Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: How to Ensure You Have Reading Accountability Without Using Reading Logs
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How to Ensure You Have Reading Accountability Without Using Reading Logs

Hey Y'all! I know you are busy doing one of two things: relaxing to soak up your last few days of summer and thinking about all the things you need to do OR preparing to head back to school while wishing you were relaxing! Is it possible to have "reading accountability" without reading logs? I believe so, and today I'm going to show you how I did it!
Read about two changes to my independent reading routine that made all the difference last year...do you want accountability without the hassle (and often waste) of reading logs? There's a better way and you can learn all about it here!
I'd say if you like what I have to share, you can plan to implement this in NO TIME, and it will actually simplify your teacher life a little AND add something to your daily schedule that I believe you will absolutely enjoy. Actually, I probably should have called this post "The Best Change I made in the 2015-2016 School Year that Was Amazingly Effective and Soul Full-filling!" I bet you can't wait to hear about it after that introduction, so here goes!

Last year, I decided to make two changes to my reading routine that made a huge difference. The first was to make 20-30 minutes of independent reading a non-negotiable in my class schedule.  I ALWAYS want my students to read, and I always think independent reading is in my schedule as a non-negotiable, but inevitably mini-lessons and read alouds go on too long, small groups push out time for students to read on their own, or other interruptions to our schedule make it hard to give students their independent reading time.

Well, I made my commitment out loud to my students last year and I really stuck to it. We may have missed 2 days the whole year, perhaps on a half day or a crazy snow day, but never because I squeezed it out with too much planned. {If you find your independent reading time being squeezed out, I challenge you to make this promise this year! It is so worth it!}

The second change I made is the focus of today's post. I got rid of reading logs!

I had used reading logs for 10 years! (And threw most of them in the recycle bin each week when they were filled out, what a waste!) My experience with reading logs has been mostly good.

As a first year teacher, I thought a reading log was just something I had to use and from there on, I just kept rolling into the next year not really reflecting on why I was using them. I mean, I know I used them for accountability to make sure my students were reading 30 minutes a night at home, I assumed parents wanted them to help enforce the expectation that their child read each night, and my cooperating teacher had used them and rewarded students for turning them in completed, so, why not keep it going?
Read about two changes to my independent reading routine that made all the difference last year...do you want accountability without the hassle (and often waste) of reading logs? There's a better way and you can learn all about it here!
10 years later, and I was ready for a change. I realized that for the most part, all of my students read at night because I've encouraged them so much, helped them find books they love, and made reading books they choose an integral part of our school day by providing time for students to read independently and having them write reading responses for a few minutes in class at the start of each independent reading block.

I am well aware of which students are not reading at home, with or without a reading log. 

When I know that a student is not reading at night, I pull them aside and try to find out what's going on. We make a plan for how they can make reading more of a priority. If a lack of reading at home seems perpetual and I've had the "how can I help you" conversation a few times, I send an email home letting parents know it's an issue and basically begging them to help me by helping their child set aside time to read.

Let's also point out that if a child is not reading at home, a reading log probably will not MAKE them read at home. They will either write something down just to please or never turn the log in.

I was once also told by a parent of a WILD, nose in book ALL THE TIME reader that her child hated filling out her reading log. {Insert my "WOW. Wait, what?" face here.}

I was definitely perplexed by this. Why would she hate reading logs? I know she reads. What I realized was that many children read at night. They go to bed early enough that they can do their nightly reading before they fall asleep--ha! just like me! Just like a REAL READER!

And, filling out the log was just a hassle.

So, this past year, I trashed reading logs all together, but still had accountability for reading at home. How?

I used "status of the class" as our main morning routine and it was magical. My students arrive around 7:45, must be in class at 8, and we head to specials at 8:10, so we had about 15 minutes for status of the class each morning.

Using Meg Anderson's Reading Status Calendars, I created a reading records binder with a tab for each child. Behind each tab, I placed a set of calendars for the year. Each morning, I would sit at my carpet area ready with my binder, waiting for students to meet me. After students unpacked, they knew to grab their reading journals and independent book and join me at the carpet. This was a good time for them to fill in their "Books Read" list. When a majority of my class had settled in, I would start taking statuses.
Read about two changes to my independent reading routine that made all the difference last year...do you want accountability without the hassle (and often waste) of reading logs? There's a better way and you can learn all about it here!

Our Status of the Class (Reading) Reporting Structure


At the beginning of the year, I trained students to report their reading using the following sentences for their status report:

"I am reading ______ and I am on pg ____. I'm at the part where...."
Read about two changes to my independent reading routine that made all the difference last year...do you want accountability without the hassle (and often waste) of reading logs? There's a better way and you can learn all about it here!
This reporting structure allowed me to get the key information that I wanted to collect and helped to keep the statuses short and sweet. To call on students, I just flipped from calendar to calendar. As students shared their status with the class, I wrote down what book they were reading and the page they were on. If they were still reading a book, I'd draw an arrow to show it was the same title. When students finished their book, I'd write an "f" on their calendar and circle it. I wrote down an "a" to show when a student abandoned a book.

