Fourth Grade Teacher: “I Did Away With Reading Logs”

A few posts ago, I wrote about the blog of Angela Bunyi, a fourth grade teacher from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Ms. Bunyi then write to me:

Thanks for sharing my article under Scholastic (Homework: Applying Research to Policy) and my note from the homework page on my class site. I wanted to add to your readers ongoing discussion about reading logs. I did away with them this year. I also did away with a specific reading time at home.

Why? First, I don’t want students reading to the clock. The thought of seeing “30 minutes” read for child after child in the daily reading log is really, really sad if you think about it. My goal is for students to get “lost” in their homework.

Second, I did away with reading logs because they were a pain for all involved. When I did use them, I found my best readers didn’t fill them out. Now I just meet with my kids during reading conference time to talk about their reading habits at home. When a student was on page 35 the day before and they are on page 75 the next morning, why push a log? I can do the math! The proof is with the pace of finishing books in your room each week.

228 thoughts on “Fourth Grade Teacher: “I Did Away With Reading Logs”

  1. @Disillusioned- I in know way feel I said anything self-righteous. First, I agreed that too much homework is a problem. However, I do not think some homework is unwarranted or unexpected. Second, your comment, “Young children don’t need to be “accountable and responsible” to any large degree,” I never said kids, young or otherwise, needed homework to learn accountability or responsibility. I said parents doing the homework for the child teaches them not to be accountable or responsible- there is a distinct difference.

    I did not note it in my original response, but I do not teach the young ones anymore, however, when I did teach first grade it was required by the school (a charter) to assign homework nightly, I thought it was ridiculous. I thought it was ridiculous that my 4 yr old nephew was sent home from pre-k with weekly homework. I do believe homework has its place and a value, but not in excess.

    I think before attacking teachers just because they are teachers, you should actually take the time to read the comments first.


  2. I think many of the above arguements are interesting, but it became increasingly apparent as I read them that many of these views where from largely the perspective of middle class parents/society. Homework may be considered a “pain” by some, but when you teach children who are 1-2 years below grade level no time can be wasted. I definitely agree that children should have fun and should not be bogged down with homework but with guidance and encouragement, homework does not have to have such a bad rep. In the community in which I teach many of my students’ parents ask teachers constantly, “What can I do to help my child learn and grow academically? Can I get extra reading material, practice sheets, fun learning activities, etc.?” I think this is a reflection of the mindset that our children, parents, and teachers should never stop learning. If you feel like your child is receiving an unfair amount of homework. I would suggest asking the teacher why your son or daughter has to complete it. I’ve never met a teacher who gives out homework “just because”. Research and studies may show trends that suggest it does not good, but I think it is up to the parent and teacher to approach homework with the right mindset so that the child see it as something positive.


  3. I think many of the above arguements are interesting, but it became increasingly apparent as I read them that many of these views where from largely the perspective of middle class parents/society.


    But that’s the whole point here. I’ll speak for most of us when I say we truly care about ALL children. But when you make the point that because your students are two grades below, therefore homework is justified for all, it just doesn’t hold any water.

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Just because Johnny’s mom won’t take him to a museum, therefore I can’t take my child? Just because Suzy is sitting in front of the tv all afternoon, you must assign homework to all? Because we didn’t do that! I could cry when I list all the creative and educational opportunities we missed (and I say “we” because when you are taking your child to a museum or spending the afternoon in a library, you are learning right along side her) because of homework overload.

    I might have kept my mouth shut if it was just during the week. But when homework began to gobble up more and more of our weekend time, that is when I put my foot down and proclaimed, ENOUGH!!!

    And even if some child does while the time away, it’s not your job to legislate what goes on at home. I like my deal better. You do your job, let me do mine.


    Homework may be considered a “pain” by some


    In the community in which I teach many of my students’ parents ask teachers constantly, “What can I do to help my child learn and grow academically? Can I get extra reading material, practice sheets, fun learning activities, etc.?”


    Oh, I ask that too! I speak in past tense because my daughter recently graduated high school. Every day, I would ask myself, my husband and yes, my child, how can I best educate this person? The sad part of homework is how much it took away from learning, rather than contributing to it.

    With all due respect, I don’t need you giving me worksheets. practice sheets, fun activities. I’m perfectly capable of finding those resources myself. I’m not against some other parent seeking you out for advice. But the operative word here is advice. Last I checked, the homework was mandatory.

