Secondary Secondary English

Reading Journals for the Lazy Student and the Busy Teacher

I am determined to do Reading Journals properly this year. Every year I start with enthusiastic fervour and ask my students to keep journals of their personal reading. I then give out exercise books, talk about various ways of keeping track of and depicting their reading and then promise to check up on them. And by around October they have disappeared quietly into the Great Educational Abyss of Good Intentions. So, I have decided this year that I need to keep them simple, manageable and easy to track.

My ‘revolutionary yet simple idea’ (ahem) is that my students need to record one quotation a week from their reading. They then need to do something with it e.g. analyse the language; illustrate it; write about what they learn from it; write about its significance in the text as a whole; write about how it has ignited their own thinking about life etc.

By taking out the aim of mapping their reading of a whole text and zooming in on a few details, I want to force my students to do two things: 1.To engage with what the writer is actually saying and how they are saying it; 2. To reflect on their personal engagement with what they are reading. This type of journal will not (necessarily) track a student’s reading of whole texts but it will hopefully make them start to read with inference and reflect on what a writer’s words mean to them. It will also hopefully be less onerous and more manageable for them to complete each week.

The next step is how to keep track of this. I intend to set aside one starter a week (5-10 minutes)in which students will swap books and read through each other’s work. Students need t o then award each other a mark out of 5 for creativity, effort and analysis. The journal-keeper will then need to write a brief sentence saying what they want to try out in the following week that they haven’t done before. I might even add in a competitive element (for the sake of the boys in my class) and introduce a prize at the end of each term for the student with the most points.

What I am really hoping to do is to get my students thinking about their personal response to their reading. It is an incredibly difficult area to teach but it is becoming more and more necessary if we want students to succeed (at GCSE and A level). But more importantly, it is surely we are all in this business in the first place- to help students become reflective, engaged readers.

Naomi Hursthouse

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