Effective Alternatives to Reading Logs

What do you do when your students aren’t completing their reading logs? This post outlines effective alternatives to reading logs that you can use no matter what grade you teach!

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What is a Reading Log?

If you give students a printed or digital chart where they have to write what they’ve read or the amount of time spent on reading, then you are using a reading log.

Reading logs are mainly used for accountability rather than reading motivation.

Most teachers push the importance of independent reading, especially more reading at home. So we “encourage” students to track how much they’ve read with a reading log.

There’s only one little problem…

…they don’t work! Reading logs don’t motivate kids to read more or better, which is our ultimate goal. That’s why we spend so much time looking for alternatives to reading logs.

So what should teachers do instead? Well, I’m so glad you asked…

How Do I Hold My Students Accountable to Read?

As soon as you dive into the discussion of using reading logs or any alternatives to reading logs, the issue of accountability comes back up.

Many teachers make reading homework mandatory, but struggle with ideas to “enforce” that assignment. So we look for different ideas on how to make sure our students are reading.

There are common problems that cause students to hate or avoid independent reading in the first place:

  • Students who struggle with reading comprehension may feel overwhelmed even if they have to read for 20 minutes!
  • The book choices are very boring to them or they may not have access to engaging reading material at home.
  • Life outside of school may be so busy or stressful that some kids just don’t have the energy to read every day.
  • Recording a book title, page length, and time-amounts on a reading log could actually be zapping away the joy of reading in the first place.

As we consider alternatives to reading logs and other accountability strategies, we must keep these issues in mind.

When our students are motivated and equipped to read well, the need to hold them accountable fades away! They’ll read because they love it.

Tanya G. Marshall–The Butterfly Teacher

Kids of all ages love a good story and will naturally gravitate to experiences with reading that bring them joy.

So our ultimate goal as teachers isn’t accountability, it’s making reading fun and accessible for our students!

Effective Alternatives to Reading Logs

Instead of using Reading Logs or Reading Homework Charts, I use Reading Challenges, in the form of bookmarks with my students.

My students are way more motivated to complete a reading challenge than a chart or reading log that only lists what books they’ve read.

Having the challenges on bookmarks cuts down on students losing them because they are using the bookmark while they’re reading.

Here’s how I use Reading Bookmark Challenges instead of Reading Logs:

  • Each week my students get a bookmark from me with five reading ideas on it. When they complete a reading assignment, aka challenge, they color that space on their bookmark.
  • For our 9-week grading period, this gives students 35 different reading ideas/challenges.
  • I give reading awards during 3, 6, and 9 week intervals as a way to further motivate them to complete all the reading assignments/challenges.
  • Some of these challenges can be completed at home and some can be completed at school. That allows flexibility for students.

I change the challenges depending on the season or activities happening in our class. This makes it super easy for me to continue using them for things like winter-themed activities or with holiday read-alouds.

There’s enough variety with each bookmark challenge that students don’t get bored keeping up with reading throughout the school year.

Make Independent Reading Engaging with Book & Poetry Talks

Another way that I keep my students motivated to read without using reading logs is with Book and Poetry Talks.

When students in my class read a poem or book independently at home or in class during our D.E.A.R (Drop. Everything. And.Read) time, they can discuss their reading with a partner.

In order to stay focused and on track with their partner, they use prompt cards that keep the conversation flowing around what they’re reading.

In order to use this as an alternative to reading logs, I make sure to:

  • Include book talk time into our literacy center rotations. Many teachers are already doing something similar to this with Daily 5’s Read-to-Partner time. But my students aren’t just reading to each other, they are engaged in conversations about their reading.
  • Not require any writing with these Book Talks and Poetry Talks. Since we have so many other opportunities to write about our reading, I do not ask students to write anything during their book talk time.
  • Keep prompt cards and sentence stems on a book ring to help students learn how to engage in conversations about their books and poems.

My students are way more motivated to keep up with reading when they know they’ll have lots of opportunities to work with a buddy.

This makes a much more effective alternative to using reading logs for me.

Engage in Whole-Class Novel Studies

The third way I keep my students engaged with reading without using reading logs is through whole class novel studies that we read in during class and for homework.

Throughout the school year, I allot time during our literacy block to read chapter books out loud with my students.

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Here are some general tips and info about how I’ve included novel studies in my class over the years:

  • If you can give each student their own copy of the novel, that works great. If not, just use an overhead projector to show the book to your class.
  • Read out loud to them, but also let them read out loud too. Especially if the book has a lot of character dialogue. I let different kids read each character part like reader’s theater. 
  • Every 3-4 chapters, give a mini quiz to assess their understanding. You can choose to grade it or not. Depending on the size of the book, you may want to do this every 1-2 chapters.
  • Try to plan a set time to have novel reading each day or during a set time each week. Your students will really look forward to this time as “novel book time.”
  • I shopped yard sales for pillows and asked people to donate seat cushions or pillows so that my kids could lie on the floor or be more comfortable at their desks during our novel book time. These pillows were exclusively used for our novel studies time, which made it even more special to my kiddos.

More General Tips Related to Novel Studies

Since using novel studies, I’ve never had to “enforce” reading homework! Each year that I’ve incorporated whole class chapter book reading into my upper elementary class, my students WANT to continue reading our stories at home.

Plus, they don’t want to be left out or behind during our next book reading time.

Here are some extra resources that will help you with novel studies in your class:

Recruit Reading Buddies for Your Students

I will go ahead and admit, when it comes to alternatives for reading logs, this one can be a pretty big challenge!

For the past two years, during our back-to-school time, I begin talking to my students’ families about becoming Reading Buddies.

A Reading Buddy is an adult who can commit some time each week or a few times a month to reading with a student outside of school.

It can be a coach, a mentor, church member, or family member.

I do not make this mandatory, but I definitely emphasize and advertise it often. Since this idea is still new for me, I’ve been flexible with its use and will continue to tweak it each year. (Which means there’s more to come on this topic!)

Students and their reading buddies can choose their own reading material. I even had a set of siblings that would read magazines with their uncle once a month!

So far, parents and students have shown more enthusiasm for this than filling out a reading log.

The ultimate goal is to encourage families to read with kids outside of school any chance they get.

General Alternatives to Reading Logs for Older Students

Here are a few more ideas you can use to replace reading logs when you teach older students;

  • BookSnaps–which remind me of Snapchat! Students take a picture of themselves with their book and post it online with a quick description of it.
  • Book Vlogs--students can keep an online video collection detailing each book they’ve read and their opinion of the book.
  • Google Docs–set up a shared Google Doc allowing your students to share comments on books they’re reading.

No matter which idea from this full post you decide to try, the main goal is to find effective ways to keep your students motivated to read!

The more they fall in love with reading, the less you’ll have to “hold them accountable” to read!

Happy Teaching 🦋

The Butterfly Teacher

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