Knowing that I assigned very little other homework, I required my students to read a certain number of minutes a week, having them track their minutes on a log, and asking for a parent signature each week. At the time, I thought I was being fairly progressive since my students could read whatever they wanted (comics, books, video game guides, stats on sports, etc.). I also felt like this homework assignment should feel fairly painless as the requirement was only to read 4 times a week and they could choose which days they read.
The result was a lot less than I desired. Homework logs got lost on a regular basis (a true indication of the value students gave the assignment), parents shared at conferences how their children had become clock watchers, and no conversations about that home reading filtered into our classroom. In addition, parents had shared that their children had come to hate when it was time for reading homework. Yikes! That's not at all what I wanted for the readers I knew.
There are no reading homework guidelines in our class; no assigned reading for home. There is, however, an expectation that all students will engage in readers' lives. We grow our reading community at school, sharing important read alouds and thinking, immersing ourselves in reading books of choice, participating in Book Clubs that are student driven both by choice and by conversation, we meet in small strategy groups when a small group of students has similar needs, we confer a lot (both with me and with each other), the students write reflective letters to me about what is going on in their reading lives and I respond, and we read a wide variety of texts including those found on the computer/iTouch/digital readers.
Because a reader's life is modeled at school, it has naturally spilled over into my students' reading lives outside of school. The following snippets are real conversations students have had with me in the past week:
- "It was so funny, Mrs. T. I got in trouble by my mom last night because I was reading this new series and when she turned my light off, I waited until she was downstairs, and then I would turn it back on. I love my new book!"
- "Have you ever read John Grisham? This new book (Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer) is so cool. I can't wait for the next book in the series."
- "I told my mom how you and I talked about what I liked and we found some horse books I enjoyed (in our class). She just went out and got me the next 10 books in the Thoroughbred series."
- during a conference: "I usually read these books at home (39 Clues), but I was so close to the end and I'm expecting a cliffhanger so I brought them to school for just today. I sort of like to keep my home and school reading separate."
- "I'm trying to decide what books to take on vacation with me next week. We have a long car ride and I want to have the right books with me."
- "I stopped reading the Prisoner of Azkaban a while ago, and decided I wanted to read it again. I went back this weekend and reread everything so I would remember the details of the story since there are so many."
So what does reading homework look like for me? Hopefully, it will continue to look the snippets of conversation above. Students self-extending their reading lives from school to home.
For more about what other people are thinking about reading homework, head on over to A Year of Reading, where MaryLee and Franki are hosting today's blog tour for Share a Story - Shape a Future.