    I think this is a reflection of the mindset that our children, parents, and teachers should never stop learning. If you feel like your child is receiving an unfair amount of homework. I would suggest asking the teacher why your son or daughter has to complete it.


    Been there done that. Good luck.

    I’ve never met a teacher who gives out homework “just because”. Research and studies may show trends that suggest it does not good, but I think it is up to the parent and teacher to approach homework with the right mindset so that the child see it as something positive.


    Oh, I approached it with the right mindset, alright. When I was younger and more naive. It took only a few months of family strain and tears to realize how harmful it all was.


  4. Yeah, that last paragraph from Anonymous, was a sharp poke in my ribs. Who says that doing homework is the “right mindset”? In my household, homework is the wrong mindset, and a bad way to teach kids about boundaries and keeping work and home separate.


  5. Exactly, Psych Mom. I’ve been away from this blog in a while and on a whim, decided to check back in and see what’s up. While I’m thrilled you commented too, so good to see you here, remember all the great conversations we had, it’s disheartening how the same wheel keeps spinning, the same bromides trotted out.

    After all the research, we’re still being told homework is the “right mindset” and we all need homework because some kids are two grades behind and their parents aren’t reading to them at night? Say what? Our experience has been that it’s the “high achieving” schools that assign the most. Nothing to do with inner urban issues. It’s about pressure and competition and control and schools boasting they have the highest SAT scores.


  6. Hi HWB:

    I have been tempted to respond to some of the postings here at times, but so many are just harping on the “you-suck-as-parents” angle, so I ignore them.

    At my daughter’s school (still the same one) homework is seen as an essential “must do” kind of thing..and it’s a given. The trend that the city public schools are scaling back on homework is seen as a poverty issue, and that it’s unfair to give homework when not every home has the same “advantages”. Because ours is a private school, homework is a requirement because somehow it’s important to foster.

    Next year, dear daughter is entering Grade 5 … other parents have said that much is downloaded into homework in Grade 5 “as they prepare for middle school years”. Homework was pretty much a non-issue in Grade 4…she didn’t do much of what was assigned and I never heard a peep from any sector. My stance was that I was not a reminder or a participant, and I didn’t allow things to be done at midnight on Sunday night.

    Reading made a huge comeback in our lives, much to my relief…now my beef changes to…”I’m not buying each and every book in that series on a weekly basis”…but that’s a domestic issue. We need to learn to appreciate libraries.


  7. I’m sorry that some of your children are being overwhelmed with homework at a young age. Fortunately, I have not had too much of an issue with that yet with my daughters who are about to start 2nd and 3rd grade. However, I do wonder about the amount of make-up work when my older daughter missed a day last year. It was hours and hours of work, and whatever she didn’t finish at home that night, she had to stay in for recess to complete the next day! I wonder if perhaps some of those assignments could have been skipped, or if she could have been allowed more time to complete them before needing to miss recess. For the most part, though, their homework has been reading (yes, sometimes with logs, which I hate, but I realize that in SOME cases, not all, having that log to be accountable to helps parents get everything in) and practicing math facts, either with flashcards supplied by the school, online websites they suggested, or anything else that we find that works. We’ve kept up that guideline of at least 20 minutes of reading and 10 minutes of math practice during the summer as well, though I never actually watch the clock. My girls love to read, and for math, they help cook (measure), and we have a couple of games for the ds and my huband’s ipod that they can play (with limits–they don’t play video games very often). One daughter has struggled with math and thinks she hates it, so we try to keep it fun.

    We did have a daycare teacher who wanted kids to bring in a ‘sound of the week’ item at an age that I thought was way too young (2 or 3). I was quite irritated with that, because with two young children going to daycare, the last thing I needed at that point was ‘homework’. Just making sure everyone had enough changes of clothes, pull-ups, etc was enough for that age, I would think! Read them stories, play games, sing with them–don’t worry about letters and sounds yet, except MAYBE helping them recognize their own names?

    I’m also a high school teacher in a different district. I have heard homework horror stories from my colleagues who have children of varying ages. It kills me to hear how much homework elementary aged children are given in some places. It’s no wonder I can’t get my high school students to do ANY homework–they’re all burned out and so are their parents!!!

