02 Sep Slice of Life: The Importance of Response
This year we participated in the Book-a-Day Challenge organized by Donalyn Miller. It was our first time joining the challenge. We always read quite a bit each summer so we were not expecting this to be very different – were we wrong! One word can sum up the difference we experienced – response.
Response is a current hot topic in schools. We are inundated with rubrics, pacing guides and exemplars. We analyze and score student writing in teams. We think about how to expose students to all different types and modes of response. Response has morphed into a very complicated topic and the product of response is getting a lot of attention.
In Book-a-Day we were struck by the simplicity of response.
There were no rubrics or exemplars involved. Response was authentic, simple and purposeful.
Just by tweeting or posting we felt so connected with other readers. We loved hearing different persectives on books and characters. We even heard from many of the authors of these texts. It made us really think about the true meaning of reading response. So many of the young readers we meet in schools are so focused on the product of response that they are losing the process of responding. They are worried about getting THE answer we are looking for and finding THE correct evidence to support their ideas. Often they are not even thinking about how they felt about the text.
As we reflect on our experience this summer with Book-a-Day we realize we always begin with our reaction or connection to the text. We always start with, “Did you like it?” or “What did you think?” We often go back and reread some texts when we hear the response of another reader or the author. It was amazing how our understanding of texts grew and changed after hearing from the perspective of another person. Book-a-Day provided an audience for response – it was more about the process than the product. It was a community of readers who were willing and ready to respond and share with one another.
Our Book-a-Day experience left us thinking about response for our young readers. How do we make sure we create classrooms where response is authenic, purposeful and connected? How can we lift the level of student response, both oral and written, but still focus on the process not the product? How do we create classroom communities that support sharing, thinking, listening and growing? We don’t have the answers, but we do have a sense of what we want to preserve. Our students need authentic reasons to respond, an audience with whom to share and a classroom culture that supports true dialogue.