I'd always ask students if they had a plan for what they were going to read next (and actually, I would often ask this question when students were really close to finishing their book. I always want them to have a plan for what to read next--no lost reading time searching and searching for their next book). After a student reported their status, I'd ask follow up questions about theme, character's feelings, predictions the student might have, etc. I'd make notes from time to time about a students ability to retell and answer deeper questions about their reading.

Of course, after doing this each week, you get a strong sense of each students' strengths as a reader, so most of my additional notes were for students who had difficulty retelling their reading or seemed confused about the details of their book.
Read about two changes to my independent reading routine that made all the difference last year...do you want accountability without the hassle (and often waste) of reading logs? There's a better way and you can learn all about it here!
I had some students who just struggled to find the time to read at night. When I'd notice that a child had made a regular habit of skipping his/her nightly reading OR that they had trouble remembering what had happened in their story, I added their name to a sticky note and placed it at the front of my binder. It reminded me to check in with them daily to confirm that they had met their goal and to create a daily accountability system for them.

In our 10-15 minutes each morning, I could usually hear from about 1/3 of the class. On the following morning, I'd just pick up at the next student where I'd left off.

By the end of the week, all students had shared their reading at least once; by the middle of the year, we were fast enough that I tried to hear from every student twice during the week.

Now, outside of taking students' status, most students would come straight to me in the mornings and tell me they had finished the book they were reading. I'd just go to my binder and jot down that info.

Can you imagine?

Students eager to come in and tell you about their nightly reading?

Students wondering what happened in one another's books?

Students chatting already about what they read with their friends before the teacher starts calling on them?

Students finding reading partners that they could chat with because they had read the same books?

Asking others to recommend books to them because they noticed that they had a similar reading style?

Magic, just sweet, golden, glittery, LOVE OF READING magic!!!

After experiencing this routine for a year, I'd highly recommend it to every teacher teaching 2nd grade and higher. {I've never taught Kindergarten or 1st, but I believe reading logs are still important and effective in the lowest grades when you are trying to build nightly reading habits. If someone in K-2 tries status of the class, I'd love to hear about it! I bet it would work just as beautifully!}

Because this post could have been called "The Best Change I made in the 2015-2016 School Year that Was Amazingly Effective and Soul Full-filling!," it actually breaks my heart a little to think about all of the years I could have been using this strategy to my advantage and allowing my students to tell me more about their books verbally and on a regular basis.

Why did I fall so in LOVE with implementing a "status of the class" routine? 


Well, I found tremendous benefits from this routine, and it was more than just knowing what students were reading and how they were progressing through their books. My status of the class routine
  • helped me set the expectation that everyone is a reader. With the expectation and routine that students share about their reading on a regular basis, it's hard to forget that they are supposed to read at home.
  • created accountability without paperwork. Is it possible to do this? Can I get an AMEN?!?! No more having to deal with "I didn't get my reading log signed." "I lost my reading log." or "I forgot to fill it out, but I promise I read." 
  • inadvertently created a space for book recommendations and mini-book talks every single day (possibly one of my favorite outcomes!). Students helped one another find books they would enjoy.
  • created groups of students who were experts on specific books and series. Students were able to check one another's comprehension, explain confusing parts to each other, and help one another remember key information that helped them understand current happenings in their stories and to "get" the books on a deeper level. 
  • allowed students to LIVE with certain books longer because their classmates read them next. This MAGICAL reasons was actually voiced by one of my students when I asked why they enjoyed status of the class so much. Hearing someone else retell events from a book they had read and loved was an enjoyable walk down memory lane for my students. It kept the book fresh and alive in their minds even longer! 
Read about two changes to my independent reading routine that made all the difference last year...do you want accountability without the hassle (and often waste) of reading logs? There's a better way and you can learn all about it here!If you are interested in learning more about Status of the Class, I highly recommend watching Meg's video about how she takes status and uses her calendar system. It's only 5 minutes long and so worth your time! Finding her video last summer was the reason I got excited about status of the class and finally decided to implement it. Meg also still uses reading logs and has written a pretty amazing post explaining how reading logs can be used effectively to help students analyze their reading habits and set reading goals. If you are going to use reading logs, I am a firm believer in putting them to use, not just throwing them in the recycle bin like I did for so many years!

