My Reading Log Journey
Whether you are a teacher or not, you've probably used reading logs in some form or another at some point in your life. I used them in elementary school and I've been using them my entire teaching career. I've certainly had a love/hate relationship with them at times.
When I first began teaching, I used the "write a summary sentence" logs. You know, the ones that have room for a sentence and a parent signature each night and that's about it. About three years into my career, I realized that I wasn't getting anything out of these reading logs. As I read them over each week, I couldn't get over how monotonous they were. I felt like I was punishing my students AND myself. I've always had trouble assigning work just to assign it and reading logs were definitely falling in to that category for me. They weren't informing me of anything besides the fact that my students clearly disliked them as much as I did. I wanted to just get rid of reading logs all together. However, at-home reading was required at my school, so I knew I needed to make a change. I sat down and made a list of the skills and strategies that my fifth graders would need to practice and I set out to create new logs for my students. I focused on one strategy or skill at a time, creating logs as I covered different skills and strategies. I wanted to make sure that I created something that I felt would be a true indicator of a student's ability to apply the skills and strategies to their own independent reading. I didn't have a lot of graphic know-how back then, so the first one looked like this:
Maybe it wasn't the cutest, but I'm still incredibly proud of this creation not because of how it looks, but because it does exactly what I need it to do. I still remember when I switched over to these reading logs and my first batch were handed in that Friday. What a difference! I was finally able to read responses and assess each student's ability with that specific skill or strategy. It was easy to see which students had mastered an area of focus and which ones needed more practice, which was great for planning for reading groups as well.
That was seven years ago. Today, these logs are more aesthetically pleasing, and I'm pleased to say that they've grown to be a set of 20 logs.
Teaching and Assigning Logs
So, how do I use these with my students? First, I introduce one log at a time. For example, we start with narrative elements, so I start with a narrative elements log. I model, model, model using each log so that I am 100% sure that students understand my expectations. The best time to do this is after our read-aloud. I might introduce and model on Monday, model again on Tuesday, then give students a chance to do one themselves after our read-aloud on Wednesday and Thursday. For the logs that they do themselves, I copy Wednesday and Thursday back to back. At the end of Thursday's practice, I collect their logs and look them over. I select those that are closest to what I modeled, and then I share them on Friday - with student permission, of course.
The following week I begin to assign that log with their independent reading. This can be independent reading in the classroom or at home, or both. In fact, I created two sets of logs, one with parent signature spaces and one without, so that I can do either. I teach fifth grade and when we start the year, I assign two per week, and then, as we add more skills and strategies and students become more comfortable with them, usually around mid-October, I add another, and when we come back from winter break in January, students start to complete 4 logs per week.
Reading Logs as Assessment
I look at reading logs as an informal assessment. As I mentioned above, student responses alert me to what I need to do next. Did the log indicate mastery with all skills and strategies that were addressed? Does the student struggle with the narrative elements log and not the predicting one? As a teacher, it's my job to use these logs to assist me in making decisions for remediation. I find them to be a valuable assessment tool when planning my reading instruction, especially when it comes to guided reading. I do take the time to sit down and read them all, because if I'm not, why on Earth am I assigning it? I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it doesn't take time, but I will say that it's worth it, especially when you get that one in front of you that blows you away, the one that you can't wait to show the entire class on Monday, because it is THAT awesome! It's important to highlight those amazing logs weekly to keep reminding students of your expectations, and equally important to highlight many different students so that it is clear that everyone is equally capable of meeting those expectations.
Look at your reading logs. Ask yourself, "What information can I gather from this assignment?" If the answer is nothing, or you find it's so minimal an amount that you are cringing, rid yourself of them and create something new. I'm including a link to mine below, but I'm not very good at promotion, so I'll say that as a teacher, you know what you need. Don't be afraid to create something yourself. You'll be much happier when you can look at your logs and know that you have a valuable resource in front of you.
Click on the image above to preview my independent reading logs.