Saturday, January 7, 2012

Writing about your thinking...the world of jotting!

I ran across a quote on Patrick Allen's blog over the summer:

"Read with a pen in your hand and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious or that might be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory, where they will be ready on some future occasion to adorn and improve your conversation." -Benjamin Franklin

This quote summed up everything I believe about reading.  Students should be writing about their thinking during a book so that they can leave a trail of thinking for conversation.  Students should wonder and should be given the opportunity to act on that wonder in the form of curiosity during conversations.  Students should be encouraged to use evidence from the text to support their thinking during their conversations so we can appreciate all of the different thinking that comes from each reader.  Lastly, the writing should be "short hints"...not developed questions, not pages of graphic organizers, but what I call "jots" to serve as thinking stems to enhance each reader's conversation and writing.

The beginning of the year I introduced "jotting" to the students as talking back to the text using post-its as our primary tool.  During our share time, I would have five students come up and share a "jot" from their independent book that they felt helped them with their reading that day.   We would then sort the post-its by reading strategy...questioning, connecting, predicting...whatever strategies the jots lent themselves to so the readers could see different ways to think WHILE reading.  It is important to me that I demonstrate a strategy and encourage, but to remember that I can not force a reader to make a prediction, ask a question, or make a connection.  Each reader has their own strategies while reading...I want them to be open to all the possibilities since each book brings a different journey in your reading life.  Here are some jots from the beginning of the year.

Making a connection to a character's feelings.
Determining a character trait for a character and supporting the thinking with evidence.
Discovering figurative language.

Inferring the lesson that the main character is going to learn.
At the end of the book, where do the jots go?  They all get taped into our reader's notebooks, and we celebrate a jot during share time when the book is done.  It might be the jot that answered a big question, or it might be the jot where you figured out your character had learned a lesson.  Whatever it may be...all the thinking is collected and celebrated!

All of the thinking collected during the reading of Flying Solo.
As we moved into the second part of the year, students were now asked to jot with post-its until around page 20 of their independent reading.  They would then sign up for a reading conference to develop a jotting plan.  To entice this new idea of a jotting plan, I gave each student a spiral notebook.  During our conference the student would share their thinking so far and then we would discuss:  What information do you think you need to collect to support your thinking while reading this book?  Students would then develop a way to collect that information.  Some students wanted to monitor the feelings of a character, some wanted to see if they were learning more information about the land in Florida or the animals in Florida.  One child was reading a book that involved a contest and wanted to write down any major events and the opponent's reaction to that event.  All unscripted, unprompted, and authentic reading needs for comprehension determined by the reader!
A jotting plan to write down the main event in the text and the mood that the reader felt.
This time, at the end of the book, the students would use their plans to write a letter to the class about something they learned from their jotting plan.  They would celebrate the letter during share time and...if the book was one they would would be placed in one of the clear envelopes on the "Next Stack" when reading board.  I would then randomly select a student to "jot" a quick note back to the reader.  I would also "jot" a quick note to the reader.
Our recommendation board that has envelopes for the books that you can grab on the go.
I am currently working on the third phase of "jotting while reading"...hopefully I will have my vision fully developed by next week...stay tuned!


  1. This is just the kind of work that I'm doing with my sixth graders, too. Getting kids to cite evidence from the text and "grow theories" Lucy Calkin's term) is so important, isn't it?

  2. I concur Tara! I think the authentic-ness of the thinking gives the students a purpose for finding evidence in conversations. I think it is so important to model, guide, and encourage "while reading thinking" and jotting. This way the students can leave a trail of thinking so the students can manipulate a novel and already have beginnings for big ideas in conversations and written responses. Thanks for commenting! I am anxious to explore your blog! :)