Saturday, August 3, 2013

At-home Reading

Carly and I decided to start the year on a reading note right from the very first day this year.  Usually I spend some time introducing myself and the curriculum, talking about the at-home reading log we give, giving a parent assignment (In a Million Words or Less...I'll share it here soon.) Then we introduce the bio-poem and they get to work.

Not anymore!

We decided mid-last year to nix the bio-poem.  It's an assignment that I've given since my second year or so, and I always used it as a gauge to see which kids turned in homework, which could get a "very best work" assignment turned in without wrinkles or rips, as well as to learn a little about the kids.  It's not a bad assignment, per se, but we've decided to ditch it and pass it on to the homeroom teachers who can use it with homeroom kids during the first two weeks if they'd like.

We decided that this year we will start in with a stronger emphasis on reading than just giving the reading logs, so in addition to still explaining them, we are giving a reading interest inventory (nothing new, I know...) and then exploring reading resourceswith the kids.  Don't worry about the parents; they'll still get the Million Words or Less assignment!

Let me start here with our at-home reading logs. After several years of assigning book reports (including cereal box book reports which were cool even if some students forgot to take the cereal out! Oh, and the one kid who wrapped a heavy library dictionary because he forgot to do the assignment at home...) I decided to align with the then-8th grade teachers and use an at-home reading log. They have kids chart per trimester, but as a procrastinator myself, I wanted time segments that would be more manageable for 7th graders but not as paperiferous as the weekly logs my step-daughter got when she was in grade school. 

I decided to do all the math and figure out what the weekly goals from the 8th grade numbers (both page requirements and minute requirements) and just pair it down a little.  Here is what the logs for this year look like for September. We chart and collect by month.

This is the front side--a calendar with reminders.

This is the back side--the grading guide, parent signature line, & a few of the guidelines.

Somehow, I decided to be a little over-ambitious and make these for the whole year up front.  I don't know why we hadn't ever made them for the whole year before; it seems like a no-brainer now!  Anyway, I am really happy that they are ready to go, ready to copy for the whole year, ready to add to the web (to our Moodle pages) so parents and students can easily access them if they lose them, etc.

So what are our guidelines?
  • All reading logged must be done outside of the school day, which means before 8am and after 3pm.
  • Students need to read at grade level (or at their level if they are under) or Junie B. Jones or Magic Tree House.  
  • We don't let them log comics, even though comics are awesome. If they have something they think has enough continuous text, they can always ask if it will work. Also, if they are baby sitting and get roped into reading lots of children's books, the can ask to have it credited for some pages.  
  • Students can earn up to five points a week for their reading. They can choose to log by minutes or by pages. Most choose pages, as it is quicker for most of them. They can switch back and forth on a week-by-week basis to see which method they like best.
  • Students need to read at least once a week to get credit and aim for the minimum requirements.  We know they are busy, and it is up to them and their parents to decide when, etc.  
  • We have students log as many pages as they read, not just stopping once they hit the minimum.  Of course some kids will have 60 pages, no more, not even if they stopped in the middle of a sentence right in the middle of the climax....that's ok. Many of our students read more than 60, some even reading over 1000 pages a month. Some years when I am feeling nice/organized, I record who reads a ton (usually over 1000 pages a month) and randomly draw for a small Target or BN gift card. I haven't done that in a while though. I mean, I'm still nice, but I've been in Mommy-fog mode for the past five years!
  • We do raise the bar every three months with a bit higher requirements. It's not much though. Sept/Oct/Nov it is 60+ pages a week for an A. Dec/Jan/Feb it moves to 70, and Mar/Ap/May it is 80. Minute requirements move up, too, of course.
  • What else??They HAVE to have a parent signature to get a score.  If the parent signature is late, the log is late. Before I get into those issues, let me say that parents can email, write a note, etc. Not a problem.
  • When are they due? I used to always have them due the Tuesday of the week following the end of the month's log.  There was a higher success rate when I could remind them, and that was ok with me! Carly decided to accept them the entire week they are due, and I'm now following suit.  
  • Late logs? In the past, I'd take a point off a day for a late log until it hit the half credit point. Then they were just half credit. Now, they are full credit all that week they are due. If they are turned in after that, they are half credit.  The assignment will be expired at the end of the month they are due.  If a student has an IEP, they always can earn full credit and can always turn them in.
  • This year I want to do a better job of communicating with parents of kids who never turn in their at-home reading.  With the first log (September) we attach a sheet with examples of "great" and "not so great" filled in logs, and a hand written (then photo-copied) letter to parents.  There is a parent signature line so we can ensure they get home and the parents are aware of the requirement.  While I'm mentioning parent signatures, I should say two things. 1) Yes, a few kids will try to forge. I'm sure you've been there! I usually address it, especially if I've seen the signature for several months and recognize it. Erased and re-written cursive capital letters are always a dead give away! Yes, I've made the mistake of inquiring when it really was parent bad-penmanship. No one has been too bent out of shape. 2) One of my old colleagues who teaches another grade now always maintained that kids don't read outside of class and parents just sign regardless.  My take--many of our kids DO read outside of class. Sure some don't, but they usually don't turn them in, and that's why I want to make a better effort at communicating with those parents this year. Secondly, if a parent "just signs regardless..." well, that's in their court. I choose to believe that most are honest.
  • Anything else??  We run these September through May.  I took out a week at winter vacation and spring break this year...I'm sure the kids won't mind! 
  • If you have any questions on how these run, feel free to comment/ask.

So do you use at-home reading logs with your students?  Any tips, add-ons, etc?

We would like to add in some sort of reflection/literary accountability, but we haven't done that yet.

That first day this year, we want to share, maybe by hard copy but hopefully by computer, reading resources for our kids. I put this list together this morning.

Awesome lists for all to check out!
Good Reads Popular Middle School Books
Good Reads Young Adult Book Lists (awesome!)
International Reading Assoc. Young Adults Choices Reading List
American Library Assoc. Best Fiction for Young Adults 2013
Young Adult Books Central
National Public Radio's 100 Best Ever Teen Novels
National Public Radio's Young Adult Book List
If you like...then's why!

A great reading listTeen Reads

 Awesome lists for the guys!
Guys Read

Good Reads Best Books for Teen Boys
Wall of Books: 140+ books for the boys of YA
8 YA authors recommend books for boys
Reading Rants: Boy Meets Book

 Awesome lists for the ladies!
Good Reads: Best Teen Girl Books
BN: Girls & Young Women Teen Fiction
New York Times: What's a Girl to Read?
Good Reads: Teen Girl Book Club
YA Mother/Daughter Reading Recommendations

 Lit videos!
Book trailers
from Epic Reads
Scholastic video book talks
Scholastic author videos

 Mrs. Shaffner's You Tube book playlists
  Historical Gothic
Publishers' You Tube channels
   Penguin Young Readers Group
   Harper Teen
   Simon and Schuster

You can also find the list on my Moodle page under Reading > Reading Resources for Teens. Log in as a guest.  They updated the interface this summer, and I haven't shaped mine up it may be a little weedy right now!

Any other great links you'd suggest? 

Well, that's it right now for at-home reading and on-line recommendations. I hope it helps!

Happy teaching,


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing so many great resources. It is always interesting to read how other teachers assign reading logs. I'm not doing one this year mainly for the fact that I started to see that students weren't reading and parents were still signing. I wish there was a better way to prevent this. I will be giving my students 20 minutes of independent reading time in class where I can see that they are all reading and then without grading it, assigning them to read 20 more minutes each night.

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