should:
- Choose a category of response, using the list of possible categories, and write the category name at the top of the response.
- Develop an original thought within that category and write out the thought.
- Find, copy, and cite a line, paragraph, or page from the text that relates to the original thought.
- Keep writing and thinking for at least five sentences.
With the practice of reading response writing, students do not have to answer specific questions with definitive answers. Instead, they can read with presence, and decide at the end what aspect they would like to respond to.
Marilyn Pryle is an English teacher at Abington Heights High School in Clarks Summit, PA and has taught middle and high school English for over twenty years. She is the author of several books about teaching reading and writing, including 50 Common Core Reading Response Activities and Writing Workshop in Middle School. Learn more about Marilyn at marilynpryle.com.
You can follow Marilyn on Twitter @MPryle