Share this with your students: share the value that writing about something brings; that you can think with a pencil better than with just your brain.
To support my readers in responding to literature, I had them make a reader's notebook on the first day of school. I believe that, if it's important, do it right away! So I did.
They decorated the covers with things that they enjoyed reading about.
Early in the year, I wanted to work with my students on monitoring their comprehension. In the upper grades, we often work with a whole crop of students who can decode like nobody's business. And then you say, "Tell me about what you read," and they give you blank stares. I've actually had a third grader glance at the pictures (after reading the whole story) and make a up a story just using the pictures.
Oh. My. Lord. That isn't reading. That's decoding. Decoding is not reading; they are not interchangeable.
So it was very clear to me that we had to start noticing our reading thoughts, and fast. I always start by reading a shocking book.
Yes, a very shocking book. One book I use to introduce this idea is It Doesn't Have to Be This Way: A Barrio Story.
It's a story about a boy who lives in the barrio, gets roped into being in a gang, and then almost loses his good friend to a gunshot.
Yes, shocking. Why? Why do I read this with my fourth graders? There are several reasons.
1. Some of them live in this world. It is the real world for a lot of our kids. We have to connect with their experiences.
2. It's an important lesson about making choices within limited options; the reality they live in daily.
3. They will definitely think something while they listen to this book.
I read a little piece, and then I stop and think aloud. I think about personal reactions, mostly: feelings. I am surprised that..., I think he is going to..., I wish he would...,
And then I read some more, and then I stop and think aloud some more. I make predictions, and inferences about the character. And then I explain that I'm going to start writing some of these things down. I read, and then I stop and write. I have my students do the same; I read and then I stop and they write. This is a sample of an entry I wrote several years ago.
When I get to the really shocking part: the scene in which the girl gets shot and you don't know if she'll survive, I pause. I ask students to write about that part, without knowing what the ending will bring. And they always have something to say.
Or my new Scaffolded Reading Responses for Fiction!