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!

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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?

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.

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Our Status of the Class (Reading) Report Out 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...."

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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.

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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!

 
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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" reading routine fit right in to my students' ideas of what it takes to create an amazing reading life!

SHOP THE RESOURCES:

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!