Thursday, November 20, 2008

Response to Literature, Grade 2

I often walk classrooms. Sometimes, I ask students questions like, "What are you working on?" "What did you learn in your mini-lesson today?" and sometimes, I simply rummage through portfolios looking at student work. The work itself answers these types of questions for me without even talking to the kids. I can clearly see which lessons have been taught that were internalized by students and applied to their work.

In addition, I often have teachers simply drop by my desk at the end of a busy day with student work in hand. They are there to celebrate the accomplishments of a particular student or show me work that impressed them. I really enjoy when teachers invite me into their celebration of student work and it is quite evident the focused instruction that goes into the production of quality student work.
Today, at the end of the day, when I returned to my desk, I had a pleasant surprise. Mrs. McLeod, a second grade teacher, left a few Response to Literature student papers on my desk. The pieces clearly met the standard for Grade 2 writers. I thought you may enjoy reading one of the student samples she shared with me. You may notice the student's introduction, detailed retelling, use of dialogue, ability to give the moral of the story, developed vocabulary use, or the closing of his piece. I think, after you read his piece, you'll understand why I love teachers including me in their celebration of student work. If you would like a closer look, please click on the picture to zoom in. Enjoy!


Melanie Holtsman said...

Wow! What great writing! Imagine what kind of writers these kids will be in 4th grade?!?

dayle timmons said...

As I read this second grade response to literature, I had to be proud of the foundation that had been laid in first grade. First graders do an author study of Kevin Henkes and study Wemberly Worried. Assuming this student was at Chets Creek last year, she would have done extensive work with this book last year, so it would be a book she was very familiar with. It's so good to see how much students still love Henkes' book in second grade and how far this student has taken her work with response to literature.

Anonymous said...

Who helped this child write this? The child is either very bright or had help from some adult. How do I know? I have never heard a second grader use the term "diversity", yet alone spell it correctly. I think rewriting a book or even a short story after reading it will only discourage children from wanting to read. The joy of reading comes not from rewriting the story, it comes from wanting to read that book again or the next book. Let's teach young children the fundamentals of language then when they are old enough they can write a response not their parents.

Suzanne said...

Dear Anonymous,
Though, I'm sure you did not mean your comment as a compliment, I will take it as one. What you are saying is that it is impossible for a second grader to write this response without help. You couldn't be more wrong. CCE students write every single day and produce writing from different genres including narrative, report, functional, and response to literature. They publish two response to literatures a year, not for every book they read. They read well over 25 books a year at each grade level.

This writing sample was produced without help in school during Writers' Workshop. The vocabulary lessons we use are part of the Scholastic Text Talk kit in K-2 and higher level vocabulary shows up in a student's writing daily. The word may be spelled correctly because the child sounded it out phonetically (di-vers-ity) or because they copied it off a vocabulary word wall in the classroom.

You should know, too, that it is common to get a piece of student writing like this, because of the mini-lessons the teachers have taught. We use Using Rubrics to Improve Student Writing by America's Choice to benchmark our work and we do expect this level of work.

I'd be happy to have more dialogue with you about this. You can reach me directly at

Mrs. Stoddard's Second Grade Class said...

This gives me a lot to think about. Your students are writing much more complex responses to literature than my second graders. I think it is wonderful! Do you encourage them to retell as much for every response? I was under the impression that the goal was to have children tell what the book was mainly about and then move on to connections and recommendations. I am impressed.