When it comes to teaching reading, middle school teachers have a tough job. On one hand, you want your students to be held accountable for their reading assignments, but on the other hand, you want your students to engage with and reflect on what they are reading. So which is better for tracking student reading progress: reading reflections or recording pages with reading logs?
Before we get too far in the discussion let’s take a look at what is meant by a Reading Reflection vs a Reading Log. A reading reflection is an opportunity for students to think about what they’ve read, identify important aspects of the text, and make connections between their own lives and the text. Reading reflections can include written responses, artwork, or even discussions with a partner or small group. In contrast, reading logs are just a simple record of what has been read by the student recording of the number of pages read or the number of books read or maybe even the number of minutes a student has read.
What is a reading reflection?
A reading reflection is an activity in which a student reads a choice book and then reflects on what they’ve read. Students think about the text and write out (discuss) their thoughts, impressions, questions, and interpretations of it. A reading reflection may also involve considering what implications the text has for one’s own life or asking questions and digging deeper into the meaning of the text.
Reading reflections help students demonstrate that they truly understand the book they are reading, as well as show that they are thinking about what they are reading. By having students express their thoughts and feelings in writing, teachers can get an idea of whether or not students are making connections with the characters and plot points.
Why use reading reflections?
Reading reflections empower students to develop their own interpretations and perspectives on texts, enabling them to express themselves creatively and thoughtfully. By engaging in reading reflections, students develop analytical skills that enable them to sharpen their ability to comprehend more complex information effectively.
To do a reading reflection effectively, it’s important for students to consider all aspects of the text—not just plot points—and come up with their own questions and seek out connections.
What to include in a reading reflection:
- Reflect and Connect – Blank space for students to free write about what they’ve been reading.
- Reading Quote – Help change your students’ mindset about reading by asking them to reflect on quotes about reading.
- Literary Question – Students focus on one literary question which they answer based on their choice reading book.
Reading reflections can be done either in writing or verbally with a partner or group. When done in writing, students take notes on what they read, maybe they complete a freewrite or develop their own insightful questions. When done verbally, students talk through each point as they go so they can share their interpretations right away with those around them.
Ultimately, no matter how a reflection is done—in writing or verbally—reading reflections provide an opportunity for both personal growth and meaningful conversation amongst peers.
What does a reading reflection miss?
Perhaps the biggest con to using reading reflections is that there isn’t always a clear cut way for teachers to measure student progress – thinking in terms of giving a grade. A true reading reflection is not one that you can quantify with a rubric like you can a reading log.
Students can reflect on their reading whether they have read 5 pages or 100 pages. Additionally, student responses are subjective, and it can be difficult to assign a grade. But does everything need to be graded? Absolutely not! The reading reflection is just one aspect of helping secondary ELA students improve their reading.
Another downside to reading reflections is they do not necessarily demonstrate how much reading progress a student has made, and students may require additional guidance in order to effectively answer the questions posed.
Why use Reading Logs – what do they really measure?
Reading logs can provide an easy way for teachers to track student progress throughout the grading period as far as how many pages are being read each day/week/month. This information provides a quantifiable way to monitor student progress free of any subjective grading. It’s easy to write a rubric for everyone to follow.
The biggest downside of using reading logs is that it doesn’t provide an accurate representation of what each student has been able to comprehend from their readings. It doesn’t show teachers what kind of connections each student is making with the text, which really should be the focus. While reading logs can provide an easy way for teachers to measure progress, they do not promote deeper understanding or comprehension of a text.
Another downside to reading logs (and this is something we all know happens) is that students and parents can sometimes lie about how much has been read in order to get a good grade. This type of tracking makes it easy to add a grade to the gradebook but doesn’t tell you if someone truly understood what was read or not!
So Which is the Better Choice?
Reading reflections provide students with an opportunity to cultivate a more meaningful and in-depth relationship with the material they are reading. Through such reflections, students have a chance to engage more actively with their choice books, formulate thought-provoking questions about the text, and express their own thoughts and reactions. As such, reflections can be used as a powerful tool for both teachers and students to gain an insightful understanding of how the student is engaging with the material.
For teachers, reading reflections can offer valuable insight into how well their students understand the material. Instead of relying solely on grades and assessments, teachers can use reading reflections to gain an honest appraisal of how their students are interacting with the texts. Reflections allow teachers to identify gaps in knowledge or areas that need further instruction.
Beyond helping teachers assess student progress, reading reflections also encourage higher levels of engagement from students when it comes to learning. Asking reflective questions encourages students to think more deeply about what they’re learning and helps them develop greater analytical thinking skills. This can lead to higher levels of comprehension, which is critical for retaining information over time. Furthermore, reflecting on what they have learned helps students connect more meaningfully with the material rather than just memorizing facts without any true understanding.
You can hear more about the benefits of reading reflections vs reading logs by listing to Episode #10 of the Middle School Cafe Podcast.
In conclusion, reading reflections offer numerous benefits for both teachers and students alike by encouraging deeper learning engagement and offering valuable insight into student progression. On the other hand, reading logs simply track how many pages a student has read or how much time is spent reading. While this may be useful for some things, it offers no insight into a student’s performance and understanding of the material. As such, using reading reflections instead of reading logs is highly recommended as it provides much more valuable information to teachers to help inform instruction.
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