Where The Idea Came From:
Our district had several elementary teachers pilot Linda Dorn and Carla Soffos' Comprehensive Literacy Model this past two years with the help of a literacy coach (Mrs. Candice Johnson), and I was one of the lucky pilot teachers that got coached. Thoughtful Logs are a key tool in the Comprehensive Literacy Model, but really anyone can use them in his or her classroom! They are so, so powerful.
Making A Thoughtful Log:
The Thoughtful Log can be any kind of notebook or even a folder that has paper held into it using brads. We use composition books because they're sturdy and feel extra special compared to a regular notebook. Some teachers in our district plan to use a five-subject notebook. Regardless of what is used, on the cover we have a label that says "My Thoughtful Log - Ideas, Thoughts, and Learning Worth Remembering In Reading & Writing". So just as the label says, the Thoughtful Log is a tool used in both reading and writing. It helps to connect all subjects really:
Dividing the Thoughtful Log Using Tabs :
In the intermediate grades, we divide the Thoughtful Log into 5 sections using sticky tabs. Here are the tabs and the kinds of things that would be added to each tab as the year goes on. (In the picture below, you only see 4 tabs. We have decided to add a 5th tab called 'My Strategies' this coming year.):
*Tab 1 - My Strategies: In this tab, students store learning about the comprehension strategies: questioning, making connections, visualizing, inferring, determining importance, and synthesizing.
I highly recommend the book Comprehension Connections: Bridges To Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor to help you teach the strategies. What's great about this book is that you use concrete, real life items in the lessons that help give kids a clear picture for what each strategy is and means. The book was a suggestion I got from another blog teacher friend, Amanda Nickerson. (You have to check out her blog. It's AMAZING!) I bought the book thinking, "Oh geez, this is going to be another book that I probably won't read..." but when I got it, it was short, sweet, and to the point, and I loved the idea of using my purse and the items in it to teach determining importance, or nesting dolls to teach synthesizing. I found my kids were the MOST engaged when I taught strategy lessons from McGregor's book, and to be honest, I was the MOST excited to teach them: a win-win situation!
For example, our 4th quarter reading strategy focus is Determining Importance. I was able to use my purse to help teach this strategy. We created this anchor chart on what items in my purse were important, kind of important, or not very important if I were going to the gym to run on the treadmill after school:
Then I set up a similar situation for students to practice determining importance themselves in their My Strategies tab. Students had to determine what was important and not important to bring on a camping trip:
Here is a sample entry from that activity:
*Tab 2: Author's Craft: In this tab, we put anything that has to do with the special things authors and writers do to make text and language extra special. Author study information and lessons about figurative language, alliteration, irony, similes and metaphors, personification, etc. all can go in this tab. Students are taught to add examples as they find them in their own reading experiences of the different authors' crafts we have learned. It doesn't matter if we learned about alliteration 4 months ago, students know that if they find an example during independent reading, they should write it down on that page in their Thoughtful Logs so they can show their teacher that they can identify those crafts independently in text.
For another example, you can see I had students record the definition of a simile at the top of their page in the Author's Craft section during our lesson. During independent reading, students recorded examples of similes they found in their books:
During a different lesson on similes and metaphors, I had students glue in a small sheet in the Author's Craft section that restated our lesson objective and a picture of the mentor text we used that day. Then students recorded examples of similes and metaphors they found in books I had put around the room (that I knew had similes and metaphors in them!):
*Tab 3: Powerful Words & Phrases: Learning from lessons that discuss any kind of powerful words and/or phrases can go in this tab. This is a great spot to store information from lessons about word choice or other 'delicious language', in addition to lessons about common and proper nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, etc. Sometimes I will even have kids open to their Powerful Words & Phrases section and have them record any words they hear me read from our text that they consider powerful. We share out at the end of the book, or turn and talk to a neighbor and record/add 2 words to their page that a partner has written.
For example, I read the mentor text Clara Caterpillar for a mini-lesson on word choice. I asked students to record in the Powerful Words & Phrases section any words they heard that they they felt were powerful (which is why many of the words are spelled wrong on the top half of the Thoughtful Log page below since he wrote them from a verbal cue only.) You can see the student also recorded more powerful words on the bottom half of the page during independent reading. These are words he found on his own in his chapter book that he wanted to store to possibly use later in his own writing:
Here's a sample entry from work we did with verbs and adverbs. I printed and cut the whole-group lesson we did on the SmartBoard from the day before and had students glue it into their Powerful Words & Phrases tab first. Then they looked through their own texts for examples of powerful verbs and adverbs:
*Tab 4: Genre Learning: In this tab we store any learning about different genres of reading and writing. In our district, each grade level has a quarterly reading genre and writing genre. So, in fourth grade in reading, I teach non-fiction/informational text, historical fiction, biography, and poetry. In writing, our genres are non-fiction report, summary writing, response to literature, and poetry. All of our learning and thinking about the reading and writing genres goes in the Genre Learning tab.
