You guys, I taught my daughter how to lie. I’m not proud of it, but I did. Not intentionally, Judgey McJudgerson! If it weren’t for those DANG reading logs, we would have gone our whole lives without one lie. (Ok, we lied about practicing the blasted violin too, but seriously, THAT’S ALL!) The lesson on lying came every Monday morning when I was presented with the reading log that needed my signature, and I really had no idea how much my daughter had read at home, but we sure told Mrs. Carter that she got in her 120 minutes a week! (Don’t hate me, Mrs. Carter.)
One night on the patio with some girlfriends, I learned this was a very common practice. As a mom, I was like, “Yeah! Bad moms unite!!” As a Language Arts teacher, I was like, “Wait, what!?” It hit me that reading logs were, well, useless (and a nuisance for parents)!! I had struggled with this as a teacher for much of the first ten years of my teaching career, assigning them off and on to my middle school students. I permanently QUIT the reading logs when I became a parent of a reading log child.
The question remains though, what do you do for independent reading accountability then? If we can’t get a parent signature (or even a parent’s honesty) how do we know that the student is reading at home? I have found that it takes a little bit of structure and some student choice, and you’ve got some accountability!
Let me explain…I have structured independent reading in my classroom. Students choose a novel based around the chosen genre or theme for the month. Perhaps October, in honor of Halloween, students read mysteries. In February, in honor of Black History Month, students read novels with African American protagonists or by African American authors. The possibilities are truly endless.
I structure accountability once halfway through the novel (to ensue they are on track to finish the novel) and once at the end. At the halfway point, I assign reader’s response questions (the same ones each month so they can be thinking about them as they read) or a literary element practice (like, tone and mood in your own novel).
At the end, I give two options for completing the novel accountability. I let them choose from a long list of project ideas or write a book review. I am not usually a fan of the movie poster, act out a scene, make a book talk type of project EXCEPT when they are used for accountability. (See my post on Passion Projects here.) This provides the students the ability to show they read the book in a fun and interesting way.
There is no fail-proof way to ensure students read what we assign in class, (especially for independent reading), but this way comes pretty close to being fail-proof! It’s certainly far more effective than reading logs! I’d love to share my list of Reading Accountability Projects with you! Click here for my full list I share with my students!