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.