Reading Response: A Focus on Vocabulary

Want to help your children or students build their vocabulary? Try this exercise.

Prepare to Read

First, either instruct your children or students to read for a set amount of time. When I was a classroom teacher my standard “student choice” reading homework assignment was to read for 10 minutes, 3-5 nights a week.

You might do the same with your children or students, or you might read aloud for a set time period or length of pages. Be sure, if you are a parent, your child is sitting beside you so he or she can see the text as your read. If you are a teacher, be sure you are reading from a text that all the students can have a copy of, so they can follow along.

Print the following statements onto a note card, project them on your Smartboard, or write them on your whiteboard:

  • A word I did not know or was not certain of the meaning of was…
  • I found it in this sentence…
  • I think it means…
  • I looked it up in the dictionary and it means…

As you or they read, tell your students to be on the lookout for a word for the exercise.


Instruct your child or student to begin reading, or you begin reading. It is best if you do this in a quiet room without a lot of distractions. Tell him or her to write down the word and page number when they spot it and then continue reading for the allotted time.


When done, instruct your students or child go back to the page they noted and copy down the sentence in which he or she found the word. Instruct them to fill in the remaining statements or, if your group is small enough, discuss the remaining statements together.


Challenge your students or child to look for ways to use their new word for the next few days.

Your Turn

How do you like to help your children or students to expand their vocabulary?


Have a Very Merry Christmas & an Awesome New Year!

Candles In Terracotta Pots

Snow blessed us with an early start to Winter Break this year. What beauty, what wonder, what delight!

As I bake and sew, preparing for a celebration with loved ones, I want to pause a moment and wish you a blessed holiday season. May you know peace, the smiles of those you love, and wonder, awe and wonder. (And may you find a little time to curl up with a good book.) Have a very merry Christmas and God bless you in the coming year!

Christmas Star Dangle

P.S. I will be taking a little time off, I’ll see you back here January 5, 2017!

The Best is Yet to Come

J Tower LogoAlas, summer is nearly over, and despite my best intentions, I have not been able to return to posting regularly because I have spent most of it sick. I am so sorry!

However, the up-side is that I have read many fascinating articles, collected tons of inspiring quotes, and have been squirreled away oodles of index cards and random slips of paper containing scribblings of ideas for nurturing your children’s and expanding your own literate lifestyle.

And so, I thought it was about time I acknowledge my involuntary hiatus.

I pray you enjoy these last, lovely days of summer. Read, write, read to you kids, read with your kids, tell stories, and build memories.

I hope to be back blogging regularly this fall.

Onomatopoeia and Ssssounds: Reading Response Exercise #103

The format of this reading response exercise is a little different from our usual set up because to do this one, you need to read the instructions first.


Authors use sensory details to help readers understand and experience (vicariously) the setting of a story. Words like roaring or ringing help the reader imagine themselves into the point of view character’s experience. Other sound words include onomatopoeia, specialized words that sound like the sound they describe. Examples include: plop, splat, and thunk.


To complete this reading response exercise, get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Sit down and read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. Each time you come across a sound word in your reading, list it along with its page number.


When done reading, choose three sound words from your list. Go back to the page where you found each of them and reread the paragraph in which each was included. For each sound word, consider how the author’s choice of that particular word influenced your perception and experience of the story.


Share your responses with your reading partners, or here as a comment on the blog.

Preschool Literacy


Find a picture book that includes lots of sound words. Read it with your preschooler, asking your child to stop you and repeat the sound word each time he or she hears one. (Help her if the task proves too daunting to do on her own.)


When you have finished reading, ask your preschooler which sound word was his favorite. Ask why.

Write the word (and write it big) on a piece of paper then give it to your preschooler to decorate. (Media options can include: crayons, marking pens, stickers, pictures torn out of magazines and glued on… or anything else you can dream up to play with!)

Post your preschooler’s finished project where it can be enjoyed by family and friends.

Read to Your Kids/Summer is Here

It’s official. The graduation ceremonies and parties have wound down. The make ups for snow days have been served. The sun has come out—even in my rainy little corner of the country. Summer is here. Make sure you use some of the free time to read with your kids.

Reading together and talking about literature builds your children’s awareness of reading fluency, helps them enjoy and develop positive associations with literature and reading (even if it is an area in which they struggle at school), develops critical thinking skills, and is just plain fun (not to mention a good way to bond as a family).

