Thursday, March 10, 2011

What Does Reading Homework Look Like?


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."
This is just a little snapshot of the conversations students have with me everyday about what they're reading at home. None of it happened because I assigned reading homework. It happened because the literate lives of our classroom spilled over into their permanent reading lives, no matter where they are. And it's hard to argue that these students aren't all involved in reading outside of our school walls.

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.


  1. What great snippets. I think my favorite was the reader who was willing to give a book a second try ... that's dedication!

  2. I teach 7th grade reading and reading logs had to leave my classroom early on. They are no indication of their reading lives and were hated and lied about at every conference. Now we talk about our books and engage in activities that use their independent reading and I try everyday to help every kid find the book that will make them a lifelong reader.

  3. I love how you incorporated the kids' voices into this piece. This is what a reading community should sound like!

  4. Great perspective! I admire a teacher that is able to see that something isn't working and figure out a way to make the appropriate change.

    It is awesome that you are seeing a transfer from school to home and back again. Keep up the great work!

  5. I love the way these students are so happy to share their reading lives with you!

  6. Karen,

    I couldn't agree more if I tried! Kids look at homework differently than they do reading and I understand why! Homework is assigned to them, parents often monitor and then it is "graded." Reading should be like eating and exercise...a valued enriching part of our lives! I love the way you encourage your students to share their "reading lives." You are truly developing lifelong readers! Congratulations!

  7. Hi Terry, Lindsey, Carol, Lisa, Happy Birthday Author, and Book Chook!

    Thanks to all of you for stopping by to read my reflection and then share your comments. I have been very under the weather, so I'm only getting around to responding back now.

    I am fortunate to work with the children I do. We have built a community of readers who both know one another, as well as themselves. It adds so much dimension to our reading lives.

    Thanks for being part of my learning and reflecting!!


  8. CHOICE. This theme has woven its way through all of the posts in our roundup. Powerful message...

  9. Love the emphasis on the reader and not the reading.


  10. Stacey MulhollandApril 3, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    I teach 5th grade. I too, struggle with nightly reading. My fantastic tech teacher blogged about my trail with GoodReads with my students. Check it out: