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Reading Response Journals Benefit Students

READ to discover who you are and learn about the world around you.

REFLECT to understand what you know and give new meaning to your thinking.

RESPOND to share your individual thoughts, ideas, and opinions.


I started using response journals with my students several years ago. They wrote in a good old-fashioned composition notebook and responded to a variety of questions targeted for both fiction and non fiction readings.


The response journal gave my students the opportunity to think about their reading, think about their thinking, and respond appropriately to questions using textual evidence and reflection. I found that when they wrote out their personal thoughts and ideas, opinions, reactions, connections and questions, the result was better comprehension and deeper understanding of the text and author’s craft. I also used journals to evaluate a student’s understanding of the text, gain insight into their thinking, chart their growth in writing, and plan future learning experiences.


In an article for Reading Horizons, (Fulps and Young, 1991), “All students can experience success in responding to literature regardless of reading ability. One of the primary benefits of reading response journals is increased comprehension. Reading response journals enable students to grow as readers and writers by requiring them to use their own background knowledge to construct personal meaning (Wollman-Bonilla, 1989) and by encouraging, in writing, the integration of new experiences with past ones. Besides transforming feelings and thoughts about what they've read into words (Strackbein and Tillman, 1987), responses allow students to make the personal connection to texts (Simpson, 1986). Furthermore, reading response journals are an excellent means of recording how students' writing has changed and matured,…” (Strackbein and Tillman, 1987). “

Great question! Many teachers agree with the importance of response journals but are hesitant to use them because they aren't comfortable assigning a grade to something so personal. By using a specific grading rubric, I was able to identify areas I wanted to target. Here is an example:

Students chose three questions to answer in each journal entry. I evaluated their responses based on their ability to answer the question and support the answer with valid textual and/or personal evidence. I also included a couple of grammar, usage, mechanics skills I wanted my students to focus on. When you assess the journals from that perspective, it is much easier than assigning a random, subjective grade.

You could grade the journals once a week, twice per grading period, or once near the end of the grading period. I have even had students evaluate one of their own entries and give feedback to peers for a grade.

Overall, I found the reading response journal to be an effective way to keep students writing and give them the opportunity to process what they were reading. When students are required to read long passages and interact with the text to answer questions, they will have had plenty of practice to be successful!

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