Here's an example of some the learning and thinking recorded during our Biography unit that was recorded in the Genre Learning tab. Students were to write about each of the characteristics of a biography as it related to the biography book they were reading independently:
When we learned about the Historical Fiction genre, I taught students that it's important to gather the facts about a historical time period before reading a historical fiction book set during the time period. Doing so helps to deepen our understanding of the book itself. I had students visit some interactive sites to learn more about the Underground Railroad to gather information prior to reading a historical fiction book that took place during times of slavery and segregation. Students recorded their facts in their Genre Learning tab of their Thoughtful Log:
Tab 5: My Thoughts: This final tab kind of allows you the freedom to put 'anything else' that may not fit in another tab. Obviously, if students ever needed to write a response about what they thought about something (in guided reading or during any other time), it could go in this tab.
My students learn to track their thinking on post-its using letter codes as they read, then provide a written response later after independently reading. Students glue down the one or two post-its that they think inspire their deepest inner-voice thoughts and respond in writing in their My Thoughts section next to the post-it:
My students also do Literature Discussion Groups (LDGs) and one of the requirements is for them to write a response to their assigned reading in their My Thoughts tab so they are prepared for their LDG.
Here are some examples of student LDG entries that were written in the My Thoughts section. (We did a lot of practicing together of how to write a good entry, and I always made students fill out a self-assessment slip to help them evaluate their entries and push them to grow.):
You can see the students in the LDG group below have their My Thoughts section open in front of them (to the page where they wrote their entry about the reading assignment due that day). I have students reread their entries to themselves just before they begin discussing to help them get in the right frame of mind and remind them of the thoughts they had about the text:
Trusting Your Gut:
Really, there are no right or wrong answers when using Thoughtful Logs. Trust your gut as to which tab your lesson's objective and learning should go. Sometimes I will even ask students, "Today I'm going to be teaching you about great ways to start your sentences. Under which tab should we store this information?" A great class discussion can follow where students apply what they know about each tab to evaluate the best place, and then students are given ownership in their learning before anything is even taught!
You probably noticed in the pictures above that I have students anchor our lesson objectives/learning in their Thoughtful Logs in a few different ways. It really depends on the lesson and how you want to manage it!
Way 1: Sometimes I type up a small half-sheet of the essential learning objectives for a lesson, pre-cut the sheets to fit their Thoughtful Logs, and then have students glue or tape the sheet in the appropriate section of their Thoughtful Logs prior to the lesson. Then I will have students bring their Thoughtful Logs and a pencil to the carpet during our lesson so we can add learning to the sheet they glued into their Thoughtful Logs.
Here's an example of a a half-sheet I prepared ahead of time and students glued into their Thoughtful Log just before our lesson. You can see this student added to his chart throughout our lesson:
Way 2: Sometimes I type up a half-sheet of the lesson objective but won't hand the sheet out to students to glue/tape into their Thoughtful Logs until AFTER the lesson when students are back at their desks.
Here's the lesson we did together first on Making Connections (no Thoughtful Logs yet):
And after the lesson, students glued the Making Connections half-sheet I had pre-made with the lesson objectives into their Thoughtful Logs. Then they worked on their response during guided practice and independent reading.
Way 3: Sometimes we'll do a whole group lesson (without Thoughtful Logs), and as a class we'll record our new learning together on a large piece of chart paper or use the SmartBoard. Then at prep time or the end of the day, I will take a picture of the anchor chart of our learning that we created together, upload the picture to my computer, and then print and cut a class set of the anchor chart. Then the next day, I have students glue the picture of our chart into the appropriate section of their Thoughtful Logs. This chart has meaning because students got to co-construct the anchor chart the day before, and it matches the larger anchor chart hanging in our classroom.
You can see I took a picture of the biography anchor chart we created the day before and had students glue the picture into their Thoughtful Log the next day. (I know you already saw these two examples earlier when I described what to put in each tab, but I wanted to give you visuals so you can understand as much as possible!)
And here I printed the SmartBoard lesson we had created the day before and had students glue that in the next day:
Once learning is anchored (glued or written down in the Thoughtful Log), you can have students do a variety of both guided and independent written responses to the lesson objective/learning to help you assess students' thoughts, in addition to their application of the literacy objectives you are teaching. I'm hoping you saw several examples of students' written responses and application in the pictures provided above.
Assessment & Other Benefits:
- Thoughtful Logs are great tools for tracking student progress, to inform your instruction for lessons, to use for assessment at report card time, and to use as evidence at parent-teacher conferences.
- Teachable moments occur more often because you can quickly turn to a previous lesson in a student's Thoughtful Log to provide a visual to jog his or her memory about something previously learned. Connections to previous learning can happen that much faster!
- Parents can stay up-to-date with the kinds of things you're teaching, the language you are using, and the thinking their child is doing because it's all in one place.
- The next year's teacher can look through a student's Thoughtful Log from the year before to see exactly how you organized and taught students to do different things. The next year's teacher can build off of what and how you taught the year before so student learning is maximized.
One last note: I had a carpeted area where I had students join me for whole-group lessons in reading and writing, but you don't necessarily need one. I liked the carpeted area because it was like a sacred place where we knew we'd all learn together in a guided setting, then when students returned to their desks, they knew it was independent practice time.