Click play below to hear 10 new reading response activities for independent reading:
You’ve hit the halfway mark in the school year, so it’s a great time to reevaluate your literacy routines and take this opportunity to revamp your ideas. One way to do that is through your reading response activities. While students read independently, the goal is for them to think about what they’re reading, which is exactly what reading response activities do. So if you’re looking for fresh and new reading response ideas that will energize independent reading time, today’s episode will do just that!
Having students do a reading response has several benefits that positively impacts a students’ literacy, language, and comprehension skills. And while most reading response ideas involve written responses, know that there are other ways for students to respond that shows accountability for what they read. While you already have reading response activities you do with your students, I share 10 new reading response ideas that apply to each students’ individual academic needs.
As literacy teachers, we want to foster a love of reading and encourage our students to respond to reading in an authentic way. An easy and effective way to do that is through reading response activities. If your current reading response activities are getting stale, implement my 10 favorite ideas at the start of the new year for a more energized independent reading time!
In this episode on reading response activities, I share:
- 10 reading response ideas to start using with your students
- An explanation of each idea with several examples
- Why choice and non-written responses benefit all students
- 3 things to consider before implementing any reading response
- Reading Response Sticky Note Bundle
- Reading Response Graphic Organizers
- Reading Response Question Stems
- Reading Response Activity Bundle
- Check out the Stellar Teacher Reading Membership
- If you’re enjoying this podcast, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts!
Related episodes and blog posts:
- Episode 104, 4 Response Frames That You Can Use When Assigning a Written Response
- Episode 15, Providing Feedback to Student Reading Responses
- Episode 12, Build Literacy Buzz with Book Talks
- Episode 8, The Reading Process
- 10 Engaging Reading Response Ideas For Upper Elementary Students
Connect with me:
More About Stellar Teacher Podcast:
Welcome to the Stellar Teacher Podcast! We believe teaching literacy is a skill. It takes a lot of time, practice, and effort to be good at it. This podcast will show you how to level up your literacy instruction and make a massive impact with your students, all while having a little fun!
Your host, Sara Marye, is a literacy specialist passionate about helping elementary teachers around the world pass on their love of reading to their students. She has over a decade of experience working as a classroom teacher and school administrator. Sara has made it her mission to create high quality no-fluff resources and lesson ideas that are both meaningful and engaging for young readers.
Each week, Sara and her guests will share their knowledge, tips, and tricks so that you can feel confident in your ability to transform your students into life-long readers.
Hello, friends, and happy Monday, I hope that your week is off to a great start so far.
I want to remind you that we are all human. And I know this time of year is incredibly busy for teachers. And I know that sometimes it feels like we have to do all of the things all of the time.
But I am so excited to be back this week for another episode. I really do get so excited every time I sit down to record an episode because I love sharing ideas with you and strategies. And today’s episode is filled with all sorts of ideas that are going to help you encourage your students to respond to reading in a very authentic sort of way, we’re going to be talking all about reading responses.
And let me just go ahead and remind you that if there is ever anything that I can share in this podcast, if you have ideas for episodes, I absolutely love hearing from teachers. And so don’t hesitate to send me an email or reach out to me on Instagram with requests for episodes or even just feedback from something that you’ve heard.
Let’s go ahead and jump right into today’s content. So I wanted to share some ideas for responding to reading for a couple reasons. First of all, responding to reading is an important part of the reading process. Back in episode number eight, I talked about all of the steps in the reading process. And responding to reading is one of those key steps. And really, when we ask our students to respond to something that they have read, we are sort of helping them or forcing them to apply key comprehension strategies. And we’re assisting them in internalizing what it is that they read.
Think of it like reading, the actual text is the input and then creating a response to that text is the output. When our students are responding to something that they have read, it is evidence that thinking has taken place during the reading process. And obviously, that’s one of our main goals, we want our students to be thinking while they’re reading. So asking our students to respond to reading is one of those ways. That’s why it’s important.
But another reason why I wanted to share a bunch of different ideas for responding to reading, is because I know this time of year students are starting to maybe get bored and possibly lose interest just in school in general. I mean, they’ve been doing this for a long time. And some of those routines that you’ve had in place since the start of the school year, or even since January, can start to feel stale.
