Treadmills are Like Reading Logs

I realized some things as I ran today. Running is solitary. I’m all alone, in my head.  As I run I’m composing, revising, rethinking. Sometimes by the end of a run, I’ve got a great idea. Sometimes I follow through on that idea. But mostly I don’t.

Writing pushes me think an idea through and to next steps. During my run I was thinking of the recent post on Teaching to the Core : “One of the biggest bang-for-your-buck Common Core standards is W.CCR.10, which basically says, ‘Write frequently for many reasons.’ “ So true for me personally. Writing has provided the biggest bang for my learning as a teacher.  I’ve revised, edited and most importantly published them, for someone to read. This process makes it so much bigger than just those musings I had in my head. Through the process of writing, my ideas are better and the process of making them public pushes me to live up to those words.   

Running today I thought about goal setting. I injured my ankle in May and couldn’t run for a month. I slowly and carefully started running again. It was a struggle because of the injury. I carefully managed and measured my running by time and distance on a treadmill. That way I  gradually got stronger as I set goals for myself. I started running again in June at 5 minutes/10 minute pace. Today I ran 4.6 miles in 39 minutes. I was a fragile, injured runner, but by setting goals and gradually increasing, I’m much stronger.

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This leads me to my struggle with reading logs. I know on many levels logs do not speak the truth about a reader, they drive parents crazy, and many students have a very difficult time keeping track of them. I want to abandon the paper lunacy of logging in logging out, tracking, and incentivizing. So I’ve been leaning strongly toward no logs. Requiring one book a week, 40 books during the school year, and public responses to reading as measures of student accountability. But, there is one thing missing from this scenario:  goal setting.

I asked my students about the possibility of giving up logs for a different way of measuring our reading. They  were uncomfortable with letting logs go. Many saw it as a way of showing the teacher they are reading. Most said they have been unsuccessful keeping up with them in the past, but promised that this year would be better!  I had them write about it and one-third felt that reading logs helped them by keeping them on track “so I could see if I read or not.” Another said it was “like a teacher that pushed me.” These responses came from fragile readers. The strong were willing to give it up. Makes me think of myself as a fragile runner. I needed that treadmill because it helped me set goals and tracked my progress. When I was strong, I hated the treadmill because it constrained me.

My students spoke.  I need to create a system that accommodates these readers: those who need to measure their reading, visually. Something that builds them up to become stronger readers. Perhaps another thing for those who are constrained by logs. I’m thinking of a lined post it, that moves through the book as a book mark and allows students to measure or track their reading. When finished with the book the post it becomes a part of their reading portfolio.   I’ll run this idea by them tomorrow. We’ll test it out.

Any ideas about measuring reading? Please post a thought.

6 thoughts on “Treadmills are Like Reading Logs

  1. Julieanne,
    Like anything, the use of logs would depend upon your purpose. Is it for accountability? Or is it to “push” students develop the habit of reading? With CCSS, there may be some options for student self-charting. I like the “genre-format” here http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top_teaching/2009/11/readers-notebook because I think it matches up with CCSS R.10 with the range of reading, but it may not be a match with your picture of the readers in your classroom.

    What are your students using for goal setting? Is it number of books (volume)? (40 a la @donalynbooks) Or are there choices like “To add books to My TBR list?” “To check out recommendations from xxx?” or “To stop after every chapter and think about what I read?”

    I loved hearing about how and when you work on composing/writing. I spend a lot of driving time on mental drafting that seems to disappear as I exit the vehicle!

    Make it a Great Year!

    • Fran,
      Purpose is the point! Thank you. I think reading logs have been just what we do (for accountability) and their purpose beyond that isn’t clear (especially for students). The goal/purpose is to motivate and promote reading which is the “push’ you mention.
      I like the idea of graphing reading — a visual check up. Am I meeting my goals? To be of any value logs need to be tied to goal setting and attainment.

      Thanks for your input and good wishes!

  2. This is a great metaphor, Julianne. (And a reminder for me to get up from my computer to get upstairs and start exercising now!)

    Logs were always a nightmare in my classroom — for me, for students and for parents. I don’t remember doing them as a kid. They help us measure amounts of books, frequency, duration of reading, etc,, but there’s got to be a better way!

    • Last night at back to school I told my parents about this plan of abandoning reading logs. Most of them have suffered through this work for the last four years alongside their child. The room was packed. These parents care so much about their kid’s success and so many of them feel like failures if their child isn’t on grade level. The lost reading log, the unsigned reading log was just another way to make them (and their child feel) like they failed.

      I feel in my gut this is the right thing to do, but I still have to work on accountability measures that are doable for me and the student. And more importantly are real! Looking to have them write more in their notebooks. That is the push of common core. So maybe I’ll kill two birds with one stone!

  3. I love the idea of goal setting rather then just recording for the sense of proving reading. You are challenging an age old system that many of us have questioned but, so far, no one has challenged. Thanks for cracking this nemesis wide open. I can’t wait to hear how this works out!

    • It is a bit scary when all of my peers do this work. But I knew it was worthless in my classroom. For some this tool may work. For my students and me, it doesn’t. We all have to think through our practices and evaluate constantly. I have to monitor students’ reading in some authentic way. I’m trying to have the students share this job with me. They know they have a goal–finish 40 books and recommend them to their classmates. Thanks for the support! I’ll keep you posted.

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