A Few Disruptions
My Sunday routine has been a bit disrupted today. Where I normally spend my Sunday morning in a chair by the woodstove in our porch chipping away at the weekly blog, this morning I was instead enjoying coffee and danishes with my sisters at my kitchen counter (great disruption, I must say!). This visit was made possible because my sister, Katie, made a surprise trip home to enjoy some visiting time with aunts who are here from Montana.
Shortly after Katie left for her return trip home to Terre Haute, IN, she experienced car troubles and had to come back so that “Master Mechanic Bill Kruse” could fix things, i.e. snow removal from the tire rims and underneath the car. Thank goodness she was not too far down the road… and thank goodness for Bill’s skill set and kind heart!
This morning’s disruptions continued as we learned that my brother, Ross, fell ill and would not be able to take a highly anticipated trip to Las Vegas tomorrow with our oldest son, Elton. They were off to the World of Concrete Show, a generous gift from Elton’s friend and mentor, Clint. Fortunately, Bill’s schedule is flexible, and he is able to go in Ross’s place. After setting things straight with the airline (name change on the ticket with an added fee, of course!), Bill and Elton will head to Vegas tomorrow. I’m both jealous and happy for them! Oh, and I do hope Ross gets better soon. 🙂
What does all of this have to do with reading logs? Not a darn thing… other than I knew that Reading Logs was going to be the topic of today’s blogpost that I am late getting to. So let’s get to it…
Earlier this week I received an email asking for my thoughts around reading logs. Specifically, a teacher was wanting to send reading logs home because she thinks it would be a good way for her students to work on fluency. The question sparked quite a trip down memory lane as I reflected on my own journey with the use of reading logs in my classroom. Over my 23+ years in the classroom, I used reading logs in a variety of ways:
- as homework, where a minimum of 20 minutes of reading each night were “required”: parent signature to verify the 20 minutes was met. I then used this as a weekly assignment that contributed to students’ overall reading grade). Yikes – oh the shame I feel even admitting that I participated in this practice!
- as a suggested form to fill out at home, with the above parameters, but not used as a part of the grade. Stickers were given for “signed” reading logs: who knows if the signatures were authentic, and even more important – who knows if the students actually read for the suggested 20 minutes? While I’m confessing – I just might be guilty of signing my own children’s reading logs, even when the assigned at-home reading hadn’t actually been done. Those school nights could be soooooo busy.
- at one point, I eliminated reading logs, altogether
- as a source of record-keeping for reading done in-class (at-home reading could be included, if students chose to do so). These logs allowed me to see, at a quick glance, the types of books students were reading, how frequently they were abandoning books, what their opinions of books were (they gave a star rating when a book was complete), and were a conversation starter when I conferenced with students about their reading
If I were back in the classroom today, I’m not certain I would use reading logs. If I did, they would be used in the manner I last described: no penalties, no rewards – just a matter of record-keeping, pride for the students as the reflected on their reading progress, and a conversation starter.
Rather than telling the teacher what I had done in the past, I instead sent a list of questions for her to reflect on. I hope that my questions were designed to support her in reflecting on the practice, and that they were neither “leading” questions nor shaming questions.
Questions to Consider Around the Use of Reading Logs
- What purpose will they serve?
- Will they be used during school hours or outside of school hours?
- What measures will be in place for accountability?
- If “rewards” or “punishments” are given for maintaining logs outside of school, what does that look like for students who do not have adequate home support?
- What level of control do we, as educators, have over those activities that take place outside of the school day?
- Can supplementary materials (fluency passages, word lists that match the skill of the week, decodables, etc.) still be sent home for support without accountability measures being in place?
- Can accountability for fluency, independent reading, word work, etc. be measured at school, where the “playing field” is level?
- What practices can we adopt that encourage kids to read on their own… even if we don’t require it? (from reading “guru”, Timothy Shanahan)
Supporting the Love of Reading
Speaking to that last question, I think that point, more than any other, is the one to focus on. While we are teaching kids how to read with a structured literacy approach backed by the Science of Reading, what are we doing to support their love of reading? What practices are in place to promote reading just for the sake of reading?
Unfortunately, my last few years in the classroom were centered almost entirely on building students’ love of reading. I had the art of teaching that love of reading mastered; I was nowhere close to having the science of teaching how to read mastered. Both are important. I now realize that my efforts to promote the love of reading fell flat on the large number of students who were not proficient readers: it’s tough to love reading if you do not know how to read. Our challenge, a worthy and a steep one, is to accomplish both: teaching kids how to read (the science of teaching) while supporting kids in building their love of reading (the art of teaching.)