The books my children and I have read together enrich our common history and created a bond in which sharing books and reading remains a part of our family identity. There are so many stories we all love, and some characters who feel like family.

How can you get in more reading time with your kids?

  • Take advantage of the extended daylight hours and take a picnic blanket and dessert out into the backyard to relax and enjoy a book together.
  • Listen to an audio book in the car when your family travels. Our family has shared many a laugh on a drive down to Grandma’s, or the beach, or the mountains. Sometimes we would laugh so hard we had to stop the “book,” go back a few minutes, and listen to what we missed while laughing.
  • Read a book together around the campfire or in the hotel room to wind down after a busy day of travel and touring. Consider selecting a book that takes place in the part of the country you are exploring.
  • I just read about a library program called Prime Time that you could implement at home. Sit down as a family and share a picture book together then discuss it honoring the ideas and opinions of even the youngest members of the family. Consider things like: what is learned by the characters through the story? Who did you like best? What did you think of what that character did? In addition, you can always use Literate Lives reading response questions to kick-start your discussion.

Enjoy your summer. Enjoy reading together. Enjoy each other, and have fun!

P.S. How do you and your family enjoy reading together?

Reading Comprehension: Surprise! Reading Response Exercise #86


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Think about what you have read. What did you encounter that you found surprising? Why was it surprising?

If you did not encounter anything surprising, what do you think were the author’s intentions in writing what you read in this manner?


Write or discuss your responses with your reading partners.

Preschool Literacy


Enjoy a picture book with your preschooler.


When you get done reading it, ask her if anything in the story surprised her. (If she says nothing surprised her, ask her how she liked the ending.


Discuss his response. Enjoy book talking with your preschooler.

“Don’t Talk to Me Like That” or “Sweetheart, Tell Me More”/Reading Response Exercise #85


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. If you’re in a private enough space, read the dialogue out loud.


When done, think about what you have read. How do other characters talk to the main character in your reading? How does the main character talk to them?  How would you describe it? Would you like to talked to in the manner these characters talk to each other? Why or Why not?


Share your responses with your reading partners.

Preschool Literacy:


Enjoy a picture book with your preschooler.


When done, ask her what she thought about the way the characters talked to each other? Would he like to be talked to that way? Why or why not?

Spring Reading

Yesterday was the first day of spring. While I, like everyone one else, look forward to spring after the darkness and cold of winter, often as the weeks flit by, spring can start to feel like an endurance race. Sports and outdoor activities pick up their pace, and school begins its frenzied wind down to summer. One of the things that can get lost in the onrush of all this activity is family reading time.

Do you read to you kids?

Do you read alongside your kids?

Even if you do so other times of year, be aware spring is a season where family reading time can get lost. So be deliberate about it. Schedule time for it like you would for baseball or track practice.

At the end of the day, gather your kids together and read picture books, short stories, or folktales. Read a novel together, one chapter every night. After the busyness of work, school, and activities, a family reading time provides a peaceful way to relax and reconnect.

Or get comfy and curl up and read your own selections side by side.

Reading refreshes the mind and the spirit. Read, read, read your way into Spring. Be refreshed, like the world waking up outside your windows.

If you’ve been reading to your kids, what are some of your favorite books you can recommend for other families to read.

Help! I Need Advice: Reading Response Exercise #73


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Think about what you have read.


Imagine your protagonist is a newspaper advice columnist. Write a letter from someone requesting advice then write your character/columnist’s response. The advice given should reflect the protagonist’s values and experiences in the novel so far. How does your “advice” do so?


Share and discuss your responses with your reading partners.

Preschool Literacy:


Read a picture book with your preschooler.


Mid-three-quarters of the way through, stop and ask your preschooler what kinds of problems the main character is having and how he or she would solve them.


Have a good conversation about your child’s ideas then finish enjoying the story together.

Reading Response #32: What’s Important/Reading Comprehension Exercise

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read then proceed to the following questions:

  • 1. If you had to pick only one word to describe what you read and if that word had to be an actual word used in the passage you read, what would it be? Why?
  • 2. What do you feel was the most important event, character, setting, feeling, or decision in the passage you read? Why?

Write down or discuss your responses with your reading friends.

For Pre-readers: Read a story together. When done, ask your child what he or she thought was the most important event in the story. Discuss it. After your preschooler has contributed her opinions, you can even contribute yours. Enjoy this conversation.