Ahhh, Labor Day weekend–that first glorious three-day respite from back to school, or the last vestiges of freedom before it begins. Whatever this weekend is for you, I hope you’re using it to relax and recharge before we see bright, smiling faces (or sleepy ones) tomorrow.
I bet you’re using a book or two to help you enjoy this weekend–what are you reading? I’m reading little bits of Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue whenever I can squeeze it in (usually as I fall asleep). In longer chunks, I’m reading Scaachi Koul’s memoir, One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, which is a perfectly-sized series of essays for my busy days.
In quiet moments on long weekends like these, I wonder what our students are doing. Do their reading lives mirror mine? If the answer is no…what can I do to help them become readers?
And, more pressingly–is there something I’m doing that’s preventing them from becoming readers?
Reading homework, requirements, levels; book reports, assignments, due dates. None of these are what I’m tying to the books I’m reading this weekend.
But is that true for our students?
This article from School Library Journal talks about the work done by librarians to match a person to a book. They call it readers’ advisory. Then, they lament that so many classrooms discourage the important work of “talking with a child, observing body language for clues, and walking together through the stacks while offering suggestions” and rely on leveled bins, assigned texts, or assessment-bound reading units to get kids to read.
How much of what goes on in my classroom is readers’ advisory–and how much damages that work?
I’ve been thinking since last May about how we should stop grading independent reading. The best and brightest in our teacher hive give us their advice and wisdom in books, blogs, and articles, with quotes like this one from Donalyn Miller. Books, time, encouragement–these are themes we see repeated in what students need to blossom as independent readers. Nowhere do we see that we need to measure, assess, or grade them.
To be sure, our kids need our instruction and guidance to grow as real readers. Conferences, follow-up activities, book clubs, goal-setting, talk, and self-assessment are powerful tools to help move students forward. How can we prioritize those things instead of more measurable (and infinitely less revealing, rewarding, or authentic) methods like reading logs, records, and quizzes?
Well, we really want to know.
Please share with us: what are your alternatives to reading logs? How do you approach a gradebook that must be filled, and fill it with meaningful activities tied to reading?
In that Google Doc, we’ll work to compile a series of alternatives to reading logs, and share them here for everyone to benefit from. You can also leave a comment on this post, write on our Facebook page, or tweet to us. Together, we can create a repository of ideas and strategies for approaching independent reading in a way that’s authentic and helpful this school year.
Shana Karnes is mom to 1.5 spunky little girls and wife to a sleepy surgical resident. She teaches practicing and preservice English teachers at West Virginia University and is fueled by coffee, chocolate (this week), and a real obsession with all things reading and writing. Follow Shana on Twitter at @litreader or read more of her writing on the WVCTE Best Practices blog.
[…] reading? Shana’s written about this topic lately in posts about too much measurement and alternatives to reading logs. She even started this google doc, a resource for assessing independent reading sans reading logs. […]
[…] improve our instruction by networking and sharing ideas on mentor texts (check out this thread), assessments, mini-lessons, and how to match students with the just right books. We start with questions and […]
[…] been thinking about alternatives to reading logs for some time, brainstorming ways to read the room between conferences, and our readers have […]
Another timely and important post! I have been using a “status of the class” measure for students to record pages read per week, and this works for a portion of my students who are currently not reading outside of class (their homework is 2 hours per week of outside reading), but yesterday when we did our first weekly goal calculations I could see this not working for my avid readers. I have several students who have finished 6 books already (we have been in school two weeks). These students spent way too much time trying earnestly to calculate “pages read” even though I know the have exceeded by hundreds their weekly goals. After reading this post, I am going to change their requirements so as not to discourage them from reading. This post is a good reminder that even accountability measures need differentiation. While my avid readers don’t necessarily need much accounting to keep reading, my reluctant readers definitely do. I make it clear that reading outside of class time is essential to meeting their goals to become better readers, writers, and thinking. Knowing I will be conferencing with them keeps students in their books.
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I agree with you that conferencing is the most powerful, valuable thing we can do to help kids keep reading!!! Thanks for your comment!
This is a vital question for all reading teachers: “How much of what goes on in my classroom is readers’ advisory–and how much damages that work?”
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It’s a “jot in my notebook” quote for sure!
I decided to ditch the logs a few years ago. This year, I will pass around a version of ‘status of the class’ during independent reading each day, but I am keeping it simple so that it doesn’t take away from what I want students to be doing… reading!
Instead of a book report, I am going to have students create some type of book talk each quarter (they will have a lot of choice with this).
Everything else I need to know comes from talking to my students. Don’t get me wrong, I do have my students write about what they are reading (sometimes as a ticket out, but mostly low stakes writing in their journal) during class, but nothing compares to just talking with them.
Side note: Please excuse any errors. I am typing this on my phone when I should be sleeping. 😂
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Such great thinking here! Thanks for sharing!