And I know when I was in the classroom, my students would quickly get bored with our reading response routine. So if you have noticed that your students are not putting as much energy and excitement into their reading responses, or if they’re failing to even complete them, then maybe if you incorporate some new ideas on what they can do to respond to their reading that will kind of re energize them.
So I wanted to give you 10 different ideas on how you can have your students respond to their reading. Like I said, just one of the whole purposes of responding to reading is we want our students to be thinking while they are reading and assigning students a reading response activity or prompt or assignment is going to remind them to actually think while they are reading. How often do you have a student that will read something and they’ll say I have no idea what I read?
Well, if they know that they have to provide a response in some sort of way, then hopefully that is a little bit more encouragement to actually be actively thinking while they’re reading. And then another good reason why we want to provide our students with reading response assignments is that they provide accountability. I firmly believe that independent reading is one of the best ways to help our students become stronger, more independent readers.
But since you probably have 20 something students in your class and there is only one of you, you don’t always have the time to listen to or monitor students daily independent reading behaviors. And if you regularly assign or provide reading response options, that is going to help hold your students accountable to actually engage in the independent reading process.
And then, if you need another reason to provide reading responses, another one of the reasons why I love having students respond to reading is that it reinforces other important language skills: writing, listening, speaking, even presenting. Reading responses are really such a good way that we can connect multiple key communication skills and language art skills for our students. Think of it kind of as such an easy way to bring the whole reading and writing process together.
A couple things you want to keep in mind, before you assign your students, really any reading response assignment or activity. And a couple of things that are just kind of good practices are, first of all, regardless of what your reading response assignment is, you want to make sure that you teach it before you require it.
I know I made this mistake in the classroom, when I first started teaching, we would do our mini lesson and I would release my students to independent reading, and I would tell them, Okay, I want you to write a summary of what it is that you read today in your reading journal. And then I would pull my groups and I would go around and check my students reading journals at the end just to make sure they completed the assignment.
And I remember just being shocked and appalled at some of their summaries. Some students didn’t have anything written down, they said they ran out of time, and I had some students who maybe had just one sentence written down. And it wasn’t even a summary. And then I had some students who wrote an entire page. And it really wasn’t a summary. But it was just a verbatim kind of recall of everything that I read.
And I had students who wrote their summaries in the wrong journals, and in the middle of the journals, and I just remember thinking, I told them, I wanted them to write a summary, in their reading journal. And I’m getting such a wide variety of what this response looks like.
And that should have been my first sort of clue that I did a poor job of teaching my students exactly what it is that I wanted. And so I quickly learned that whatever I want my students to do, when it comes to completing a reading response, I need to explicitly teach it before I assign it. So that goes for whether it is a response in a reading journal, how to complete a graphic organizer, how to create an illustration for a book that they’re reading, how to do a book talk, how to do a book review, whatever it is, if you’re going to have your students complete it independently, you have to teach them how to do it.
I think sometimes we shouldn’t give our students the benefit of the doubt. But so often, we think that they know exactly what is going on in our teacher brain. And we can just say something like write a summary. And they’re going to do it exactly how we want. But just let me remind you, if you have a specific vision in mind or an assignment, then make sure that you teach your students how to execute that assignment before you ask them to do it.
And then a couple other things to keep in mind, it is always a good idea, which is part of the reason why I’m sharing this episode, to switch up your reading response routine. If you regularly change up the assignments that you have your students complete, then it is going to prevent them from getting bored and stale, it’s always going to be something new. And it’s just one way for you to keep reading more exciting and engaging for your students.
And then other things, especially since I’m sharing 10 ideas with you today, when possible, give your students a choice. So rather than saying everybody today is going to complete a graphic organizer, or everybody today is going to write in their reading journal, give them two or three options. And maybe they have those same two or three options for an entire week or an entire month.
But anytime students can choose a part of their learning experience, they’re going to have much more engagement because they chose that way to respond to their reading. So make sure you teach it before you require it, switch up your reading response routine and give students choice and how they respond when possible.
So let me go ahead and start sharing some of my, I guess my 10 favorite ways to have students respond to reading. So the first thing that I love or the first idea that I have, and if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen me post about this in my feed many many times. But I’ve loved giving students sticky note templates to use as their reading response assignment.
I love using sticky note templates for a couple of reasons. First of all, if you did not know you can print on a sticky note. It is magical and it is amazing and students absolutely love it. But I love to print little really graphic organizers, whether it’s a Venn diagram or an idea web or even a T chart for students to write down questions before and after. I love coming up with these little templates and printing them on a sticky note and then giving them to students to use for their reading responses.
And I love sticky notes for a couple reasons. One, as students are reading they can take that sticky note and stick it directly in the book where they are reading. So wherever it was, they were inspired in the text to stop and jot, they can put the sticky note right there. And I also love these sticky notes because they’re small, and they’re tiny. And I think sometimes our students get so overwhelmed if they have to write a reading response that takes up a whole page, or if they have this huge full page graphic organizer.
And for our students who struggle with writing, or even time management, this idea of having to not only read, but also respond to our reading in a set timeframe can feel overwhelming. But if all they have is a little three by three sticky notes that they have to fill out, that can seem doable and manageable for our students. Plus, my students love it anytime I give them a sticky note. They just for whatever reason, they think they’re fun.
So you can either use sticky notes just blank and have students answer a question and put that directly in their book or even their reading journal, or you can print on a template. And then that’s like I said, it’s an easy way for students to have a graphic organizer on something that they can stick directly in the text.
And I actually have a set of reading response sticky notes that I will link to in the show notes in case you have yet to experience the magic of printing on sticky notes.
Another thing that you can do for reading responses is have students complete a graphic organizer, no additional writing required. I love having students use graphic organizers in their reading for a couple of reasons.
First of all, graphic organizers really help students visually organize their thinking, whether it’s a web or a T chart, or a Venn diagram, or a flowchart or a timeline, whatever it is, it helps students really visually see what is happening in the text and how these big ideas connect to each other. And so I think it’s such a good way to help students, like I said, comprehension just takes place in our brains and can be so abstract, and so graphic organizers are a way to bring reading and make it a little bit more concrete.
Another thing that I love about graphic organizers is students don’t have to write in complete sentences in order to create a graphic organizer, they can just list things out or put a few words on a space. And like I said, the important thing about the graphic organizer is it helps students organize their ideas. And they don’t always have to write in a complete sentence.
Again, for students who struggle with writing, the idea of always having to write complete sentences, and summaries and you know, long specific responses, that can be overwhelming. But if all they have to do is take a graphic organizer and jot down the important parts for each portion of the graphic organizer that can seem so much more manageable.
And the graphic organizer can actually help them in crafting the summaries, or the long reading responses if you want them to do a paragraph or something. And so it can be a great bridge to go from reading, to organizing their thinking visually, to actually writing if you want to require them to do some, some actual you know, sentence or paragraph writing as a reading response.
A couple other things that I like about using graphic organizers is usually you can teach your students to create their own graphic organizer. So even if you don’t have a template to share with your students, if it’s one of those mornings, where maybe don’t have your copies all ready to go, you can still have your students create a graphic organizer for their reading response.
And if you’ve taught them how to create graphic organizers, while you’re teaching the different skills, then they can create their own, they can draw their own timeline, they can create their own T chart, they can create their own Venn diagram and use that to organize their thinking in a visual sort of way.
My third suggestion for reading response activities is giving your students a choice board. And I know this is a pretty open ended idea. But this is such a great way to help your students respond to reading in creative ways or in prompts that are connected to specific skills. Because really with the choice board, you can create them to be whatever you want them to be.
A lot of times I will create a choice board that is just a three by three board that has nine different activities, whether it is activities that are specific to that skill. So maybe if we’re studying, you know, story elements, maybe they would have to create a story mountain for that map. Or maybe they would have to write a summary using all the story elements. Or maybe they would have to do an analysis of one of the characters.
Or maybe you want to create a choice board that has some more artistic activities on it. And maybe you’re having your students design a new book, cover or create an illustration for one of the characters or design an illustration for a chapter book. So there’s many different ways that you can do it.