    Now, before you attack my giving homework, I want to say that very rarely do my students leave my room with written homework, but since I teach a foreign language, I do ask them to spend 15-20 minutes each night doing some kind of vocabulary review. I don’t give them written busywork for this. Instead I make suggestions and give strategies throughout the semester on things they can do on their own to review. The first day of class, for example, the homework is to go home and teach a family member what they learned. It’s always a few basic questions/answers (What is your name? Where are you from? How are you?) . Many do it. A lot don’t. The problem is, they’re either so sick of the homework overload they’ve struggled through in the early grades, they don’t think studying is ‘cool’ enough for them, they’re too busy with the demands of a job or sports, or, yes, there are some households out there where no one is checking up with them or holding them accountable for their learning. Before you all attack–obviously, that isn’t any of you, or you wouldn’t be here concerned for your children’s education. But, like it or not, there are parents out there who aren’t taking an active role in their children’s education. That is a fact that teachers do have to deal with. Unfortunately, I think sometimes the more motivated kids suffer, because they are then told what and how to learn, study, and review, when they might have been better off left to just review what they felt they needed to review. I’ve actually seen situations where parents were contacted because their child wasn’t doing well or was a behavior problem, and the parents reacted by homeschooling. Unfortunately, not everyone who takes on homeschooling is good at it. There are many WONDERFUL homeschooling parents, but I’m sure even they admit that not every homeschooling situation is a good one. Anyway, in many of those cases (the not so good ones), the homeschooled children are brought back to school after a year or two, and it is evident that no homeschooling actually took place. Reading skills have decreased, behavior problems are greater than when they left, etc.

    Many have said that it isn’t the parents’ faults or the teachers’ faults, and I tend to agree with that. It is the system. Certainly, there are teachers that are giving busywork and aren’t open to the individual needs out there. There are also parents that aren’t doing everything they should be for their kids’ education. Ultimately, though, I think the problem is our system. So, where do we go from here? When students are not reviewing as they need to and score poorly on tests (assuming no learning disability), what is a teacher to do? If the teacher taught, and 80% of the kids are doing well, but he/she knows that more of the students are doing well, but they aren’t applying themselves, what is a teacher to do?


  8. *but he/she knows that more of the students are CAPABLE OF doing well

    Sorry, left out a couple words that are kind of critical to my statement making sense!


  9. I am a first grade teacher. I changed my career to teaching after 15 years in the business field. I found this blog because I was looking for additional documentation on research based reading strategies. I also have a Masters in Reading Pre-K to 12. There are many points that I disagree with; HOWEVER, there are also many interesting and VALID points. As a result, I’ve picked up a few suggestions from some of the parents. So thank you everyone. I feel it is important to hear all viewpoints because I am always trying to improve my teaching and parent relationships. Incidentally, I believe my parent communication and relationships have been very strong.
    My first graders have a reading log. I ask for 4 days of reading (any day of the week). I only check the log on Fridays. Parents reading TO their children is encouraged and counts as reading. Any book, magazine, etc. counts. I don’t require pages or dictate how much time. Just the title and date. I do ask parents to initial the log for support and validation. I recommend 5 – 15 minutes. If children are “lost” in the literacy moment and want to read longer, that’s great. I also don’t take away recess. I provide “optional” Take Home Literacy bags. I work in a poverty school district where 80% of the kids are on free or reduced lunch. I found this wonderful website if anyone is interested He is the author of The New York Times Bestseller The Read-Aloud Handbook. Jim Trelease had some interesting information on his website and free downloadable handouts. See below:
    Won’t ‘requiring’ children to read
    eventually turn them off?
    Do you require your child to brush his teeth every day? How about changing his underwear or making his bed? Do you worry that such requirements will eventually lead to your grown son giving up teeth-brushing and underwear changes because you “required” it in his childhood? Sounds pretty silly when we put it in those terms, doesn’t it? In my book The Read-Aloud Handbook, I write about Sonya Carson, a single parent who required her two sons
    to obtain library cards and read two books a week. Today
    one is an engineer and the other is a preeminent
    pediatric brain surgeon (Dr.Ben Carson). Their story
    can be found in Ben’s book Gifted Hands. The man who
    invented the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M.A.S.H.) and became the world’s greatest heart surgeon, Dr. Michael DeBakey, was required to read a book a week
    as a child. These are huge testimonials to parents
    who believe in raising their children instead of just watching them grow up. Children will never have a chance for higher achievements without higher-level reading skills. Where nothing is asked, usually nothing is received. In offices where punctuality is not required, people seldom arrive on time. So how to require reading and still keep it pleasure-oriented?
    First, remember that pleasure is more often caught than taught (that means—read aloud to them). Next:
    • Make sure you (the adult role model) are seen reading daily. It works even better if you read at the same time as the child.
    • For young children, looking at the pictures in books and turning pages qualifies as “reading.” We become picture-literate before becoming print-literate.
    • Allow children to choose the books they wish to read to themselves, even if they don’t meet your high standards.
    • Don’t take that vacation car trip without recorded books on board. They count too!
    • Set some time parameters, short at first and longer as children get older and read more.
    • Newspapers and magazines, even comic books, should count toward reading time.All of it amounts to exposure
    to print.The self-selection,self-interest factor is important here. Let children read what interests them. (Those school
    summer reading lists usually require them to read what interests the faculty.) The goal here is to raise a lifetime reader, not an English teacher. The great national shortage is not in the latter but in lifetime readers. Every
    lifetime reader I’ve ever known spent summers
    reading everything — including junk.
    In closing, I want to say that I have two sons and I do believe there are teachers that assign too much homework. I don’t believe I am one of them. I am very much in favor of having a reading log, IF it is done in a positive way.


