You could hear the cliched pin drop in the room, even though we’re only a few weeks into independent reading. It’s one of my favorite moments in the classroom–heads tilted towards their choice books, eyes moving side to side across those beautiful words and sentences. It’s a moment that ultimately lasts until mid-October, where the shine begins to dull a little and students are either completing books faster than I can get them into their hands, or dropping books faster than I can keep up with (“What do you mean you want to drop Everything, Everything? You just started it yesterday!”).
In a perfect world–not always my 10th grade classroom at my regional vocation urban high school–students would be moving excitedly from one book to another, we would have brilliant classroom discussions about the various books we are reading, and there wouldn’t have to be accountability because everyone is completely engaged and on their way to becoming the bookworms they’re meant to be.
In reality, I’m putting out small fires here and there as the first term ends, trying to keep my head above water. Between helping a handful of students find a book because they either finished their first pick or were dropping their first pick and craving the need to circulate to eliminate any temptation of students, I needed something to hold students accountable (for my boss) but in addition, a way to formatively see where each student was in our inaugural journey into IR.
As I’m sure we all can agree, reading logs don’t work. Shana summed up what I’ve been thinking for some time now. All I can think of are my poor (now junior) students who had to endure a reading log entry every time they read with a sentence summary of what they read and a sentence reflection along with their starting page and ending page for those 10 minutes.
Every. Single. Time.
No wonder only my most studious students did it (fearing a bad grade, not because they wanted to or saw value in it). Not only that, but I dreaded grading them (or opening each one in Google Classroom and seeing them not filled out). A sea of zeros flooded my grade book.
Enter what I’ve been using: Status of the Class.
Status of the Class is truly inspired by both my reading of Nancie Atwell’s amazing book In The Middle (which all teachers should read at some point in their career) and Donalyn Miller’s presentation at Write Now 2016 in North Conway, NH. Both ladies have taught me the beauty of organization in the workshop classroom and the value of short check-ins among the longer conferences I make with my students as they work on their independent reading.
It’s my way to formatively assess where my students are and the progress they are making in their independent reading book. As students are reading the first 10 minutes of class, I circulate the room and peer over shoulders so I can write down what page they are on (and for some students, the title of their new book). While not a traditional conference, this works well on the days (and sometimes it feels like the many days) where I need to do a quick check-in so I can help the handful of students who are either dropping books or finished their book and don’t know where to go next.
I also like using status of the class to keep a running tab of how things are progressing to use when I email parents or during progress meeting for my special education students. It’s also a great resource to use when I conference with Juana, who has dropped three books this month alone–the data doesn’t lie. It also helps me to see that although Paul has finished three graphic novels in a row over the last 6 weeks, it might be time to challenge him outside the genre and try something new.
An added benefit to the status of the class is the competitive nature it brings out in my students. One of my EL students, Marco, asks me for his progress every time I do a Status of the Class. The look of pride on his face when does the math and sees that his reading rate is improving, little by little, is priceless. For Stephanie, she finds the check-in reassuring. On more than one occasion, after a Status of the Class, Stephanie whispers to me, “Miss, I read more pages this week than I did last week.” Stephanie is rereading Room, because last year when I had her as a 9th grader, she fake read it and only made it halfway. This year, she can’t put it down.
I still haven’t figured out a way to make it more student-led in my short 43 minute classes. When we are in the middle of an Independent Reading unit this spring, after our Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test is over and the constant test prep pressure is off, I’m thinking of making the Status of the Class a digital resource, asking students to input via Google Form and holding students more accountable to tracking their titles and progress. By doing so, more students like Paul, Marco, and Stephanie can actively engage in their progress and see how far they truly come this year.
How do you track and hold students accountable in their reading progress? What advice or tips could you offer to teachers with shorter class periods?
[…] KRISTIN SEED’S STATUS OF THE CLASS: FORMATIVELY ASSESS WHERE STUDENTS ARE […]
I do a combination of methods to help kids keep track of their own reading. Once a week, I circulate with a clipboard and a sheet of paper much like yours. Every other day, as students are “checking in” to class, they record their current page on a Google Doc, along with our essential question and a goal that they have for workshop that day. The daily log is inspired by Starr Stackstein’s post on EdWeek: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/work_in_progress/2017/04/keep_students_accountable_with.html
I realized I misspelled Starr’s last name… Sackstein. Early morning brain fog…
Thanks for adding to the conversation. I love the idea of having a goal they have for that particular day and connecting it back to the essential question. I will check out that link you shared. I’ve read other posts by Starr Stackstein and she truly is a wealth of knowledge. Thanks for reading 🙂
I use Status of the Class too! Except I get the kids to tell me their page numbers at the end of the first 10 minutes of class themselves. Sometimes I ask the kids to say something like “I’m at the part where ______”, and they give a super short summary of what’s going on in their book right now. My students generally enjoy hearing the wide array of responses, and this also gets kids interested in their classmates’ books. As far as conferences, I’m with you on the time thing! I just try and talk with one or two students each class period.
Thanks for reading! I love that you have the students add super short summaries– great way to assess their progress and summarizing skill. I’ll have to try that next time we do a Status of the Class. Thanks for sharing!
I love this. I keep starting something like this but then I get distracted by other things and forget to come back to it. I need to be more focused! I like the idea of one page for the class for the month!
Thanks for your comment! I think there is many ways to try something like this and make it work for your own needs, in addition to the other wonderful work we do as part of our workshop routines. Thanks for reading!
Thanks for this post, Kristin. I love the personal details about your students. They sound so much like some of mine. I’ve tried just about anything in terms of accountability, and I usually revert back to something similar as what you share here. I can quickly check in with the whole class as they read. My troubles comes in finding the time to hold longer conferences. I work on that part constantly!
Hi Amy! I completely agree that this should never take the place of the longer conferences both my students and I need to grow as readers. January, between snow days, assemblies, and benchmark testing really forced me to use this strategy more than I would like. February has been a much better balance of conferring and using status of the class. Thanks for your comment!
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I love the idea of doing it yourself! I’ve been using a (n ungraded) clipboard log for a long time to track status, but I LOVE that your students ask for progress updates. This is probably such a great way to inform quick on-the-spot conferences too. 🙂
Hi Crystal! I had tried to pass a log around the room a few times before I took over the job. I felt it took away from those short check-ins that come from peering over a student’s shoulder or even just kneeling by their desk to ask a quick question about their current book. I agree that it’s a cool thing when a student gets into the data side of things. Whatever motivates them, right?!?! Thanks for responding!
I use a google sheet to keep track of page numbers, finished and books that have been put back. This is much like your status of the class! I also keep this sheet from year to year to compare as they go through high school!
Thanks for reading! Google Sheets can be so great for organization. For me, I love the fact I can cross-reference this as I continue through the school year, bring it to parent meetings, or even during a longer conference show the student the progress I’m noticing over the course of a month or a term. It’s a work in progress but I feel I’m getting closer to something good each time I tweak or start a new school year. Thanks for your comment!