In this book you will read many examples of rich literacy conversations between a teacher and his 8th grade students that never would have occurred face to face in the classroom. These conversations take place online when 8th graders write to their teacher about the books they’re interested in reading and choosing to read independently. Students write about what happens when they read or don’t read, how they feel about reading, how they’re connecting with characters and ideas, why they don’t have enough time to read, and what their reading goals are. And their teacher writes back to them. Every week. After each conversation you will read some “meta-talk” that shines a light on what the conversation has taught us about this language learner and how this “data”is informing our beliefs and practices. Embedded within the chapters are suggested resources (articles, book recommendations, links, websites, blogs, etc.) you can follow should you want to read more in that chapter. What these students reveal about their own literacy development- their successes, their challenges, their lives- and how their teacher nudges them along socially, emotionally and academically, teach us the value and power of one practical, authentic literacy tool- the Reading Conversation Journal.
Daniel Rose has been teaching eight-graders to become more independent readers and writers for almost two decades. He lives in Oswego, NY, with his wife, Kelly, and three kids, Sebastian, Sydney, and Ellie.
Christine Walsh is a visiting assistant professor at the State University of New York, Oswego, PDS (Professional Development School) liaison, and literacy coach/consultant. She lives in Baldwinsville, NY, with her husband, Brian, son, James, and golden retriever, Bailey.
Foreword by Sharon Kane
Preface- How We Got Started or The Birthing of the RCJ
Part One: What Online Reading Conversation Journals Are and What They Can Do for Readers, Writers, and Teachers (20 pages)
Chapter 1- The Benefits of Digital Journaling
Chapter 2- Using a Workshop Model for Reading and Writing
Chapter 3- (The Importance of) Our Core Beliefs
Chapter 4- Meet Amelia
Part Two: Motivation, Confidence, and Trust: How Online Reading Conversation Journals Enhance the Teacher-Student Relationship
Chapter 5- Meet Kaylee
Chapter 6- Nurturing the Relationship
Chapter 7- Playing with Language
Chapter 8- On Reading Summaries and Retellings
Chapter 9- Questions that Move Readers Forward
Part Three: How Online Reading Conversation Journals Promote “Universe as Text”
Chapter 10- Expanding our Definition of Text
Chapter 11- Tapping into Students’ Interests
Chapter 12- Mining Student Data: Meet Jamal, Maddie, and Natalie
Chapter 13- The Universe of Digital Media: Youtube, TV, Movies
Chapter 14- The Video Game Universe: Meet Ricky and Sebastian
Chapter 15- The Universe of Poetry and Song: Meet Owen
Chapter 16- The Universe of Art: Meet Jacinta
Part Four: How Online Reading Conversation Journals Grow Reading Engagement and Self-Awareness
Chapter 17- The Importance of Reading Engagement: Meet Lydia
Chapter 18- Mindful Teaching, Mindful Reading
Chapter 19- Teaching the Whole Reader
Chapter 20- Weekly Check and Connect
Chapter 21- The RCJ: A Critical Look
Chapter 22- Conversations as Ongoing Assessment: Continuous Monitoring and Adjusting
Part Five: A Dozen Questions Teachers Ask about Using the RCJ as an Integral Part of their Comprehensive Reading and Writing Program
Question 1:Should the reading conversation journals be graded? If so, how? What does your record-keeping look like?
Question 2: What instruction does the teacher offer before students write in their journals on Fridays?
Question 3: Are students assigned independent reading for homework?
Question 4: How long does it take to read and respond each week?
Question 5: How can teachers develop a more diverse classroom library?
Question 6: What if I don’t have enough computers in my classroom?
Question 7: How does this method work for our struggling readers and writers?
Question 8: How do online reading conversation journals align with ELA standards and expectations in our field?
Next Generation ELA Standards
Newly Revised NCTE Position Statement on Independent Reading (2019)
Joint statement on leisure reading
Lifelong Practices of Readers
Lifelong Practices of Writers
Question 9: How is the online reading conversation journal evidence-based?
Question 10: What are the outcomes of your three-year practice?
Question 11: How do your teaching philosophies shape your literacy practices?
Question 12: Why isn’t this scenario happening in most middle school classrooms?
About the Authors
Thank you for enriching my curriculum and reopening my eyes to the importance and power of journaling with students. Digital journals open up an entirely new avenue of literacy- 21st Century communication practices. The RCJ opens up a space to teach many literacy skills and to discuss other topics of interest in your students’ lives.
The Reading Conversation Journal, as laid out in this book, allows teachers to connect with students 1:1 in the areas of social-emotional learning, accountability for independent reading, and the art of thinking deeply and writing about reading. The RCJs grow readers for a lifetime.
The rich online conversations between this teacher and his eighth graders are authentic examples of literary talk. I want to join them, as I would in a book club meeting! The authors’ reflections highlight the metacognitive aspects of both student reading and teacher decision-making. Teachers at all levels could share examples from this book with their students as they establish their own system of journaling about books and the reading process. Using this model could lead students to hone their ability to verbalize responses to literature with confidence; and to be aware of their questions, needs, and literary loves.
In this book you reveal with examples and insight the teacher decision-making process that contributes to the success of the reading conversation journals. You convey that the teacher is as engaged in exploration as much as the student, and what unfolds is a co-creation that is learning for both. It may be time consuming, but it is interesting to teach in this way—really forging meaningful connections with students around life and literature (broadly conceived).
While visiting Dan Rose's classroom, I was impressed with the strategies he uses to create a vibrant reading culture; they are clearly having a profound effect. Students’ reading journals afford them a dedicated space to reflect upon and record their reading journey. Dan’s regular comments and suggestions in journals, as well as introducing lessons with ‘Book Talks’, has cultivated an environment where spirited conversations about reading are firmly embedded in classroom life.