Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Calendar Journals And Activities for YA Lit Unit

Cover on upside down!
I wrote last week about the novel unit that I was starting with my freshmen. Today will be day 6 of the unit so I thought I would write a little about it.

The first most important thing about the unit is choice. Students choose their own book.  I didn't have classroom sets of novels. I didn't give them a list of books to choose from. I didn't assign lit circles. They didn't have to choose a certain genre. The only requirement was it had to be "worthy" of them. Not something too easy (I'm pretty familiar with their reading levels). And it had to have some heft to it.  It needed to make them think.

They will read this young adult novel in fifteen days. They take the number of pages in the book, divide by fifteen and that's the number of pages they need to read a day.  Each day, after reading their pages in class, they have two things to do.

The first thing they do is fill out a calendar journal. Calendar journals was something a friend shared with me from Pinterest.  I adapted what I found on The Nifty Boutique site.  The page I used was a free download.  I did white out dinner at the bottom of each box and wrote in pages so that students had a place to record how many pages they read.
My first two calendar journal entries for The Scorpio Races

My purpose for the calendar journal is so they have a place to record questions/thoughts/summaries of what they read each day.  


You need to fill in the calendar every day. You can fill each square with a variety of things and you can change the activity each day. 
* write a sentence or two that summarizes what you read
* write what you think the most important word in the days reading was
* draw a picture that symbolizes your reading for the day
* ask a question about the day’s reading
* words or phrases you like or
* words or phrases you don’t understand

The activities that the kids do after they finish reading come from a variety of places. I've done this unit many times, with many different grade levels, so the activities have been changed up or reworded. I know that some I use come from Susan Finney. She presented a seminar in our district in 2003.  She has several books out that I use for reading activites. I'm sure if you google her, you'll find a list.

The activities this year are grouped into categories:  Plot, Character, Word/Style, Setting and Miscellaneous.  I wrote out more than fifteen questions so that students have a choice each day of what they want to do.  They have to do a certain amount of activities in each category, but they can choose which ones they want to do and when they want to do it. They complete the activities in a booklet they make the first day of the unit.

And that's really it. Students choose books, students read books, students think and write about books.
There will be a writing assignment after this. One of the genres freshmen are supposed to write about it a literary analysis. We'll see how that works out!


  1. I like the grid page; It's a great & brief way to keep the students on track. And I'll look up Susan Finney although I think I understand what you're talking about. I know you have to approve the choices, but would love to see a list of what the students do read, just for the info. Thanks Deb!

  2. I was intrigued when you mentioned the calendar journals last time and now I definitely love them! Thanks for sharing the picture! I like the idea of having them do a short response each day but not get bogged down, so they can really enjoy reading. I'm clipping this to Evernote now so I can use it with my ELLs someday!

  3. I like the fact that there are many options for recording, and lots to think about with each option, too. It doesn't look or sound too intrusive to the reading either, but rather adds to your understanding. Love the upside down cover! There's one in every least if I'm in the crowd there is!

  4. The best thing about this is the way you seem to be taking your cues from this group of students. It is the right assignment for these students at the right time. If any of your students are interested in a writing a guest review (or if I can convince you to write one for Shine) for my book blog on one of their books, I would be thrilled!

  5. I'll work on one for Shine--and I'll talk to students. Maybe I can convince a few! They are reading great books!

  6. I am so excited! Have you read Shatter Me? My friend from school suggested it to me on my book blog, then gifted a copy to me. I am devouring yet savoring it. So far it is amazing.


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