So far, this school year has been pretty great. I have the most supportive administration, teachers I truly enjoy working with and being around (we eat lunch together on a daily basis, something that has never happened at any of my previous schools), and awesome students.
As always, I have challenged my students to read 30 books this year. I have guidelines for this with expectations that they read widely and within a variety of genres. We talk about books. We use Seesaw to create visual video “book talks”. We share ideas, examine characters, make connections, and most of all, we become a community of readers.
Every year I have parents ask me how I’m keeping my students accountable for their reading, especially in relation to the 30 book challenge. Am I having them:
- Do Reading Logs?
- Have parents sign off on nightly reading?
- Track pages read each night?
- Do book reports?
- Book projects?
How can I know they’re reading if I’m not holding them accountable for tracking their time?
These are all valid questions, especially coming from parents who come from a school experience seeped in these practices.
- Reading Logs? No
- Parents signing off on reading? No
- Tracking pages read? No
- Book reports? No
- Book projects? Sometimes
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to constantly reiterate that I don’t want reading to be a chore for my students. I want them to develop an intrinsic love of reading. Add in reading logs…and parent monitoring…and page tracking and suddenly a chore is exactly what reading becomes. The love and magic is sucked right out of it.
So how DO I know that kids are reading and that they’re actually taking in elements of their books?
During the first week of school, I took students through setting up a Reader’s Notebook. We have a Personal Tracking Section, in which they simply keep track of the books they’re reading toward their 30 book challenge, with dates and page totals. There’s a section for mini lessons that I use to target reading strategies. And there’s a section for Personal Responses.
After the students have a chance to dig into their books, we take time to do reading responses. They can write what they like, or they can use the prompt (or suggestion) I put up on the screen. I give them suggestions like:
- Write a letter from one character to another.
- Make a personal connection to something that has happened in your book.
- Who is your favorite character in your book? Tell me why.
- Write about something that’s happened in your book and what was the result or the fallout.
- Make a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting two characters from your book.
- Write a poem about something in your book.
- Draw a picture of one of the settings in your book.
- Write metaphors or similes about characters or things that happen in your book.
The possibilities are endless. What I love about this is the thought that the kids put into their literary responses. They’re thinking about their books. They’re thinking about the characters, the setting, the conflict. They’re thinking, period.
Sometimes I just have to trust that my students are doing what they say they’re doing. Sometimes I teach things that aren’t actually tested. Sometimes what happens in the classroom is all about developing higher level thinking as a process. And sometimes it all comes down to reading a book.