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October 22, 2012 Making Connections to Make Meaning By Julie Ballew
Grades PreK–K, 1–2

    In my last post, I shared several types of character studies that could go in a reader’s notebook. We are still diving deeply into characters, but we are also exploring other ways for students to respond to the thinking they do while reading. In this post, I’m excited to share some new entries with you from the kindergarten classes at my school. These students have been working on seeing connections that help them make meaning. Teachers are helping them connect what they read to themselves to other books. This work of connecting, comparing, and contrasting pushes students to think critically about texts, even as early as kindergarten.

    Modeling: Setting Students Up for Success

    To make the reader’s notebook work, expectations have to be clearly modeled. This is important in any grade, but it is especially critical in kindergarten. Most of the work students are doing right now is based on books read during read-aloud or shared reading, and entries are completed as a class. This helps students build good reading habits, and it helps them gain a strong understanding of the kinds of things that can go into their reader’s notebook.  Pictured below are two important charts. The chart on the left is a modeled entry; it is an enlarged version of the kind of work expected from a Kindergarten student.  The chart on the right, made by a 1st grade teacher, gives students possible sentence stems to talk about the connections they are making and, when they are ready, to write about them. (You may recognize the prompt card on that chart from this post.)  While most charts are created with students, teachers created these charts beforehand so that they could spend class time pointing out each part to students and working with them to create their own entries.

    Teacher Modeled Entry for Pancakes for Breakfast     Possible Stems for Making Connections

    What Will Student Work Look Like?

    Student work, particularly in kindergarten, is likely to look remarkably similar to the teacher’s model. This is just one of the reasons why giving extra thought to the model is worth it! You can expect that drawing pictures may be more important to students than writing words at this stage. This is appropriate, and learning to represent thinking through pictures will support their ability to express themselves in written words later. The examples below are from two different kindergarten classes at my school.

    Ms. Howie read No, David! and Dinosaur vs. Bedtime to her class, and they compared the main characters. You’ll notice that the pictures are at the heart of the work, but most students attempted some sort of writing as well.

    Books with Student Notebook

    Student Entry on No David and Dinosaur     Student Entry on No David and Dinosaur

                                                  We are outside.                                    For the spaghetti, both chewing.


    Ms. Sutphen read The Little Red Hen and The Little Green Witch to her class. Because the latter is a modern version of the former, the students easily made connections between the story plots. She briefly introduced the concept of a Venn Diagram as a way to compare and contrast many components of a story, but she modeled a response which only compared one part. This is the work students were expected to try.

    Books and Student Notebook

    Student Notebook on Hen and Witch  Student Notebook on Hen and Witch  Student Notebook on Hen and Witch

             They both put food in the oven.               They both found seeds.                   They both found seeds. 


    At its core, reading is a meaning-making process. Teaching students to make connections as they read is one way to enhance that meaning. I am amazed at the thinking these young students are bringing to life in their notebooks. I look forward to sharing more work with you as we continue on our notebook journey! 


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