If you have even glanced at the Common Core standards for ELA you’re bound to notice something: both reading strands are divided into three distinct categories.  First, there is the Key Ideas and Details chunk.  This section gives standards that address things like theme, citing evidence and describing story elements.  Next comes Craft and Structure.  Here the focus is on things like tone, point of view and format.  Last comes Integration of Knowledge and Ideas – where text comes to meet other mediums and genres.

What They Are:

RaW Journals are something I thought up to smash together the first two chunks.  I realized that Key Ideas and Details really asks you to look at a text as a Reader, while Craft and Structure has you examine the text like a Writer.  RaW Journals are entries my students write that look at the text as both a Reader and Writer.

raw journalsHow I Use Them:

I have my students divide their paper in half, like setting up for any double-journal entry.  They label one side R and one side W.  Before I give the assignment, we brainstorm together different things that students notice while reading.  Examples include:

  • Characterization
  • Setting details
  • Mood
  • Interesting or difficult vocabulary
  • Long or short sentences
  • Amount of dialogue
  • Dialect
  • Summary
  • Prediction

Next, as a class we decide which of those things have to do with looking at the text as a reader.  For example, noticing characterization or making a summary would both be reading details.  Students would make these notes under the “R” column.  Then we decide which have to do with looking at the text as a writer.  Studying the sentence length or looking at the vocabulary would fall under that category, so those notes would go under the “W” category.

I never make my students do really long RaW journals, because I would rather have them write down meaningful bullet points than just list arbitrary things to take up space.  A typical entry is no more than half of a page long.

Try a practice one first with a small piece of text.  Have students read through it two times – once focusing only on “R” and the second time focusing only on “W”

When the students finish, these are a great way to spark discussion.  See if students notice if certain reading characteristics seem to occur hand-in-hand with writing styles (for example – does a creepy mood come with long sentences?).  Or, have your students compare their notes with each other.  It’s always interesting to see what “W” notes someone else notices!

Will you be using RaW Journals in your classroom this year?