Using my Building a Reading Life Kit for Launching Reader's Workshop, I lead discussions about what an amazing reading life looks like and how we can create our best reading lives ever. Implementing a "status of the class" routine fit right in to my students' ideas of what it takes to create an amazing reading life!

If you are looking for more ways to encourage your readers this year, you can check out my entire mini-lesson for the 1st day of launching readers workshop and get my 10 day lesson plans outline and a free reader response journal page by signing up for my newsletter.


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18 comments:

  1. This is fantastic, Tammy! I also have questioned the effectiveness of reading logs due to your same reasons; they were more of a hassle! I love the idea of taking status of the class for reading; I've done it for Writer's Workshop, but not Readers' Workshop. Thanks for an inspiring post :) I need to go back & update my Teacher Studio calendars for this year, too!! Meg is amazing, too & I need to watch the video!!

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    1. Kathie, you will not regret making this change!!! It was so nice to have a morning routine that wasn't connected to worksheets, where kids who were tardy could just fit right in, and where I made it very clear that nightly reading was expected, I cared about it, and I was going to check in and keep them accountable. Not to mention, the way books were passed around and new series were found by students. It was worth the 10-15 minutes a day for sure! Thanks for stopping by :)

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  2. I have to say that your blog is a new favorite of mine - so many great ideas! I've always used reading logs because I wanted that accountability, and everyone else was using them. But I am intrigued by this idea, and going to think about ditching my reading logs.

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    1. Carrie, I promise you won't regret it! Let me know if you have any questions about what I did. At first, I was a little scared that parents might think their child doesn't have to read, but the kids know and I included an expectation for reading Mon-Thurs and at least once on the weekend for 30 minutes or more when I explained homework. On the flip side, my daughter will be in third grade this year and she has a terrible habit of getting excited about a book and then seeing another "shiny object" and not finishing them. I'm kind of hoping her teacher uses reading logs so that she can get the message that she needs to read one book until it's finished. I think it is all in what you are trying to accomplish, where your kiddos are developmentally, and how you are going to keep them accountable. I'd be scared to drop reading logs with no other real accountability system in place. Status of the class was perfect!

      And thank you so much for taking the time to comment :) I feel like I'm writing for you these days! It is very motivating to get some feedback! I hope you are getting ready for a great year!

      Tammy

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  3. I switched to a status of the class (I call it "What I'm Reading") a few years ago. I sort of stumbled upon doing it--I started a google doc table with 3 columns, for name, book title, and page they are on. I pull it up and very quickly type in each kid's current reading. They get to see their list grow as the year goes on and if I forget to do it one day they will request that I do a checkin!

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    1. That is such a cool idea! I love how students are able to visually see their reading progress and completion with this method. My readers would love to see your google doc layout if you don't mind sharing! You can email me at tarheelstateteacher@gmail.com

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  4. I would love to see how you formatted the Google doc! I teach second grade and would love to implement this. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. I would love to see how you formatted the Google doc! I teach second grade and would love to implement this. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Quick question, the kids state the status aloud? If so, how do you keep from books being "spoiled"? I teach middle school and this is always a big issue with them, once they know what a book is about they either never think of reading it or abandon it. Thanks so much, I love this idea and I am most likely implementing it this month. I got a Literature Table Topics from my co-worker and I am thinking of using those questions so that my kids can't "cheat"!

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    1. Hi! I'm so excited that you want to try this with middle schoolers! I'd love if my 4th graders experienced this throughout their reading classes because it truly kept the love of reading going and helped them find new books to enjoy.

      You could definitely have students keep the ending to themselves or if it's a very exciting part they can tell that something really big happened but not give specifics. You could also see how it goes for a few days/weeks and then set some agreed upon rules to target this issue.

      Doing this is not necessarily to completely check for a students' understanding or to get a total retell of the story. It's short and sweet but creates tons of accountability as students know they will be called on to give an update. You can have a deeper conversation with them about the ending in a conference and/or have them write about it in reading responses if that is part of your routines.

      I've found that the peer pressure actually works in the other direction--they want to read a book because their peers talked about it for days and they were just waiting to get their hands on it. You might even pose a "why would you suggest others read this book" question and they could talk about it without giving too much away.

      I hope this goes really well for you! I'd love for you to come back and let me know!

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  7. I tried this and I love it! The best part is my students loved it. It gave me a much better picture of my students as readers than a reading log!

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    1. Ms. Edwards, thank you so much for coming back to leave this comment!!!! WHOOOO HOOOO! I had the same experience! It was so awesome and created so much accountability! Glad it worked for your class :)

      Tammy

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  8. When you are doing this, are the kids sitting at their desks or at the carpet? What are the other kids doing while you speak to one child? If they are supposed to be listening, how do you get them to do that instead of just talk? I want to do this in the fall. I'll be teaching second grade.

