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January 24, 2013 Reading Response Forms and Graphic Organizers By Genia Connell
Grades 3–5

    Independent reading is a key component of my reader’s workshop and the favorite time of day for many of my students. It allows them time to practice skills and strategies that they have been taught in a real-world setting — their classroom.

    Following our mini-lesson, my 3rd graders head into their independent reading with a task, knowing that they will be held accountable for writing about or reflecting upon what they’ve read. A few times a week, this task involves completing a reading response sheet in their reading binders.

    This week I will share with you a few of the response forms and graphic organizers that I created for my students to use with fiction throughout the year. These forms are used one to three times a week in my room, and they take about 15 minutes to complete. I always model each sheet and complete at least one with my students before I expect them to complete one on their own.


    Reading Binders: Where It All Begins

    My student’s reading binders are definitely a work in progress. The binders are organized by dividers with colored tabs into sections matching the comprehension strategies I teach.

    There are sections entitled "Making Connections," "Visualizing," "Asking Questions/Wondering," "Inferring," "Story Elements," "Summarizing," and "Open-Ended Response." The very front of each binder includes a reading log where students can track their reading throughout the year.


    Download reading log by clicking on the image above.


    Making Connections

    When I teach students about making connections, I am careful to explain the difference between “surface” connections and those that go deeper.

    I developed this organizer to help my 3rd graders go beyond the literal connections they favor early in the year, like "I’m a girl, too" or "We both have dogs!" While those are starting points, I like my students to understand that the purpose of making connections is to help them understand a character’s feelings or motivations, and to help them infer and predict while they read.

    Making connections response form

    making connections response chart

    Download files by clicking on the images above.



    I use these organizers when teaching students how to closely read the author’s words to make pictures in their mind. When one of my students asked if it was OK if he made "little movies in his mind" while he read, I knew he understood what visualizing was all about!

    reading Response Visualizing

    Download files by clicking on the images above.


    Asking Questions/Wondering

    Developing readers benefit from being taught to stop and think about what they are reading. After mini-lessons on this topic, students use these organizers to help them remember to stop and reflect on what they've read. When my students are just beginning to use this strategy, I guide them with pre-selected stopping points “during reading.” Periodically while they are reading, I ask them to pause, reflect, and ponder using their sticky notes or graphic organizer as a tool. 

    Download files by clicking on the images above.



    In class, we have several mini-lessons on how you combine an author’s words with your own schema to understand what is happening in a story, even if it’s not explicitly stated. This organizer helps students make sense of the text using inferring skills.

    Download file by clicking on the image above.


    This graphic organizer helps students understand their character’s thoughts and motivations in a text. Visit my posts from earlier this year, "Teaching Character Traits in Reader's Workshop" and "Bringing Characters to Life in Writer's Workshop" for more graphic organizers that I use when teaching character traits to my students.  

    Download file by clicking on the image above.



    Story Elements

    I created this sheet to help students think about setting. It helps them understand the important role setting plays in a story and makes them think critically about how the story would change if the setting were altered. 

    Download file by clicking on the image above.


    I use many different professionally made sheets to help my students with settings, and problem and solution. Scholastic makes so many wonderful graphic organizers for these areas: there was no need to make my own! Below are a few you may like to add to your student binders.

    From Scholastic Printables:

    "Setting Comparison"

    "Problem & Solution Diagram"

    "Problem/Solution Chart"



    We model summary writing over and over again in our classroom. This is the sheet students use when they are ready to tackle summarizing on their own. The key is explicit feedback that helps them know how to write a strong, sequential summary. The difference I see in their skills by the end of 3rd grade is amazing.


    Download file by clicking on the image above.

    Open-Ended Response

    Frequently I will pose a question or write a prompt on the board before students start reading that they know they will need to respond to afterwards. They use the sheet below, which they call "the regular page," probably the most throughout the year.

    Download file by clicking on the image above.


    Having students respond to their independent reading serves several purposes in my classroom:

    • First, it offers me a window into how they are thinking, processing, and comprehending while they are reading. By reading their written response, I can quickly tell if a student has a full understanding of the text or the comprehension strategy being taught. I will often formulate my guided reading and strategy groups based on what I’ve learned from their written responses.
    • Second, these responses act as formative assessments for several of the Common Core State Standards for Reading Literature and Informational Text. Using their responses as an assessment tool allows me to differentiate my instruction and maximize success for readers at all levels.
    • Finally, I’ve discovered that my students stay more focused on their reading if they know they will be responsible for writing about it afterward. The longer they are focused, the more practice they’re getting, which is my whole goal for their independent reading time.

    I've been using these sheets in my classroom for years, and they have worked very well for all fiction texts. I’ll share my ideas for responding to nonfiction texts and my ideas for engaging, short reading responses in an upcoming post.


    Other resources I use frequently for my reading binders include:

    I love using this book at the beginning of the year because the graphic organizers are very simple and easy for my 3rd graders to manage. This book covers all the areas of reading I mentioned above, and we keep a few of these graphic organizers in each section of their binders. These are sometimes used as "free choice" reading response sheets. 
    This book is very similar to the one above, and I use it in the exact same way. It is geared towards older elementary students, but the differentiated levels are perfect for some of my more advanced readers. 
    These prompts are great to use for open-ended responses. There are many excellent critical-thinking prompts to get your students thinking within, beyond, and about the text. 
    A few times a year, my students like to write longer responses to books they have finished, and this book has many great ideas for easy, independent projects. 
    I honestly think that this was the very first graphic organizer resource I ever bought, and I have gotten more than my money's worth. There are wonderful organizers in here that I use with my students for setting, plot, sequencing, and much, much more. 

    What do you do in your classroom to get the most out of your students' independent reading time? Please share in the comments section below.







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