And one of the things that I love doing is engaging students in the process of creating a choice board and so this could be something that you do at the start of the week. You could if you are you know studying fiction or nonfiction, tell your students what the focus is, and have them come up with their own reading response ideas, their own their own activities to respond to reading, and they can write these on a note card or a sticky note, turn them into you could pick out the top nine that you have and then turn that into the choice board.
Or another thing you could do is you can give students a blank choice board, like I said, I would just use a table that is, you know, three, three rows by three columns, so nine spaces, and then at the beginning of the week, have your students do a quick little mix and mingle, where they walk around and get ideas on the choice board from their classmates. And then they can pick from those ideas.
So again, you can get choice boards that are already pre made and ready to go. Or you can also have your students help create the choice board. And I think anytime we can engage students in the generating of ideas for reading responses, that’s just going to boost the excitement and engagement that much more.
My fourth idea for ideas on how to have students respond to reading is to give them a set of response question stems. And I love questioning, I love giving students question stems or question starters. And the reason why I love using question stems is because it is a great way to get students to really naturally apply the skills and strategies that you want them to, in order for them to become confident and independent readers.
And the thing that’s great about questions is when we ask ourselves questions, our brains naturally want to find out the answer is this this idea of we don’t want to have an open question loop in our brain. And so the more questions our students ask about the texts they are reading, the harder they’re going to work to find the answers. And so if you give your students question stems, and they’re asking themselves these questions, while they’re reading, they’re going to be working to find the answers.
And so you can do this in a couple ways. You can give students a bookmark that has question stems, you could give them a ring of question stems that are either specific to the skills or the genres, or even just some generic open ended question stems that work for fiction and nonfiction. And students can answer those questions in their reading journal, they can answer those questions on a sticky note, on a note card. The important thing is just that they are asking questions and answering them while they are reading.
And so even just answering questions can be an easy way to respond to their reading. Again, it’s going to provide you with some evidence of thinking during the independent reading process, which is the whole point of reading response assignments in the first place.
Another thing that you can do is rather than giving your students the question stems, you can have your students brainstorm questions as a class. So before you release your students to independent reading, you can maybe have your students brainstorm, what are five good questions that we could consider today? And answer and then your students could maybe pick the two or three that they want to answer. So again, they are being involved in the process of creating the questions, but then they also have that element of choice that they get to choose which questions they actually want to answer.
Another thing that you could have your students do to respond to reading is to have them write a book review. It seems a little bit more like a fun project, a little more artsy, you know, especially if you’re having them create either an illustration or design a book cover. If they get to review it, they’re having to provide an evaluation of the text that they read, it seems a little more fun and a little less like an actual assignment.
But again, if students are doing book reviews, they’re having to think about a text, they’re having to think about what they liked about it, what they didn’t like about it, what they would recommend, their favorite part, what happened. So they’re still having to apply so many of those key, you know, critical thinking skills and reading skills that we want them to use on a regular basis, but the way that they’re delivering their reading response seems a little more exciting than something like a summary of the text. So a book review can be a great way to have students respond to reading.
Similar to a book review, another thing that you could do is you could have your students prepare a book talk. And if you’ve never done book talks before, I did a recent podcast on it, I think it was podcast number 12, actually, where I talk all about how to get started with book talks. And, again, this can be a great way to have students respond to their reading, because it’s purposeful, it is not just an assignment that’s going to go in a reading journal that may or may not get read, students are actually preparing to give a book commercial to the rest of their class.
And because it is purposeful, that’s going to help create engagement and excitement. And again, with a book talk, students are going to practice so many more of those key, you know, communication skills, they’re gonna practice their speaking and they’re presenting and they’re listening. And there’s even writing elements incorporated into it. So a book talk can be a great way to have students respond to their reading.
And this is one of the things that usually students are doing a book talk, maybe that is their reading response assignment for an entire week that, you know, Monday through Friday, they are working on preparing this book talk to give on Friday, and that’s okay, if there’s only really one reading response assignment that they’re turning in at the end of the week because like I said, it’s so purposeful and it is such a good combination of so many of those key communication and reading skills that we want them to be applying.
Okay, moving on. So my seventh suggestion for ideas for reading response is to provide your students with thinking routine prompts. And if you’re not familiar with thinking routines, there’s if you just even went to the internet and searched thinking routines, you would get quite a few different options. And these are just different, really open ended prompts that work with any subject and they work with reading.