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    1. Hi Stacey,

      I hold my status of reading either first thing in the morning or at the start of reader's workshop. (If you can do it first thing, I like that better because it doesn't take away from RW time). Using the share structure ("I am reading ______ and I am on pg ____. I'm at the part where....") helps it go quickly. Honestly, I cut kids off when they start going on and on because other kids do get bored and they may be taking up too much of my limited time to get more statuses.

      My students unpack, turn in homework, grab their independent reading books and meet at the carpet. During this time (waiting for others) they are supposed to be reading. Most of the time, I can start taking statuses before everyone is in the classroom/settled at the carpet. Everyone knows what I'm doing so they know to be quiet.

      I do expect students to listen to one another. The purpose of status of the class is not just for ME to get a report. It is also to share the love of reading and a love of books with one another. A motivating thing you can do is ask students "Who would like to read that book next?" after someone shares their status. This will help get them attuned to the fact that you want them listening and finding new books to read. You can even ask the student to pass the book on to whoever wants it next (you can strategically pick someone who is a good fit for the book).

      This approach is different from 1-1 conferences (which I also do). It is mainly to create accountability for reading (expectation that everyone reads at home each day) and to get new ideas for books to read. It also helps me know who to meet with for a 1-1 conference that day because I can tell who is struggling with comprehension.

      I hope this helps! I'd be happy to answer more questions!

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  9. Hello, I'm intrigued by your ideas. What do you do with a student who never reads? They come everyday, or most everyday, having read nothing (or try to fake it), and there is no parental support. Do you have any consequences imbedded in your approach? Thanks!

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    1. Hi Garb,

      I obviously cannot force a student to read at home, but I guess consequences would not be my first level of intervention...A student who does not read becomes on of the students I call on every day. I will probably have already let them know that I am going to be checking on them every day through a one on one conference. I reiterate why it is important for them to be reading at home and at school.

      I would also make sure they have books they are interested in and let them know that they can abandon a book if they do not like it. I would still email parents even if I get little support just to document that the child was not following expectations/not doing their homework. If the parent says they will support me and try harder at home, I let them know of the very next time the child does not read to keep an open dialogue.

      Next, I would ask the child why they are having trouble reading at home. Perhaps it is an environment thing, perhaps they are too busy, or perhaps they play video games first and then run out of time (joking, but not really!). I help them identify the time in their schedule that could be used for reading.

      Then, I help the child SET GOALS for their reading. Perhaps to read one chapter (look at the number of pages together) or 10 pages--something that I know they can be successful with if they make it a priority. I like to use sticky notes with "GOAL" and the day written on it so the students has a visual reminder of what they have committed to.

      Then, if I still felt somewhat powerless, I would turn my attention to ensuring that they ARE reading with a sense of urgency, huge time on task, and always focused during independent reading in my classroom (you know, control the part that I do have more oversight over?). And, while I don't LOVE to give silent lunch, if it becomes a ridiculous habit and I cannot seem to break the child--no matter what plan we make and discuss in class--I may give silent lunch as a consequence for not doing homework.

      Other ideas that may inspire them, support them, is to get a friend to read the same book--this is motivating, get another teacher (PE? Assistant Principal) to do a mini-book club with the child, etc. A child who refused to read probably needs many people in their lives who are lovers of books who try to encourage them!

      I hope these ideas help and I feel a whole new blog post coming on!!!

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  10. I am new to your blog and you are full of amazing and inspiring ideas! I LOVE this idea. Two questions....
    1) Do you ever run into a problem with "spoilers," i.e. students giving away the ending to a book thereby discouraging other students from reading it?
    2) Do you ask every student a follow up question during the status of the class? Or do you do this later, during our reading conferences?
    Thanks! Kristin

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    1. Hi Kristin! I'm so glad this idea is helpful for your reader's workshop.

      My students rarely were concerned about spoilers for a book they wanted to read. If they didn’t want to hear about it, other students just told the "reporting" student not to tell about that part. (Students also don’t share the end or how the story resolves itself in their status reports). I think kiddos have pretty good judgement about what parts should not be shared in detail and I think the prior knowledge about a book just makes it easier for other students to comprehend the story and get into it, so what they know about a book they want to read mostly creates a win-win.
      2) I sooooooo do follow up questions during status of the class, but not as a regular routine. If I have a student who needs to go a little deeper, I might ask "How do you see the character changing?" or if they appear to be describing a common theme, I may ask them or tell them "What theme seems to be the strongest based on what you've read?" In this case, I do sometimes make the status report feel "conversational," but they mostly stick to the sentence stems and any comprehension issues that I need to delve into deeply do happen during a reading conference. For the most part, a status report is supposed to be quick so that I can get to 5-7 students in one sitting.

      :) Hope that helps!
      Tammy

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