Not a reading log to be seen in our grade 4 classroom

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‘Books have knowledge, knowledge is power, power corrupts, corruption is a crime’ photo credit: » Zitona « via photopin cc

Over the summer before I started teaching I began to think about what kind of climate I wanted to create in my new classroom. My instinct told me I didn’t want to do reading logs or book review sheets. I instead wanted to do as every teacher aims to do: create an atmosphere that inspires and nourishes children’s passion for reading. As I thought it over I decided the best approach would be to ask my students what they thought because every group is different some love doing those types of activities and others detest it.

Once the school year started and we began creating the classroom we wanted. I asked my bright-eyed bushy-tailed grade 4 students if they wanted to do reading logs this year. To say the response was strong is an understatement. My students almost visibly cringed when I asked them what they thought about reading logs.

Here are some of the responses:

  • The time you spend filling out a reading log takes away from actually reading. – Valid point.
  • Book review sheets feel like busy work. Who ever gets to see them? – Valid point. Without an authentic audience they feel like they are just being done in a vacuum.
  • I always forget to fill out what I’ve read and then feel like I get in trouble for it. – Makes sense.
  • We read all kinds of things like on the computer or in video games that aren’t counted in a reading log.
  • It wastes paper.

Here are some of the reasons I as a teacher chose not to do reading logs or book reviews

  • I want reading to bring joy and pleasure to the lives of my students. I don’t want it to be done for the extrinsic motivation of pleasing the teacher or receiving a pizza coupon.
  • Many of my students are still emerging readers. Grade 4 is a critical stage in their reading development. If they don’t make gains this year it will keep getting more and more difficult to make up the gaps as they move up through the years. Tying a task such as reading to an extrinsic motivator takes away from the simple pleasure of reading for pleasure and growing in competency.
  • When I was a student my reading logs were routinely done 5mins before we got to school. I am sure it annoyed my parents to no end. What does a reading log really tell me? Simply that a parent signed a piece of paper not that Student A really read 40 pages and Student B really read 15 pages.
  • I prefer having conversations about great books. Students are encouraged to share great reads with their peers and if they feel passionate about a book they can write a review for it on their blogs.
  • Do I really want to spend my time checking through reading logs?? Would a discussion not be a better way to gauge what my students are reading?

medium_4923742116 ‘Life’s simple and priceless pleasures.’ photo credit: NYC.andre via photopin cc

So how has it turned out?

As a class we agreed that we would not do reading logs or weekly/monthly book reviews but rather would make time for reading each and everyday. Students are encouraged to read and recommend great books to the class. We read for 30mins everyday (part of our Daily 5 routine). If we miss that time I hear complaints and grumbles. I purchased 2 boxes of books over the summer  from garage sales and once or twice a month I pull 2 or 3 books and intro them to the students to read. I have made a monthly budget to buy beautiful books and to share them with the class. I find these books are well-loved and read over and over again by my students. I have also made a point of reading great novels to the class: The One and Only Ivan, The Tale of Desperaux and Silverwing. These great novels have helped us deepen our conversations around reading and books.

My students understand that there is an expectation that they each read every night. Once they started to see the gains they were making many have made a point to read at home. I will be honest and say that there are a few that I suspect are not reading every night as much as they should but those are the same students whom would likely struggle filling out the reading logs. (Maybe not who knows though).

One of the most surprising developments has been during our participation “I love to read month”. Part of our responsibility in reaching our school reading goal is to record how much we have read in our classroom. Although every student reads everyday I have found they haven’t embraced recording how much they’ve read. I suspect it has more to do with our group culture and the focus on intrinsic motivation that it is hard for them get motivated to tally up the pages they’ve read. One student pointed out that they read lots on the computer and in video games. He questioned how that would be recorded in the reading tally we were keeping.

Does this mean we won’t be doing book reviews this year? Certainly not. As I am writing up this post I remember a teacher from Twitter mentioning that they had their students write book reviews for Amazon. Another thing I would like to try out would be to have students create book trailers for their favourite books. It takes skill to create an enticing book trailer without giving way the whole story.

I am also hoping to jump into the world of Literature Circles with my class. I ran literature circles last year during my practicum block but found the structure was too rigid – the one with all the jobs and duties. This year  I am looking to move closer towards a more book club like structure based off of the book: Grand Conversations, Thoughts Responses: A Unique Approach to Literature Circles. More student choice and student voice.

I won’t claim what we do is perfect but it fits for our class this year. It may change with my group next school year but until then I think we will stick with no reading logs.

How do feel about reading logs? Do you make time everyday for reading in you classroom?

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