Reading Log Alternative to get kids reading at home

The reading log alternative that changed the way my students read at home

For many of my early years teaching 4th grade Reading, I wanted a Reading Log Alternative but didn’t know exactly what to use in place of traditional Reading Logs. Plus, all the other teachers I knew used Reading Logs so I didn’t want to rock the boat by doing something different if I wasn’t 100% sure it would work.

Teacher wishing she had a reading log alternative.

So, I continued to use the same old calendar page templates. I also continued to see the same pattern in how my students responded to Reading Logs.

Week in and week out, the kids who always did their homework turned in perfect Logs each Friday, and the kids who needed the extra reading practice either left the entire Log blank or slopped some page numbers down and forged their parents’ signature.

It was frustrating to watch my struggling readers not engaging, but I also felt like I was dropping the ball for those who consistently did “the right thing”. I tried motivating with candy and stickers, but those things weren’t fixing the problem. I was still getting the same results.

The last straw with Reading logs

One Friday at the beginning of May, a student handed me his Reading Log. In every single box for the entire month, his mother had written: “Cats, pages 1-10, 20 minutes” and signed her initials. I asked him how he had read the same book and the same pages every single day of the month (including Saturdays and Sundays) before the first week of May was over. He just gave me a blank stare.

Boy happily reading at home for homework.

This was the turning point for me. In that moment, I knew I needed to find a Reading Log Alternative that would:

  • make reading at home more meaningful
  • have a student accountability piece
  • provide an incentive for kids to want to read outside of school
  • and reward those students who read each night

My wheels started turning…

my reading log alternative started very simply

Since there were only a few weeks left of the school year, I decided to experiment with an idea I had to use Sticky Notes while reading. I gave my students 20 minutes to read in class and asked them to leave a Sticky Note on the page where their favorite part of the book was. If they placed their note on page 7 but then found a part they liked better on page 10, they could move their Sticky Note. The point was that they were actively searching for a favorite part as they read.

Sticky Notes as a Reading Log Alternative

When the 20 minutes of reading was over, I asked my students to write one sentence on that Sticky Note telling what their favorite part was. Then we sat together on the floor and students read their Sticky Notes aloud to the class. That was it! I told you it was really simple!

Before we left for the day, I told my students to do the same thing for HW that night. Read 20 minutes, choose a favorite part, and write a sentence describing that favorite part.

Then, an idea popped right into my head out of nowhere and I said, “If you read and bring your Sticky Note completed tomorrow, you will get to read with a partner of your choice that morning before class starts!

Every kid in my room exclaimed at the same time, “Ooooh!!” Our Morning Routine included Morning Work and quiet reading, so getting to talk and read to a partner they picked was a big deal! My students seemed excited, but I held my breath over what would happen when they came back the next morning!

How did my Reading log alternative Experiment fare?

Two students sharing their reading homework together.

I added “Read Sticky Note with a partner” to my Morning Routine Google Slide and as my students unpacked their backpacks, they raced to my desk to show me their Sticky Notes! I proudly told them they could choose a partner who had their Sticky Note completed as well and they scurried off to share with friends!

When one student came up to me and whispered, “I forgot to do my Sticky Note”, I told him to read now and I would tell him when 20 minutes was over. He could do his Sticky Note then. He sat at his desk and read, finishing his note before class started. He didn’t get a chance to read with a friend.

When class started, we all sat in the floor and I asked my students to share their Sticky Notes with the class. As they read their notes, I noticed that some Sticky Notes told us what had happened in the story while other notes were quite sparse in their details from the book.

  • “This part was my favorite because it was funny!”
  • “Greg fell on the floor!”
  • “It was my favorite when she got in trouble!”

I knew I would need to help my students learn the “right way” to write about their favorite part, but the kids seemed to enjoy it. I asked the class what they thought about this Reading Log Alternative. The consensus was unanimous! They loved using Sticky Notes for at-home reading!

Sticky note reading was a hit!

Students raising their hand to tell how they feel about Sticky Note Reading.

I asked what they liked about the notes as a Reading Log Alternative and they were not shy! “Reading Logs are boring!” they agreed. But the Sticky Notes? They loved getting to read with friends, sharing their favorite part with the class, and hearing their friends’ favorite parts! They even fessed up to paying more attention to their books while reading than they usually did!

It turns out that knowing they were going to share aloud motivated them to want to find something interesting to share with the class!

What about those kids who didn’t read at home? They still read, just at their seats that morning. But because they didn’t complete their note outside of class, they didn’t get to share with a partner. And they were pretty disappointed. Might that motivate them in the future? I hoped so!

In having this open conversation with my kids about Sticky Notes, I told them that what they shared with me inspired me to ditch the Reading Logs! I asked if they would be my guinea pigs and help me experiment a bit more. I needed to figure out the flaws in the process and find solutions now so that I could make this Sticky Note thing the real deal before I implemented it next year. Lucky for me (and 6 years of future students!), they were excited to help!

