When you read for pleasure do you record the date and pages read on a worksheet? How does this activity make reading more enjoyable? On this relaxing afternoon, sharing a hammock and a love of reading with my youngest daughter, neither of us paused to think, “I better write this down on my reading log.” That just isn’t something real readers do; it’s unnatural.
When I read a book that I really enjoy, I want to share it with others. I do not show them my reading log and say, “Hey you should read this, it’s really good.” I want them to read it too so that we can talk about it.
So I had to ask myself, “Why exactly do I assign students to record pages, titles, summaries, and minutes of reading on a worksheet?” I want them to read, but how is this table with parent signatures making them want to read? It may be enforcing some sort of accountability, but it doesn’t foster a love of reading. But if you can make them read, won’t they eventually see how great reading is and learn to love it? Are you a parent? If so, when was the last time you “forced” your child to do something and they decided you were right and they loved it?
Why not ditch the reading log for a method of accountability that encourages sharing your love of a book with others?
1. Book Talks
To up the “Engagement Factor,” I went with an emoji theme for my classroom library/book talk area. Inside of the old TV/VCR cart, there are boxes of books. Students can also write messages in the speech bubbles on the door which are chalkboard stickers.
This one gets top billing because it is my favorite non-reading log form of reading response. Not only does it keep students accountable for their reading, but you can also create QR codes of their videos and place them inside the book! This is a great way to help students choose books to read from the classroom library. I have designated an old iPhone for this purpose. It has a QR code scanner app and students can scan QR codes in the books, watch book talks and decide if they are interested in reading that book.
2. Hexagonal Thinking
Instead of giving students a reading log, try giving them a hexagon instead. Each student can write down a word related to characters, conflict, setting, theme, or mood. Then they can have a discussion in which they look for connections between the novels that they are reading. I wrote a blog post about the lesson from the video (above). Learn more about “Hexagonal Thinking” by reading this post about a whole class activity on the theme. I wouldn’t try to have students do this to search for connections between multiple texts without first teaching the hexagonal thinking method as a whole class lesson. As you can see in the video, it is a great way to get students to have meaningful conversations about books.
If spending time on text is the goal, sketch quotes are very effective. My students love to go back into the text to look for sketchable lines.
I am always impressed by the deep understanding and connections they are making which is shown by what they choose to quote.
I wrote a blog post about how I teach my class to write sketch quotes earlier this year at Sketch Quotes
4. 6 Word Memoirs
6 Word Memoirs are a great way to summarize a character’s journey through the plot of a story. Six words take up so little space but can convey such big ideas. I have had students write 6 Word Memoirs in their planners and then transfer a final draft to a wall chart (above left) as well as give out exit tickets. For me, a method that doesn’t involve photocopying more pages is preferred. When students went up to the chart to write a 6 Word Memoir (above left) I noticed that they took more time and were reading other student responses, whereas in the Exit slip method they were just in a hurry to stick it up there and go.
We are about to read “The Lightning Thief” and I am trying out a new strategy to get students talking about books. We are going to be studying “The Hero’s Journey” and I have given the students a list of books that also follow this monomyth story pattern. We will be reading and discussing “The Lightning Thief” in class, but I like my students to spend time reading at home as well. I am wanting them to share what they are reading so that everyone can see how repetitive this story structure is across texts. Throughout our unit, I have places where we will stop and note the stage of the hero’s journey.
Padlet is like a virtual bulletin board. The students can respond to the reading prompt on the Padlet and read what others are saying about their books, making connections and noticing similarities; which is exactly what I wanted to have to happen. I am not sure a reading log could make that happen.
Last summer I used my class Instagram to try to engage students in picking up books while school was not in session by posting #shelfies of me reading books. It wasn’t the success that I had hoped it would be, but I am still going to try it again this summer. See more about this in #10. Modeling Being A Reader and Sharing Your Thoughts on Books.
More on how to make the most out of a class Instagram Account: A Teacher’s Guide to Instagram.
You don’t have to manage individual student blogs to utilize blogging as a tool to share thoughts about reading. I have found that with younger students that are just learning to use technology, a class blog is best. If you don’t have access to technology in your classroom, try paper blogging.
I have begun to infuse classroom blogging assignments into more of our novel units this year. If you click on the image of Ivan (above right) you will see a novel unit designed entirely around blogging. I called it blogging our way through books, and it was part of a summer bridge class that I taught for 4th and 5th-grade students. We used a kid blog account and the students really enjoyed their first experience with blogging. I was really pleased with how excited they were to be talking about books in the summer. I wrote a post about them called “If You Plant A Seed. Your Students Will Read”
8. Tweeting Log
I have used several models of a classroom Twitter feed in class. While online versions would give students a bigger audience, my students are under 13 and not using Twitter yet, so I have modified it as shown below.
9. Gallery Walks
There are so many variations of this. I found these great little tablets that look like iPad screens, and some “comment” and “like” icon post-it notes that made gallery walks even more fun. Students loved posting their comments and likes on the screens in which other students had written a response to a reading assignment.
The picture below is a speed dating style of gallery walk in which students move from partner to partner talking about their reading. I had them record their conversations in a “Give One, Get One” format in their notebooks.
10. Model being a Reader and sharing Thoughts on Books
I think the key in all of this is to make reading public celebration and to vary the ways in which you think, talk about, share and respond to text. When the method that you use to keep students accountable for their reading is fun and engaging they are less likely to view reading as a chore and more likely to enjoy it. Is the goal to collect a stack of papers in which students log their minutes of reading or is it to inspire a love of reading that leads students to inspire others to pick up a book?
Have a great idea for getting kids to talk about books? I’m always looking for new ways to keep things fresh. Connect with me and tell me about it.