Challenge #5: Start taking note of the authentic ways you respond to your own reading.

Challenge #5: Start taking note of the authentic ways you respond to your own reading. In order to support students in responding to texts in meaningful and authentic ways, we might start by reflecting on the ways we respond to texts as readers ourselves.  


“Each of us is unduplicated, bringing to the text a unique personality, a unique set of expectations and hopes, a unique personal history. Consequently, what we make of the text will be unique.”   

-from Disrupting Thinking, pg. 27, by Kylene Beers & Bob Probst


How Does This Help Grow A Community of Readers?

To know and nurture readers in the direction of AUTHENTIC RESPONSE is to help them do the things that readers in the world outside of school naturally do in response to reading: think, feel, question, wonder, talk, and take action as growing readers and deep-thinking, contributing citizens of the world.

The most authentic responses to reading happen because we have been affected by what we’ve read, not because we are assigned to prove that we have read. So, today’s challenge is a simple one.  Let’s use what we notice about our own responses as readers to inform our interactions with readers. 

Take a moment to reflect on your own reading life. As adults with thriving reading lives, we find ourselves responding to reading in dozens of different ways. We laugh. We cry. We are affirmed by recognizing our own human struggles in a story. We are inspired by
the courage of others, and therefore may become, a bit braver as we as we respond to our own circumstances.We may experience a renewed sense of optimism about the good in the world or we may experience the opposite. We become more well- informed about steps we might take to make the world a better place. We are called to action; now that we know something we must do something. We feel compelled to share with a colleague, a friend, a neighbor. We feel the urge to write to someone or about something. We go online and write a review. We organize what we’ve read into a notes for ourselves or for others, synthesizing a longer text into its most important ideas.

We feel a new sense of empathy and understanding for those whose lives we’ve not previously understood. We fall in love with an author or become engrossed with a new topic. We start a new series and feel the frantic compulsion to find the next book and the
next. Sometimes we even decide to go right back to the beginning of a book and start again.

As a adults readers we don’t fill out worksheets or packets. We don’t make dioramas or clay models of our characters. We don’t read to simply understand the little black marks on the page. We read to be somehow changed by them. 

So this year, let’s empower readers with more choice about how they respond to reading. Let’s work harder to honor the internal responses that readers have (thinking and feeling) at least as much as we do the external (doing). Let’s recommit to the power of talk as one of the most natural and powerful means of responding to text. And let’s let go of packets and worksheets that give students the idea reading is about hunting for answers to prove to the teacher you’ve read the book.

This year, let’s not ask readers to do anything we ourselves would never do in response to a text.

Tips to Get Started

  • Think about ways you authentically respond to your own reading. Jot those down for yourself. We venture to guess that you do not write book reports or create three dimensional dioramas. 
  • The next time you find yourself reading a book, newspaper, online article, or even an email, pause to take note about how you’re responding.
    • Are you agreeing or disagreeing with the text?
    • Is the text causing an emotional reaction or intellectual curiosity?
    • Are you finding that you want to talk with someone about what you’re reading?
    • Is the text prompting you to take action? Do you suddenly see new possibilities for how to organize your utility closet?  Or does something in the news strike such a cord that you find yourself passionately drafting a message to your congressional representative?
    • Have you slowed down in the last few precious pages of a novel, not wanting it to end?
  • Start thinking about a few lessons you may offer to help your students reflect on ways to authentically Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 10.46.40 AMrespond to text. Make a plan for giving this topic some attention in the first weeks of school, building a menu of response options together with your students over time. Christina created this chart with her students as she offered quick mini lessons on some response options in the beginning of the school year last September. 
  • If possible, ask a family member or friend to read the same article or passage with you. Any short piece of text will do. Then, engage in a discussion. Take note of the different ways each of you authentically respond to a text. Then, consider how an activity like this might work for your students.

Questions to Consider

  • What are you noticing about your own responses to texts? Do you find you respond differently with different types of text? If so, how?
  • How might you support your students in identifying the authentic ways they are already responding to their texts as readers? 
  • What are some options available in your classroom for students to engage in authentic reader response? What choices do your students have?
  • In what ways have you encourage students to recognize both internal (thinking and feeling) and external (doing) responses?  Do you value one type over the other?  
  • How might you stretch yourself to to let go of some “prove you’ve read” activities in lieu of more authentic options? 
  • Thinking about the age group you work with, what are the first few examples of response that you might highlight with them?


Helpful Links

The Best Gift is Paying a Good Book Forward, by Kathryn Harris, LA Times

Why We Must Read Literature from Kylene Beers

Reasons to Recommend a Book from Scholastic

Why We Need to Embrace Book Abandonment from Pernille Ripp

To Know and Nurture a Reader; Conferring with Confidence and Joy has an entire chapter dedicated to practical and actionable steps to supporting more authentic reader response.

We’d love to hear from you. What are your noticing about your own responses as a reader? How do you authentically respond to text? We’d love to hear your ideas over on our Facebook group. Come and join us!

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Children’s book in image: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson


3 thoughts on “Challenge #5: Start taking note of the authentic ways you respond to your own reading.

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