Practice using Sticky Notes in class

The first thing I did with my students was to model thinking while reading. The next day, I read a picture book to my class and practiced thinking about my favorite part. I modeled how I changed my Sticky Note from one page to another, and wrote my final favorite part on the note.

Teacher reading aloud to her class to model thinking while reading.

I wanted my students to write a note about the same book. I gave them a sentence stem to write on their note so they would know what I expected:

“My favorite part of the the book was when ____(what happened)____ because ____(why it was my favorite)____.”

This “formula” would help students remember to give details from the story and to explain their thinking about that part.

When they were finished, I took those notes and projected them anonymously on my board. The notes that were well-written with good detail, I showed and had the students explain to me why they were well-written. For the notes that needed a bit more, I said exactly that but in a positive way.

“This is a good start! I like how this note says why it was the favorite part. How could we add extra detail from the story to help us as listeners better understand what happened in the book during that favorite part?”

After jumping in with their ideas on how to make the notes more detailed, we spent the next few days analyzing and revising even more practice notes. The kids caught on quickly and got really good at writing their own notes!

refining our routine made sticky notes a true reading log alternative possibility

I also noticed that kids were getting excited about the books their friends were reading! The Sticky Notes were causing them to ask a lot of really good questions about what had happened before or after their favorite part, so I added something to the “sharing with a partner” routine.

Two students reading their book to each other.

Once students had shared their note with their partner, they then read the actual page(s) from the book that their favorite part came from!

My kids loved reading the actual book to their friends and even got interested in books they may not have normally wanted to read- all because their friends got them excited about it!

This also solved another problem. I suspected a few students were only reading a page or two and writing a quick note. Can I police that?

No, absolutely not (and I’d drive myself crazy trying!). So even if some kids weren’t reading like they were supposed to, I at least knew that they were reading some each morning. And to me, that was better than the “no reading at all” I was getting before. Pick your battles, Teacher Friend!

Sticky Note Recording Sheet makes a great Reading Log Alternative

Now that the process was coming together, I had to figure out what to do with all those notes! We only had another week of school, so it was too late to start anything new with that group. In thinking ahead for next year’s students.

I created a simple weekly Sticky Note Recording Sheet to place notes on and decided we would keep the sheets in a folder so I could keep track of all completed notes. I didn’t want to take grades on how notes were written, but did want to give an accountability grade just for turning in the notes.

The future of my Sticky note Reading log Alternative

After so many years of hating Reading Logs, I had finally created a Reading Log Alternative that I felt good about and checked all those boxes of what I had been looking for!

Students laughing while reading.

The next year, I started out the first few weeks training my new students on how to write Sticky Notes just as I had done the previous year.

The kids looked forward to reading each night and sharing Sticky Notes with partners the next day, while I was thrilled to see a huge increase in participation as compared to traditional Reading Logs.

When I came across problems that needed to be solved, I found easy solutions:

  • “I don’t have Sticky Notes.” Grab one from my Class Sticky Note Basket every morning.
  • “I lost my Sticky Note.” Write your thinking on the box inside your Sticky Note Recording Sheet.
  • “I didn’t have time to read last night.” Read right now or make up Sticky Note Reading over the weekend.
  • “I forgot my folder at home.” Read quietly on your own while others meet with their partners.
Sticky Notes show what students are thinking while reading.

Over the 6 years that I used Sticky Note Reading Folders in my room, I continued to add needed improvements (like note templates and Homework passes!) to refine this strategy until it was a well-oiled machine!

My students knew what to do and were benefitting from reading at home each night. And while I still had some students who struggled to do things outside of class for a variety of reasons, this Reading Log Alternative breathed a new level of student engagement into my “Reading Homework”!

Are you ready for a change?

Sticky Note Free Resource for Teachers

Teacher Friend, if you are looking for something different than traditional Reading Logs, try Sticky Note Reading Folders! You can grab the actual Sticky Note Recording Sheet that I used with my students for free HERE!

If you’d like to know the entire step-by-step process of how you can fully implement Sticky Note Reading in your classroom along with all the resources you need right at your fingertips, then check out this Sticky Note Folder Reading Log Alternative resource in my TPT Store!

This completely-done-for-you Resource includes:

Sticky Note Reading Log Alternative TPT Resource
  • A 5-page Implementation Guide that walks you through every step of how to use this strategy (and set up folders) in your classroom!
  • Parent Letter explaining the Sticky Note Folders
  • Sticky Note Sentence Frames Sheet
  • Sticky Note Recording Sheet Template
  • and much more!

You don’t have to stick with ineffective Reading Logs because you don’t know what else to do! This resource (which features digital versions of several of the printables mentioned above!) is exactly what you need to get your students excited about reading outside of school! Check it out HERE!

If you would like to work with me on how you can implement creative lessons or teach tricky Reading Standards, book a free call! Nothing makes me happier than seeing a fellow teacher get excited about teaching again!

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 If you have any questions or want to bounce any ideas off a colleague, I’m here for you! Teacher Sparkle always grows when it has other Teacher Sparkle to share in the excitement! ❤️

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