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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Important Tools for Readers: Reading Logs & Sticky Notes

We don't often think about reading as a pastime that requires tools.  All you need is a book and some time, right?  Not true.  Good readers know there are tools to the trade.  This year, readers are already using two very important tools: reading logs and sticky notes.

Reading Logs

In fourth grade, reading logs mean more than just "proving" that we read.  Reading logs are records of our lives as readers, just as scrapbooks are our records of our lives.  When we go on vacation, we take pictures.  When we have birthdays, we take pictures.  When we go to weddings, graduations, special dinners, field trips, sleepovers, first days of school, or even just the park, we take pictures.  As readers, we log.  We log the books we've read so that later on we'll look back and remember those books we've loved.  But there's more.

As young readers working to grow and improve, we need a tool to help us track our growth and identify patterns.  Our daily reading logs are these tools.  We will keep these logs on hand as we move through the year, referring back to them to learn about ourselves, identify areas of improvement, and set goals.  

For instance, how do you know if you're reading long enough, fast enough, or even just enough?  Reading "enough" is really not about minutes, but books and pages and minutes all rolled into one!  You see, readers should read approximately 3/4 page per minute when they're in a book that's a good fit for them.  But we don't need stopwatches to figure out whether readers are within that range or not.  By studying logs and comparing the pages read to minutes read, we can infer a readers estimated speed!  Now, we know from time to time our pages to minutes will vary because of distractions, interruptions, difficulty of the text, and many other reasons.  By logging regularly, we can look at the big picture, not just one variable.

With this simple understanding in mind, we can infer a safe estimate of how long it would take a reader to complete their book.  For instance, students reading from the Magic Tree House series should be able to complete one complete chapter book within approximately an hour of reading.  Our class read aloud, Stone Fox, might take a reader up to approximately 2 hours of independent reading time to read it, cover to cover.  A much longer book, such as Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, would take a reader up to anywhere from four to eight hours of independent reading time to complete.  With rare exception, regardless of a reader's independent reading level, all readers should be reading enough to finish one chapter book or more per week, start to finish.  When this isn't occurring, reading logs are an invaluable tool to determining where to begin in the process of helping a reader improve.

Sticky Notes

Reading is thinking.  Good readers know that making our thinking visible allows for us to retrace our thoughts, like following a trail of pebbles through the forest.  

As we read, when we hear thoughts buzzing in our mind, we stop and jot them down as quickly as we can.  Then, we stick this thought directly to the page we were reading, and continue on.  After a while in our reading, we might come to a point at which we can tell our thinking is changing, or growing.  We begin to think back on the thoughts we had earlier in the book, and combine them with more recent ideas, wonderings, predictions.  By revisiting our sticky notes, we can take a few moments to write to grow our thinking in our reading notebook.  (That's where the really good stuff happens!)

Because these "jots" are so important, good readers know they need to keep sticky notes handy.  Be sure to grab a few extra from class each day and fix them inside the cover of your books before heading home.  You could also make sure you have a few pads of sticky notes in a safe place at home, just in case of a reading emergency.  You don't ever want to be unprepared! 

So readers, as you're reading at home, be sure to be ACCURATE in your logs.  Just as we do in class, when you prepare to read, get your tools ready.  Pull out your log and your sticky notes FIRST.  Jot down the starting time and page number right before you begin reading.  Then, don't read with one eye on the clock, but dive headfirst in to the story, stopping to jot your thinking as you read.  When you're ready to come up for air, glance back at the clock and record your ending time and page number.  Don't stress out about counting pages and minutes, just READ.  


  1. Love the use of the log and sticky notes. It shows that reading isn't just about reading, but thinking as well; not just reading words, but experiencing the words.

  2. I now even put my book in with my reading log!-Joey

    1. Woohoo!!! Genius! :) Great strategy to help support a new habit. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I love writing down all the stiky notes


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