Some of my favorite prompts that I would give to my students would be something as simple as I used to think, but now I think that prompt, right, there could be their reading response, prompt. There’s the, I used to think this about the character, but now I think this, I used to think this about a specific genre, but now I think this. Really is, it’s just getting students to think about the learning that has taken place during the reading process. So finishing that prompt can be one way for them to respond to their reading.
Another thinking routine that we use frequently would be a draw, label, caption. And students can draw an illustration, maybe they’re drawing the setting. And in their illustration, they label key parts of it, they add labels to things you know, so that way you notice the specific details that they’re including. And then they can provide a caption for their illustration.
They could do this for the setting, they could do this for the character, they could do this for the climax of the story. But again, it’s a way for students to respond to their reading, that goes beyond just writing. This is going to appeal to your students who have artistic abilities and see things visually versus wanting to write something out.
Another thinking routine prompt that we use regularly would be a sentence, phrase, word. And this one’s really easy to use. As students are reading, you have them think about what is the most important sentence that I read? And they write that sentence down. And then out of that sentence, what is the most important phrase in that sentence? And then they write the phrase down, and then or you could have them underline it. And then what is the most important word from that phrase?
And so really, it’s just forcing students to think about if, if I can only pick one sentence in this, you know, entire texts that I read, which one is the most important to the main idea or the theme, and then even out of that sentence, the phrase and the word what’s the most important word, so it’s a really just easy routine to have students think about their reading in a maybe a little bit more, you know, critical sort of way.
And then once students have done the sentence, phrase, word, you can just have them write a short little explanation. Why did you pick that sentence? Why did you pick that phrase? And why did you pick that word? Again, just a really easy way that has students responding to their reading that is maybe a little bit different than answering a question or, you know, using a choice board or some of the other suggestions that I’ve provided.
Another thing that you can have your students do is, while they’re reading, you can have them code their text. And if this is not something that you’ve done, even in upper elementary, this can be a really good activity or assignment for students. And when you’re having students code a text, really what they’re doing is they are creating a set of symbols that shows they’re thinking about a text. Maybe a question mark means that they had a question, they can draw a heart, and that shows where their favorite place in the story was. And an exclamation point might be that they read something surprising.
And you could give them the little tiny mini sticky notes, if they’re reading the text, and they can just, you know, draw question mark and stick that in their text somewhere. Or if they’re reading a passage or an article, they can just write directly on the text themselves.
And the reasons why I like to have students code a text as part of the reading response is that it is a great way for them to share their thinking about a text, but in a way that really saves them time, and doesn’t put a ton of dependence on their writing ability. Again, we want our students to love reading. But if we have students who struggle with writing, and they know, every time they read, they have to do a long written assignment that’s going to negatively impact how they feel about reading.
And so we want to make reading accessible for students. We want to make the way they respond to their reading accessible to all of our students as well. And so think about what reading response methods can you use that are going to appeal to all of your students. And if you have students who struggle with writing, then I would consider letting them code their text, maybe not every time but some of the times and that can be their reading response.
Students can write a question mark, and then simply just write down the question that they had. They don’t necessarily have to answer it. But the fact that they’re asking questions, while they’re reading is really what we want to have happening.
Again, it’s this focus on the process, not always necessarily the output of it. So coding a text is another great way for students to respond to their reading. And it’s super easy and quick, and students love coming up with their own sort of set of symbols.
Another thing that you can do for reading responses is have students talk with a friend. This means that there’s no writing required and all they’re doing is they’re communicating about what they read, you know, orally with their classmates.
And one of my favorite ways to end my reading workshop was to give students two to three minutes to talk with a classmate about what they read, and what skill they were working on. And what this would typically look like in my classroom is before we finished our workshop, and I tried to always have an actual closure where we would come to the carpet and review what we did for the day.
But when we were kind of wrapping up and my students were done with their independent reading, I would tell them to either take their book or their journal and find a friend. And then they would have two to three minutes where they would each share the title that they read, share the reading skills that they worked on, and maybe just talk about their favorite part, or talk about a part that was challenging for them or to ask a question. And really, it was just a way for them to verbally share what they read with their classmates.
And I love this for a couple of reasons. One, it gave our students a chance to work on their listening and speaking skills, which are so important. But it was another way for our students to share the titles that they were reading with somebody else. And a lot of times my students would be inspired by the books that they saw their classmates reading, and if they saw a classmate reading it, then they would be more than likely to check that book out from the library the next time it became available.
So again, you can have students talk with their classmates, and that is a great way for them to respond to their reading as well. Even if they don’t have anything written to share, they can just share their favorite part of the story. And that again, it’s it’s forcing them to think about it and communicate it in a way that is maybe different than they usually respond to their reading.
And then my 10th idea, this one might be my favorite. And that is no response. And, in case no one has given you this permission before, let me just go ahead and tell you that it is okay for you to have your students read just for the sake of reading, no reading response required.
Now, I know that this whole episode was all about the importance of reading responses and giving you ideas on how to have your students respond to reading in different ways. But also, a very appropriate and good way to have students respond to the reading is no response. I think so often, we feel this need to account for every single minute of our instructional day with some form of assessment or student product. And I know accountability is such a big buzzword in education.
And I think sometimes because of that, we can forget that our goal really is to inspire and create lifelong readers. And if that is really what we are working towards, then we remember, we need to remember that it’s really okay for kids just to read for fun, and to not always respond.
Now, we definitely want them responding sometimes, but not every single day, or every single week has to have reading response assignments. And so a couple things that I would do while I was in the classroom is sometimes we would do what I called free read Fridays. And what that means is on Fridays, they could read and they didn’t have to put it in their reading log, they didn’t have to do a graphic organizer, they didn’t have to do any reading response, just one day out of the week, they could read whatever they wanted.
And they didn’t have to account for it. And it just was such a fun and easy way to end our week because they knew that their you know, their work was really done during the week, the hard part of learning how to be a better reader was done. And they got to just enjoy reading for the sake of reading.
Other things that you might be able to try, and things that I did is you could give your students a set number of days that they have to have a reading response. So you could maybe say this week, you need to pick three days for a reading response assignment. And two days that you can do, you know, a free read. So maybe they choose Monday and Friday is their free reads. And then you know, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday are the days that they’re responding.
Or maybe Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are the days that they’re going to have a reading response assignment and then two days not. So again, you’re giving your students some choice, they know they have to complete three reading response activities at some point during the week, they just get to choose when that happens.
Other things that you could do is you could tell your students, by the end of the week, you need to have, you know, X number of reading response assignments. And I had some students that when it came to their independent reading time, they they knew that they had to have three different reading response assignments turned in by Friday. They knew what the requirements were, but they preferred to do all of their reading, you know, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then Thursday, they would really use their independent reading time to craft all of their reading responses.
And I didn’t mind that they did it all in one day, because that’s what worked for them, they still got the assignments and by the end of the week, they still completed their independent reading activities and or their independent reading assignment and their reading response assignments. But they just got to choose when they completed them. So keep in mind that you there is a way that you can provide the accountability and the structure of reading responses because they are beneficial, but not requiring your students to have to do one every single day.
So hopefully, out of these 10 ideas that I shared, hopefully you found one or two that are new to you and your students, and you can start incorporating them for the end of the year. And hopefully they just bring a little bit more excitement and enthusiasm.
And just so you remember if you are incorporating a brand new routine to your students, make sure you take some time to actually teach it in a mini lesson. And you know, just make sure your students know exactly what it is you want from them because the more successful your students are in completing a reading response assignment, the more likely they are to want to complete it again or want to actually engage in that reading response activity again.
I know I said this at the beginning of the episode, but I would love to hear from you. And so if there was an idea that I shared today that you are excited about incorporating into your classroom, I would love if you reached out to me on Instagram at @thestellarteachercompany, and let me know what idea that you’re excited to bring into your classroom. And make sure you check out the show notes for this episode, because I’m gonna go ahead and link to a couple of the products that I mentioned in this podcast as well. And I will talk to you guys next week.
But let me just remind you and maybe give you permission that if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, and you just can’t get everything done. That’s okay. It is okay for you to take a break and to pause and to put things even if they are important to you on the back burner for a week or two. Just my little public service announcement that it is okay for you to take care of you.