Spying on MY reading

This year I am teaching Reading 6 in Middle School so naturally, I am spending my time reading and spying on myself as I read. This was a trick I learned first from Ellin Keene in Mosaic of Thought, Heinemann, 1997 (a life-changing book for me and for the literacy world) and then reinforced by the staff developers at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Armed with the Pathways Reading book and more specifically focused the learning progressions of four skills (character traits, characters’ response to change, predicting, and author’s craft), I spied on myself as a reader Friday night.

Friday during the school day, author Alan Gratz visited my school promoting his newest book, Ban This Book.

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As I was leaving school with an autographed copy of his book, I stopped at the supply table in the back of my classroom and took time to set myself up for reading this book AND recording my thinking about it. I grabbed some post-it notes and added one to the last page of each chapter. Now for  this particular book, some of the chapters were short and the book itself is 243 pages long. And I will admit that many minutes went by as I armed my book with end-of-chapter note-taking space. However, now the book was ready. As soon as I heated up some dinner, I was ready, too, with pen in one hand and book in the other.

Friday night I sat and read the whole book! It IS a page turner and fun school story about one of my favorite things – books! And I found as I got to the end of each chapter, with that blank yellow post-it staring at me, I had a thought about the book at that moment and I jotted it down quickly before beginning the next chapter. I jotted character traits about the main and minor characters. I jotted down my predictions of what would happen next. I jotted that moment when the main character acted out of character. I jotted about times when I felt just like a character. I jotted about moves the author made to keep me reading.

It looked like this:

Then Monday night, I removed all the post-its. As I did, I sorted them into piles. All the ones about Amy Anne in a pile. Another pile for Trey and a third for Trey’s mom. I had a prediction pile and an author-craft pile. I had two favorite scenes, so I put those together. It looked like this:


During my many visits to Institutes at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, the staff developers have encouraged the use of a Reading Notebook. Since the act of reading is so invisible, the notebook is the place to make one’s thinking while reading visible to themselves and others. It is the place to hold onto thoughts, review them, grow them, revise them, and have them close at hand during a book club discussion or in front when a literary essay is being drafted.

As I looked over all the piles on my dining room table, I asked myself, what are the big ideas? I decided I had enough thinking to make two double-pages. One would be devoted to characters, their traits, my connections to them and times they acted out of character. (These are all skills defined in TCRWP Pathways to Reading book.) It ended up looking like this:

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I then took the predictions I made, my author’s craft notes, my two favorite scene and fun things I learned while reading this book and added them to look like this:

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I can’t wait to teach my sixth graders today. My mini-lesson will be a reminder about how, when we read, we think. One way to make our thinking visible is to stop and jot it down. Then I’ll show them how I did it. First, I set myself up for success by having a book of my choice that I was motived to read. (Somehow meeting the author hours before at my school and holding a book, signed by the author is very motivating!). Then I took time to add post-its so I’d be reminded to stop and jot. Using post-its allowed me to sort thinking into piles. It allowed me to them organize my thinking into my notebook. At the end, I added some color for fun.

Now, I am on the lookout for others who read this book thoughtfully. With my notebook in hand, I’m ready for a book club discussion. Or maybe I’ll use these pages to write a literary essay. No matter what, I know I will have fun sharing my spying on my reading with my 6th graders today!

10 thoughts on “Spying on MY reading

  1. Ms Victor Reads says:

    Mosaic of Thought was that book for me too!
    Alan Gratz comes to our school (but not working with my grade) later this year.
    I loved your look at spying on your own reading and the varied thinking that resulted. I think you are right, you will be able to use this work for many purposes (and now I want to read the book too- have you read Refugee?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • sallydonnelly11 says:

      Yes, I read Refugee. So sad but important to read and be aware of. My notebook page for that book is still being created. It involves a MAP and quotes that show how all 3 stories are tied together! I like thinking about how best to share my thinking because it has to match the book. I hope you can sneak in to learn from Alan Gratz. He was a real treat in person! Also, thanks to YOU, I am doing GRA with 2 of my classes using The Wild Robot. SO fun!!


  2. Adrienne says:

    Wow! I hope you plan on sharing this with your kids. I just got Ban this Book from the library and now I am even more excited to read it. My read aloud is Posted by John David Anderson and I am using it to model my thinking for kids. It is so powerful when they see us using the skills we are teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jarhartz says:

    You are the best reading partner ever! Remember a few summers ago? What a treat to have Alan Gratz. I too loved this book and my students have it now. By the way, if you haven’t already you must read Refugee.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sallydonnelly11 says:

      YES!!!!!! I drew on all that we did that summer to do this work.
      Without that, I think I’d be more worried of modeling it in a wrong way. Instead, I am open to ALL the ways we can read and think because that is what we all did that summer with A Handful of Stars. So glad we did that together, partner!

      Liked by 1 person

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