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Students Take Charge of their Reading Lives

July 19, 2010

Several months ago, my colleagues and I were discussing the issue of reading log dishonesty. Kids all over our school (and probably all over the city) are lying on reading logs. Why?

Some of my students have powerful and healthy reading lives, and claim to read 30 pages in 30 minutes every single day. Some students haven’t finished more than 2 books all year and claim to read 30 pages in 30 minutes every single day. The rest of them lose their logs each week and fall through the cracks because I have NO data on their reading. This is trouble. Not only do I not have accurate data, but students are missing the whole point of the log.

During our discussion a beloved staff developer presented an idea: Tell the kids they are no longer graded on reading logs. If they read 0 pages, they won’t get it trouble. No matter what they do or don’t do, nothing will happen. She suggested that we stop grading them.

I HATE grading. It seemed perfect for me. I tried it immediately. I told my students they were no longer graded on HW reading or logging in, but my role as their teacher was simply to help them figure out ways to make reading happen more in their lives. And I needed them to help me by filling me in on their reading lives each day.

In addition to this, I decided to let them create their own logs. They were now in charge of deciding when to log, what to log, and how often. The results blew me away.

Fraction of the class who turned in their original, completed log (The “old” log)

Feb Week 1-17/32

Feb Week 2-21/32

Feb Week 3-8/32 (not a happy week)

20% of Students Meeting Standards on At Home Reading (volume)

Fraction of the class who turned in their original, completed log

March Week 1- 32/32 (First week of students using their homemade logs)

March Week 2- 31/32

March Week 3- 29/32

March Week 4-30/32

70% of Students Meeting Standards on At Home Reading (volume)

*As promised, they didn’t receive an official grade for this.

After the first week of using their own logs, I couldn’t believe what I found. My biggest shock was that  NO ONE lost his log. Not a single student. And no one lied. To top it off, they were reading more.

No more pressure + Ownership = A changed class.

For the first several weeks, we’d come together on Mondays to talk about what was working with the logs and how we might make them more informative. We’d revise them and create new ones for the upcoming week. We were able to talk about the importance of detail, numbers, and dates. Even reading levels of books. Some students created separate home logs vs. school logs. Some students decided to make a daily goal and added space for reflection. Others kept it simple, with only dates, titles, and “Did I read today?” It was a powerful experience for all of us. I would definitely suggest it to anyone else who has experienced the fake log crisis. Things still aren’t perfect, but there has been great amounts of growth.

Below are samples of their work. 

A few more logs to enjoy…

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