Metacognition in Reading Workshop

Assessment in Reading Workshop is always difficult, especially in an education culture that begs for grades at every turn.  I always struggle with how to assess my readers without cramming quizzes and tests down their throat at every turn.  I do test their basic comprehension when we read class novels- a necessary habit/evil that they must practice in order to be able to do it in middle and high school.  Plus, I love our class novels!  And they should be easy grades for every student, as long as they pay attention to our class discussions.

Assessing independent novel reading is a struggle for me.  I firmly believe in the Atwell school of thought which states that independent reading is pleasure reading.  Therefore, testing or grading that reading is counter-productive because it only makes reading a chore.  But of course, we need to give grades.  I think I finally have an assessment I am happy with this year.  It isn’t the be-all-end-all of my grading, but it does provide me with more data about my students as readers while also giving me a quick 5 points/week in our semester grade.

After reading Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop: Making Informed Instructional Decisions in Grades 3-6 by Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak I decided to implement a weekly in-class reading log.  I used a basic reading log last year which just asked the students to fill in the title, author, number of pages read, and the date. It served its purpose but I wasn’t getting anything from it.  This year I implemented Franki and Karen’s weekly reading long instead.  This log asks for the title, author, genre, and pages read.  But it also asks for a comment on that day’s reading.  So we read for 20-30 minutes and when we stop the kids fill in their comment.  Sometimes I shape their comment by asking them to use our daily mini-lesson.  For example, we were working on thick vs. thin questions this week so I asked them to write a thick or thin question after their reading.  At the end of the week they also fill out one thing they learned about themselves as readers that week and a goal for the next week.

I have now collected the weekly logs twice and I am thrilled with them!  They give me a great picture of my kids and their reading.  The comments have been getting better with each day and I love seeing how they think about their thinking at the end of each week.  Thank you Franki and Karen for the awesome idea!  

(For grading, I use a point system and divide the number of points earned by the total points for the marking period for each student.  The weekly reading logs are worth 5 points and the only reason a student doesn’t get full credit is if they don’t fill out the log or hand it in incomplete.)

Walking to School by Eve Bunting

Very few of my students are familiar with the situation in Northern Ireland over the course of their lifetime.  However, this contemporary situation is one that should be taught.  Before I read Eve Bunting’s newest offering, Walking to School, I wasn’t really sure how to do it.  Now, I know I will share this story with my students as a read-aloud (and a perfect example of a small moment story/personal narrative).  


Allison has just started at a new school in Belfast.  In fact, she has just started school at the same girl’s primary school that her mother attended at her age.  Instead of being excited, though, Allison is dreading school by the second day.  Not because of her teacher or classmates or the work.  No…she dreads the walk to school because on her first day, Protestants lined the main street and spat the children while yelling and cursing.  She is terrified to walk to school again.  Her mother enlists her uncle to walk with them, but Allison can’t tell her that she is also scared of Uncle Frank.  See, she knows a secret about her uncle that her mother doesn’t even know.  And because of that she is afraid of him and this makes walking to school even worse.

Of course, Allison’s mother makes her go to school.  While the walk is terrifying and even worse than the day before, a momentary connection between Allison and a young Protestant girl changes everything for her.

This is a deep story and one I plan to use as a mentor text for personal narrative.  I can also see using Walking to School as a picture book for advanced readers because there are so many layers to the story.  The possibilities for discussion are almost endless.  Eve Bunting has done it again!