I introduced the Reading Log Prompt that invites students to respond in multiple ways to show their construction of meaning of Romeo and Juliet. In addition to giving them opportunities to read orally (in groups and Reader's Theatre format), I wanted my students to engage in analysis and interpretation on their own.
Students had to enclose their Reading Log entries in a folder. I instructed them on how to design a cover for work and shared a log that had been "published" by a student from another class. Her description and explanation of her cover provided an exemplary model of how to make personal connections with the literature, as well as how to visualize.
I knew this assignment would be less problematic even with my "reluctant" readers because the activities in the Reading Log allow for differentiation. For example, readers are invited to question, to draw or sketch, to imagine as themselves one of the characters, or to choose a meaningful passage, all ways of demonstrating active involvement, i.e. thinking with Shakespeare's text.
One of the most difficult concepts for many students to grasp is the value of asking questions to express confusion or bewilderment and then attempting to answer their own questions. During our review of the question activity in the log, we talked about why formulating questions is valuable, and, even more importantly, that attempting to answer one's own questions is even more vital. I emphasized to the class that getting the answer is not the point, it is the struggle to understand, the thinking about the answers, that matters.
As we reviewed another activity, choosing a passage or quote from a scene, we discussed the importance of supporting choices with meaningful commentary that is bolstered by the text. An active reading strategy that students learned early on is that any assumptions, inferences, or conclusions that they make about what they read should be "warranted and plausible," that is justified by text and believable. Thus, it is possible that two people may have different interpretations of the same passage that are equally valid, as long as they are able to explain and support their ideas with references to the text.
Capitalizing on another active reading strategy, visualizing, students were invited to sketch, draw, or create a collage or other graphic of a moment, scene, or idea stimulated by their reading. I emphasized that this was not an art exercise, but more and opportunity to visually represent ideas about the play. I encouraged the use of colors, stick figures and even paper collages.
Of primary importance to students always is "How will this be graded?" I shared criteria for evaluating their work. I stipulated that the work must reflect their own impressions and unique voice, the willingness to take risks and the need to be thorough and thoughtful.