Tag Archives: reading logs

Mini-Lesson Monday: Self-Monitoring Reading Homework

It’s the fourth week of school, and some students are starting to panic as their weekly reading homework grades are showing up in our online gradebook.  When they come to me, concerned, I ask, “Have you been doing your reading homework?”

Sheepish grins, embarrassed blushes, and nervous giggles follow.  I know I need to give my students some tangible reminder of why they need to be reading two hours per week.

Objectives — Using the language of the Depth of Knowledge Levels:  Calculate how much you can read in two hours; Estimate how your reading rate will change over a two-hour time period; Assess your own reading fluency and growth.  Or, from the Common Core: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

IMG_9336

Shailyn, Justin, and Mrs. Karnes’ paint strip bookmarks

Lesson — We begin class, as always, with independent reading.  I ask students to pay attention to what page they’re starting on and start a timer for 15 minutes on the board.

At the end of the 15-minute reading period, I ask students to count the number of pages read and multiply that number by eight to calculate their reading rate.  They complete their calculations and jot down their reading rates as I pass out paint strips and Sharpies.

“Today I want to remind one another about the importance of frequent reading.  We can’t become better readers without lots of practice reading, which is why your weekly homework is to read for two hours.  So, we’re going to make some bookmarks reminding us why we read, and also reminding us how much we should be reading.”

I ask students to take out their phones and look up a quote about reading.  Once we all choose quotes, I model on the document camera, writing my chosen quote on my own paint strip.  Students grab some Sharpies and a paint strip in their favorite color and doodle their quotes on their paint strip bookmarks.

IMG_9335

Students modify their reading rates in the Reading Rate column

“Once you’ve gotten your quote down, add your reading rate to your paint strip, nice and small.  You’ll want to change your reading rate whenever you switch books, and you’ll also want to note your new reading rates on the log sheet as it goes around each day.”

Then, I ask students to think about what might happen to their reading rates over time.  Jared predicts, “I think if I sit down for a solid two hours and read, I might read more than my reading rate.  When I really get going I can read pretty fast.”  Shailyn predicts, “My reading rate will increase…majorly!”

“What about if you read a harder book?” I ask.

“Um, I think I’d probably start out slow at the beginning, but as I get into the book, I’ll read it faster,” Shailyn adds.

“Awesome,” I say.  “We’ll have to see what happens.  So, as you use your bookmarks in the coming weeks, keep an eye on how your reading rate changes week to week, and how quickly or slowly you read your required number of pages.  I’ll check in with you in reading conferences soon.”

Follow-Up — Now that students have a tangible reminder of their reading homework to use as a bookmark, they can hold themselves more accountable.  The quotes give them a rationale for reading, and the written reading rates give them a reminder of their reading goals.  By self-monitoring both, students can assess their own reading progress far better than I can, and we’ll confer about that self-assessment during class for weeks to come.

Four Ways to Formatively Assess in Workshop

dtrfyguhujSometimes I wake up in the morning, thinking about what I’ll be teaching and learning that day, and feel like a rebel.  That’s right–I think to myself, feeling inexplicably cool–I teach workshop. Yeahhhhh.  Even though this is the most research-based, data-driven form of instruction I’ve encountered in my teaching career, a successful workshop is still such a rarity that I feel like I’m breaking all the rules by employing it every day.  I’m a rebel with a cause.

Still, when I stop feeling like James Dean and reality bites me in the butt, I know I need to be practical and follow the rules by putting some grades in the gradebook–once per week is the suggestion at our school.  If I had it my way, I’d go gradeless and celebrate the myriad acts of literacy within the confines of a classroom.  That’s not possible right now.  I needed another solution, and I think I found it in Amy, right here on this blog.  She writes powerfully about formative assessments in this post.  Her thinking mirrors mine:

I know when I am learning a new skill, I want to be able to practice–free from judgment–so that I might build some confidence before I am formally evaluated.  The same is true for kids.  We should give them opportunities to practice and build confidence.

One grade per week, when I’m grading to evaluate, is impossible.  We don’t master a different skill every single week.  Mastery requires practice.  So, I’ve focused lately on formative assessment for eight out of the nine-week grading periods, and summative for just one.  Here are the four categories I see formative assessment broken down into, and how I put them in the gradebook.

IMG_5605

Un-gradeable, amazing writing

1. Writer’s notebooks – I collect writer’s notebooks every two weeks, and students can receive up to 20 points per collection.  If all of our prompts and exercises are present, and I can see the student’s effort, he or she gets the full 20/20.  I also ask students to mark for me anything they’d like feedback on.  I check to see the status of their to-read, wondrous words (vocab), and cool craft (quotes) sections, but I also look for a telltale pink sticky note.  If I see one, I read the marked piece and write back–just feedback.

2.  Reading logs – Our reading logs are quite messy; you can see one example here.  There are arrows everywhere, new reading rates scribbled in, and tons of titles being read every week.  When students complete their reading goal of two hours per week–determined by individual reading rates–they get 10 points, every week.  Reading logs show me the big picture of a class’s progress, while conferences help me go deeper.  The reading log lets me know, at a glance, who’s soaring and who’s not–helping to give my conferences direction.

IMG_6904

Word play

3.  Vocabulary – I still remember my orange Sadlier-Oxford vocab books from high school.  Those well-worn paperbacks were the source of many a cramped hand and a frantic fifteen minutes of homeroom before English class.  I know from personal experience that I don’t retain new words by completing fill-in-the-blank exercises–I learn by reading widely.  So, I ask my students to maintain a “wondrous words” section in their notebooks, writing down unfamiliar or unknown words as they read.  Then, I give them a different activity to complete with those words every two weeks.  The activities are worth 10 points each, and run the gamut from writing stories using the words to drawing pictures illustrating their meanings.

4. Honest self-assessments – When we finish a unit of any kind, usually about once a month–a writing unit, a reading unit, a book club, a challenge–I pass out a half-sheet with self-assessment questions on it.  I begin each half-sheet with a disclaimer:  “Be honest.  There’s no judgment here.  I just want to know why you were as successful as you were with this unit, and to know how I can help others be successful in the future.”  Students answer very truthfully, sometimes humorously so.  If their answers are thorough, they receive 15 points.

These four formative assessments total about 115 points per month.  With 9-week grading periods, students’ grades therefore are made up of about 2/3 formative assessments (230 points or so) and 1/3 summative assessments (100 points or so).  Well over half of the formative assessments are credit for the simple acts of doing the assigned reading and writing–no evaluation of those acts, just credit for the effort.  I value practice and process over product–and this grading system reflects that.

How do you handle grading, formative assessment, evaluation, etc.? Please share in the comments!

%d bloggers like this: