In an attempt to be responsible for charting progress of our students’ mandatory reading time each day I had each of them maintain a reader’s log. Basically, a small form that they filled out each day with the number of pages they read, what the book was, and what they had read that day. Having spent far too many hours checking them each week I started a new system this January in hopes that the logs would become more important to the students and easier to check for me. I started with this basic premise:
Pencil and Paper (produces waste)
Limited Audience (little motivation)
Cumbersome to check for progress
Online (no waste paper)
Wide Audience (thus greater motivation)
Quick and easy to check for progress
Since using blogs sounded like a good idea, I went ahead and got an account at 21publish.com. If you’re looking to get your students blogging I highly recommend it as you are allowed 100 accounts, can moderate and block unwanted comments, and best of all, it’s free! That and it’s nice for the community aspect of being able to quickly jump from one student’s blog to another using the sidebar.
While I would love to tell you that progress thus far on the reader’s blogs is terrific I’ve been haunted of late by a comment that Todd left on Tom’s blog:
“I also think it’s easy to write a post and sound like things are going well or you really know what you’re doing; it’s easy to talk a big game, but much harder to actually live it. I bet the majority of teachers we are reading in awe are experiencing the same things we are every day.”
The results of reader’s blogs thus far have been mixed. While my students were excited about having extra time to blog each day (they previously only had time to blog on Fridays and for in-class writing assignments), I think I set them up for failure by using the simple reading log forms for so long. Instead of getting wonderfully written, enticing stories about what they had read for the day, and why others should read the book I’ve been getting very uninspired logs from many students. Some of them write just a couple of sentences (all that could fit on the old form), summarization is poor, and many don’t show their own personal interest in the book. Don’t get me wrong, some of them have written wonderful logs, complete with summaries and personal reflections about what they’ve read and how they feel about the story so far. However, the majority of them are just not producing what I’m looking for.
The technological component is sound; they’ve been excited to write on their blogs and love commenting on other student’s blogs. I think I just need to go back and present them with guiding questions, open-ended writing prompts, and examples of what might entice other readers to pick up the book in the future. Hopefully it will turn the reader’s blogs into something more important to them, and useful in searching for books in the future.