Thursday, October 6, 2011

Weekly Reading Response Letters: Part 2

Yesterday, I posted the first part of Weekly Reading Response Letters.  As promised, here is the second part.  This is the second letter I shared with my friends.  Again, written rather quickly on my prep, so it may not be my most stellar writing.  In fact, I forgot to put in the author.  Thankfully, my friends were quick to point it out.
We began again by noting the format of the friendly letter and the requirement of including title, author, and a super brief summary.  Then, we read.   The first letter I wrote was written after reading a book and focused on a few different thoughts.  This letter is written as though I was in the middle of the book and has one focus, character traits. 

I didn't tell my friends this.  We just read the letter.  Sure enough, one of my friends immediately raised his hand and said, "But, you only talk about one thing! In the last letter you wrote a lot of different stuff."  Gotta love a teachable moment. :-)  I praised him for noticing, and then we talked about why it is okay to focus on one thinking stem.  The key is, you really need to have some thoughts to share about it.  We then put up the sticky that named character traits as the focus of the letter.
We went on to read and discuss how I was using my thinking about character traits to think deeper about the story.
In this instance, I wrote about how the character is supposed to be the hero of the story, but his actions don't really show me the character traits of a hero.  In fact, they sort of show the exact opposite.  I went on to explain why I thought that using text examples.

Then, being a teacher, I couldn't help but throw in a prediction.  But, that's just what I want my friends doing. 

My prediction is directly related to my questioning and thinking of character traits.    This lesson wraps up with my friends talking with a partner about a book they have read where a character didn't act the way they expected.  I pick a one to share, and we brainstorm as a group how our friend could have written about it.

I should note that as far as mini-lessons go, this lesson is far from mini.  It takes a while, much longer than the literacy gurus say a mini-lesson should last. Personally, I find those quick mini-lessons to be great most of the time, but sometimes you have to teach with a bit more depth.  When I do a "mini-lesson" that I know is not going to be so mini, I have to change some things up in my literacy block.  It may be our independent reading time is a bit shorter, or maybe the writing lesson that day will be a bit brief.  I try to not do this too often, but sometimes it's just what the doctor teacher ordered!


  1. How do you have students begin writing their own letters? Do you have them start by writing one on a common text with a partner, or do you just have them give it a try with their independent reading book? Do you give them any sort of rubric?

    1. Hi Emily. With my enrichment students and most of my general ed kids, I usually have them give it a go. I don't usually grade the first couple of letters. They do need to practice. However, I also work with a large group of students who are 1.5-2 years behind grade level in literacy. For those students, I use one (or two if needed!) one of our guided reading periods to collaboratively write a reading response letter for the book we have read in our small group. I will have the format of the letter out and we collaboratively write the letter with me as scribe. I get their input for each part, they have to provide the information for the letter with my support as needed. From there, depending on the children's ability level, we may do it again or I may pair them up for the next letter. After that, they work on their letters independently. Hope that helps!

  2. Hi Nancy, I was just wondering about reading response letter rubrics. In one of your previous posts you mentioned that you didn't quite find a rubric that suited your purposes. I love your reading response letters and have started implementing them in my classroom but am also struggling to find a rubric that suits the thinking stems/friendly letter format. Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

  3. I love your ideas for the letters. I am also a 5th grade teacher. We are really pushing for the kids to explain their thinking in all subjects, which is really difficult for some of them to do. You refer to the stem chart a few times. Could you post that chart? I would love to use it with my students too.

    Tracy Prator

  4. I have adapted this as a blog. I LOVE your ideas. You have inspired me.

    1. Hello...I am also a 5th grade teacher who has implemented a weekly reader's response friendly letter. I am currently creating a rubric to coincide with it but would love suggestions and/or examples...(: