Slice of Life is a weekly event hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Part of my job is spent working with students who are working on their reading skills. Some students are striving readers. They are working on finding a reading identity. They are learning how to create reading habits. They are not yet reading in the wild readers. They might not be by the end of the school year, but they will be farther along than they are right now.
The other students I work with are struggling readers. These are students whose brain does not make the same connections with reading processes that other readers do. For them, it's a struggle each and every time they have experience with the printed word.
Both sets of students need time with books, reading, and conversation. They need more time than most students do. Both sets of students will make gains this year. Both sets will become different readers than they are right now.
But one thing I use with these students is something that will make you gasp.
You gasped, didn't you?
It's ok. I know for many teachers it's something they strive to not use. After all, later tonight when I read my book, I'm not going to log my reading. I'm not going to write down how long I read, how many pages read, or the fact that I read at all. I did finish a book earlier today, so I did make note of it on Goodreads and I'll write it down in my reading notebook. I'll add my next book that I'm currently reading on Goodreads and then I'll go do that - I'll read. So if I don't log my reading, why do I ask my students to log theirs?
I know who I am as a reader. I know the genres I like and the genres that make me step out of my comfort zone. I know there are days or nights that I binge read, and others where it's all I can do to get a chapter in. I know that there are times when I get in a reading slump, but my nerdy peeps will make sure I eventually find a book to get me out of it. I know I have groups - in person, on Twitter, on Voxer, at home - that I can talk about what I'm reading with. But my students, they are still working on that.
My first goal for them, is to make reading a habit. We talk a lot about reading in the edges. They tell me all the time that they don't have time to read after school. So many after school events. But last week, I had a student tell everyone how he had to go to a doctor appointment so he brought his book and got so many pages read. Celebration. That's one student. Most of them will have to have the reading in the edges conversation over and over and they will have to try it out for themselves time after time. After all, doing it once, does not make it a habit. There would be a lot more people in my gym in the mornings if that were true!
Since reading is difficult, it's not something they just choose to do. In the past, reading homework consisted of: us (teachers and interventionists) assigning homework, have specific reading tasks to do, getting it signed off by parents. Or, read for 20 minutes. Our students have been fortunate enough to have teachers that read aloud and have classroom libraries. But a lot of those students are still working on choosing a book for themselves and then understanding what is an appropriate average amount of pages/chapters to read on a daily basis.
For my students, they need to be able to see this. Their reading needs to be visual. So, we start with a reading log. They chart every time they read. They chart what they read with me, what they read during independent reading time and what they read at home. They write down the title they are reading (just an arrow through the space if it's the same book, I'm not that mean...), the page they started on and the page they finished on. They also write down what part they left off on. That's another thing for kids who are getting into a reading habit. They haven't gotten that "lost in a book feeling" and they can lose track with what is happening in their book. This helps remind them each and ever time they start that book up. They also write where they read, at home or school.
Is this reading log permanent? Absolutely not. I'm hoping most of them transition out of it by Nov. 1st.
So what are my students getting from this?
They are learning about their reading habits. How many pages do they read in a day? Where do they get most of their reading done, home or school? How does their reading ebb and flow - days of the week that are easier to read, days that are hard? How do they make up for a slow day of reading? How long does it take them to read a book? They are learning about keeping track of what happened in their book. Is it easy for them to remember where they left off, what was happening? Do they easily remember what they wrote from the day before, or does reading it over still help?
They add to their log 7 days a week (hopefully) for two months. And then we re-evaluate. Are they having fewer and fewer days of not reading at night? Are the number of pages starting to average out on most days? Can they articulate about how many chapters they read in a day? Note, there is no time limit set for everyone. It's not about how much time everyone reads. It's making a goal that is right for them. Making a habit that works for each individual reader, not for everyone as a whole.
And then the transition away from a reading log begins when the time is right. Next step is making a book cover list. Each time the students start a new book, we'll print out the cover (quick print the cover from Amazon, cut it out and glue it in). Above the cover they'll write the date when they started the book, below the cover when they finish it. Then they'll have a visual reminder of all the books they've read. We can start having genre and format discussions at that point. No longer will they chart pages, by then that will be a part of their reading lives and we'll be able to move on to the next step in cultivating a reading identity - who they are as readers.
I'd like to make the next step a Biblionasium account, but for now, seeing the books laid out in their notebooks will be enough. I need them to be able to access and see those covers quickly to remind them they are readers and to be proud of their accomplishments.
As my friend, Carrie, reminded me on a vox today, using a reading log for these students is a scaffold. They need this step on their reading ladder right now. Once they have their footing, they'll move up and to the next step. And the next. And the next.
These kids have to work hard at what they do. It's time consuming. It's not easy. There are a lot of road bumps.
But it's so rewarding.