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Should I assign a reading log for FVR?

A week or two ago someone wrote in to a facebook group with a question about follow-up activities for FVR/SSR. Several people responded (myself included) that a daily reading log is probably not a best practice. I have been thinking about this ever since, though, since I do think that there is a place for the occasional reading log. Finding the right balance between too little supervision and too much is tricky and depends upon the personalities in the class. However, there is research indicating that small follow-up activities are a characteristic of successful SSR programs (i.e. Janice Pilgreen´s study comparing successful and less successful SSR programs; the kind of follow-up activity that she recommends are short, small group discussions and voluntary book talks).

Last week I decided to assign reading logs to all of my classes, something that I have not done since last December (we start class with SSR 3-4 days per week, but more often talk afterwards & rarely write about it). These are two of the things I learned from glancing through the logs every day before handing them back. (1) I found a few kids who were copying from the book rather than writing a reaction—many of my students are comfortable enough writing in simple Spanish but for those that were feeling such anxiety I discreetly wrote on their logs that they should write in English if they preferred. After all, I really care about reading, not writing. Of those, most changed their book to an easier book. In the months of talking in small groups I had not caught that those specific kids needed easier books, but I caught it the first day with a reading log. (2)  While reading through the logs of my heritage speakers I was blown away at their overall improvement with simple spelling issues. I have been quietly despairing at this class for the last several months because I tend to notice the kids who are not making the most of our class time. Suddenly the girl whose writing was pretty unintelligible in August has self-corrected many of her worst errors. The group of soccer players who refuse to read anything except for the sports books are no longer writing short, clipped sentences but rather are writing longer, more expressive sentences. These changes were striking, and uniform across the entire class, but I just had not noticed them outside of the context of the reading log. There was a celebration in room 804 last Friday, followed by 20 minutes of very dedicated reading with huge smiles.

Key take home point: what I really do not want to do is kill the pleasure of reading. Do not use a reading log to police students, but an occasional reading log will not kill reading pleasure and, if celebrated afterwards, can actually help build the good vibes in my classroom. When used sparingly.

Postscript 11/28/2017: My thoughts continue to evolve on this subject. Please read Struggling to hold students accountable during FVR? and Alina´s inspiring approach to accountability with FVR. One thing that has not changed is my distrust of any activity that makes reading a chore.

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