Quick Tip Tuesday: An un-book report idea

In her book Naked Reading: Uncovering What Tweens Need to Become Lifelong Learners, Teri Lesesne shares her ideas on how to find the right books for tweens, how to energize them to read, and what to do in the classroom to follow up after reading. In this week’s Quick Tip, she shares her own twist on the reading log or book log idea.

The reading log or book log is an idea that is not new in any sense of the word. Teachers have been using this alternative to traditional book reports for years. And, of course, that means there are literally dozens of variations on the standard concept of the log. I keep a running record of the books I read; otherwise, all the books would soon swim together into one conglomerate of a story. For a long time, I kept a traditional log—a spiral notebook—in which I recorded my thoughts and feelings as I read each successive book. There was no real structure to the log; I simply jotted down reactions and noted passages I enjoyed. I even commented on parts I disliked if I encountered them in a particular selection. As a teacher, I have used three basic approaches to the reading or book log.

One approach has a traditional structure with lots of parameters for the assignment. Basically, I asked students to pause at the end of each chapter and make some sort of comment, either a summary statement (if I was checking for comprehension) or some predictions for what might happen in a subsequent chapter (if it were important for me to develop that skill in the students). The log, kept in a spiral-bound notebook, was collected on a periodic basis. I made comments, gave a grade based upon the requirements of the assignment, and did very little to follow up on any entry that might have been made by a reader. With younger readers—and particularly at the beginning of the academic year—it is a good idea to offer the more traditional approach.

Then, as the year progresses and students are more invested in the reading, it is possible to open up the assignment and make it less prescriptive and restrictive. For this form of book log, I might lift the requirement to stop every so many pages for a response. This alteration came about because of a comment I overheard one student make to another when they were talking about keeping a book log. This student was reading Out of the Dust, a novel in verse and Newbery Medal winner, by Karen Hesse. She was pausing at the end of every few pages to make an entry, something she found frustrating. “I am just getting into the story that’s being told in the poem, and then I have to stop and write something. It kind of breaks up the story and I start to lose track of where I am.” Even though it is essential to check that readers are comprehending the text as they read, it is a good idea to be flexible about how often a reader needs to pause and reflect or respond. Give students a few pieces of self-adhesive paper and ask them to quickly jot down reactions and responses as they read. They can either then put these into their spiral notebook, or you can ask them to complete another activity from their work. For example, once students have completed reading and have made notes on their sticky paper, they can organize and categorize their responses into a chart broken down into personal, interpretive, and critical comments.

Finally, we can offer students a new take on the old idea of logs: the blog. A blog is, in essence, a web log. Blogs are online logs, logs that are accessible by others. For years, I resolved to begin a blog. I finally did so, and am amazed at how much others enjoy reading the blogs and responding to me as a fellow reader (you can reach my blog at the following URL: www.livejournal.com/users/professornana).

Again, this idea can be tailored to meet the needs of your individual classes. I blog once or twice a week. Sometimes I have little to report because I have not had a chance to read much. I might comment on a book I have finished reading, one that is sitting waiting for me to read, or one I have just begun to read. I introduce the concept of blogging to students by doing one of my own over the course of a couple of months. Allow students access to your blogs and encourage them to comment on your entries. This blog can be mounted easily within your classroom computer, or you can opt for a blog at one of a number of sites that sponsor free blogging spaces. Basically, you are modeling what you expect of the students once their time to blog arrives. This approach works, in one regard, because it is new and involves the use of the computer. Bear in mind, though, that blogs will most likely have to be done during class time, since not all students have access to computers outside of school. Even if you do not involve students in blogging, keeping your own book blog will be rewarding and send a strong message to students that you are as much of a reader as you expect them to be.

2 comments June 15th, 2010

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