The Evolution of My Reading Workshop Practices: Reading Logs vs. Calendars

In part one of my reading evolution post, I shared about how my mini-lesson changed over the years and how I managed to embrace Lucy (from TCRWP). Before you read this one (or after because honestly, they aren't in chronological order in terms of content) you may want to click here to read up. Or don't. I ain't pushy. I also have the last post in the series all about the classroom library that can be found here.Today's topic is about the ever popular, totally debatable topic: reading logs.

3. Reading Logs... Oh Reading Logs

Oh reading logs. Let me go on record to say I have never really been a fan of giving them personally. I get the possible logic behind it: Kids track their reading each night to help hold them "accountable." We use their real "data" to draw conclusions on their reading patterns. Teachers get lots of "data" to determine if kids are reading at home. To be honest, I've found most of this to not be true. (In my previous post, I mentioned that I am NOT perfect reading teacher. So if you've found success in implementing reading logs and your students love 'em too- all the more power to you. I'll celebrate that success with you!!)

We've also heard the arguments against logs. They kill the love of reading for kids at home. It becomes a chore. It becomes homework, when really we are trying to form habits of life long readers. Kids make up information because, "Oh sh*t my teacher is going to expect it. So let's just add that I read 20 minutes exactly each night this week and that I read perfect amounts of 20 pages each time... she'll never know!" In our school, it's been expected to give out reading logs. I've changed them each year. They started out intense! Level of book, title, author, start time, end time, total minutes, start page, end page... whoa! I also made students get signatures- not worth it in my opinion- parents and students didn't really care and it just put strain on the two R's: reading and relationships- both super important if we are talking about building life long readers.

So this year- mid year mind you, I made yet another change. I moved to a calendar in January and used it for the remainder of the year.

My goal was for students to keep track of their books to see what they can accomplish in a month's time. Students had a lot of "whoa" moments!

Like "Whoa.. I noticed I only finished 1 book this month. I felt like I was reading constantly."

Or "Whoa...I actually finished 5 books- I don't remember the last time I got through books that fast!"

Or "Whoa...I actually read most nights this month... I hated reading at home last year."

For me, it was easier to see what kind of reading life my students were creating at home (and at school) or lack thereof. I honestly didn't care if you sat and read for 15 minutes, 20 minutes or 60 minutes. I preached the importance of reading at home to students and families, but I did not have control over if they did it or not. Influence, yes. Control, no.

Some never turned it in the calendars. These were the same students who weren't turning them in weekly or were missing signatures. The outcome was the same no matter what. Some never filled out the week-to-week one or the one I used where they tried to fill up two sheets worth before turning it in and now, they were eager beavers to show me what they've accomplished. Changing the focus from times and start pages increased my influence on their reading lives at home. It still isn't perfect. But as a whole, I was definitely seeing more kids interested and actually using the calendars for the reason that logs were to be implemented in the first place... we just were gathering different data- still meaningful, but different.

I changed them yet again for next year and am sharing them in case you want to give them a try. I myself started using one to keep track of the amazing books I read during the school year and noticed that I wasn't reading nearly enough. It's helped me to set goals and be motivated, because that is the kind of reader I am. There's no punishment or reward for filling out your calendar. I don't give a grade for it. I don't give stickers for completion. It's a tool and I'm trying to treat it that way. When I took the rewards and punishment away and we spent time at the end of the month analyzing our calendars, that was motivation enough for students to hold onto it, not loose it, and record. When students were hearing their classmates having amazing book recommendation talks and proud moments, they wanted them too. So as the months went on while I used them, the amount of students who willingly wanted to use them increased too. One other change I'm making with logs is to give options. I'll also offer a digital one in case some prefer that. I'll explain more about those in the next section. I started a digital one for me. Here's a screenshot of it. Can you tell when I was still in school?

Tips on how to use the calendars

If you are going to require students (or even encourage them) to use a log or calendar, use one yourself.

I did this to start the year but never maintained it. I'm sure my students felt the same way. This summer, I'm using the digital option in this resource to keep track of my books I've finished. I also plan on using it in the fall with my new students to show them that their teacher is also a reader, examine ways they could fill it out, and draw conclusions about me as a reader. I've found I like using the digital option because I can easily color code it, use emoji symbols and format the size so it fits neatly. 

Teach students how to use short hand notes and keys; it needs to be valuable to them!

One of the first reactions for students when we started the calendars in January was, "But the box is so small!" Yes, yes it is. I get that. However, we found some solutions to this problem. We only wrote the full title on the first day of starting that book. From there, we used some sort of abbreviation or just page numbers if it was the only book we were reading at that time. We used letters to shorten our information (home, school, finished, abandoned) and used a key to help us remember. Next year,  the key will be blank so students can record information that is important to them. If they want to keep track of how many minutes they read at once- have at it! Want to just record chapter books- perfect! I want the info to be valuable to them, so I will leave the key box blank and let them decide, but we'll definitely brain storm ideas together. However, if you want more control, you could easily give them a set of symbols for the key to use (which I included in this pack).

Build in time to set goals and reflect.

Do it at morning meeting at the beginning and end of the month, or in conferences with students, or small groups. You can fit it in 5 minutes, yet it is super valuable I found for motivation and true reflection. I was shocked at how many kids brought it back and forth in their book bags from home to school and never lost it- because it mattered to them. Again, when I took away rewards and punishments, it became a tool and not just a hoop. That reminds me- it helped that we had a common location for it; we always kept it in our ziploc book bag that housed our most current read that we take back and forth to school. We folded it in half and there it lived. Safe and sound.

Want to give the reading calendars a try this upcoming school year? I've added them to my store. You'll have calendars ready from this June until NEXT August (2018) and I'll update for the following school year over the summer. Click on the image below to take you there.

Where you do you fall in terms of using a reading log? What success have you had with them? Share below in the comments.

Also, my last post in this series will be on the evolution of my classroom library and independent reading time. It may not go live for a while, but I'll update my Facebook page when it's ready!



  1. Oh I love this. I have used the reading logs with the same results you describe. We originally used them for accountability and it hasn't helped; it's always the same kids who bring them in. I love this though because it's a) useful and b) much easier to model or demonstrate.

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