  10. Love2Teach, remember, we are not opposed to reading, just reading LOGS. Requiring my child to read? You bet. I just didn’t put it that way. I seeded the house with books. Read to her starting in the womb. Early childhood was marked by almost daily visits to a library and/or bookstore. Books are everything in our household, learning never ends. I created a passion for it. It may look as if I was merely watching her grow up rather than doing anything active, but her endless reading was no accident.


  11. HWB – I didn’t mean to imply that you were against reading in general. The parents on this blog are very dedicated to their children and well spoken. I was adding the read aloud information because I found it interesting and thought others may as well. I feel my reading log is a reduced version of some that are given. Only date & title, 4 days, no required pages or time, no recess taken away and parents don’t have to sign the log. Students can turn it in without signatures. This is because I do think there are teachers that give too much homework.

    What I find interesting is for the last 7 years my class has had the highest averaged reading scores in first grade (7 teachers) by the end of the year. I don’t think it’s entirely because of my teaching. I’ve had great success with getting kids to read at home too. I think that my reading log and take home literacy bags have helped. Another factor could be because I work many hours during the school year. So far this week I have worked 55 hours. It’s only the 2nd week of school and I’ve already conferenced with one parent to discuss intervention strategies for his daughter. I offered an intervention folder with short activities they can do at home. This is optional. I won’t send it home unless parents come in, see it and really want it. So it all works together.


  12. I accidentally found this blog. I know it’s 2 years old, but looks like people are still contributing. I found more research.
    A poll conducted for the Associated Press in January 2006 found that about 57% of parents felt their child was assigned about the right amount of homework. Another 23% thought it was too little, and 19% thought it was too much. A survey conducted by MetLife in 2007 found that 87% of parents saw that helping their child with homework was an opportunity for them to talk and spend time together. More than three fourths (78%) did not think homework interfered with family time, and nearly as many (71%) thought that it was not a source of major stress.

    The homework question is best answered by comparing students assigned homework with students assigned no homework. The results suggest that homework can improve students’ scores on the class tests that come at the end of a topic. Students assigned homework in second grade did better on the math tests; third and fourth graders did better on English skills and vocabulary tests; fifth graders on social studies tests; ninth through 12th graders on American history tests; and 12th graders on Shakespeare tests. Across five studies, the average student who did homework had a higher unit test score than the students not doing homework.

    However, 35 less rigorous (correlational) studies suggest little or no relationship between homework and achievement for elementary school students.

    The National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association have a parents’ guide called Helping Your Child Get the Most Out of Homework. It states, “Most educators agree that for children in grades K–2, homework is more effective when it does not exceed 10–20 minutes each day; older children, in grades 3–6, can handle 30–60 minutes a day; in junior and senior high, the amount of homework will vary by subject.”

    Practice assignments do improve scores on class tests at all grade levels. A little amount of homework may help elementary school students build study habits.

    Source: Harris Cooper, PHD

    As far as Sara Bennett’s book “The Case Against Homework….Read Jay Mathews article from The Washington Post called “The Weak Case Against Homework. Looks like some parts of the book and sources were discredited.


  13. I have enjoyed reading the comments about homework. I am a 4th grade teacher and I try to give as little homework as possible. I find very interesting the comments about families finishing what the teacher didn’t get done in class. I would never send home work for my students to do that they didn’t get done in class, and I don’t think many teachers do. What we do send home is work that helps to reinforce the new concepts that were taught during the school day lesson (especially math), so that the student gets additional practice at home for the day’s lesson. Many times, if it is a new concept that is taught, it requires more than one repitition for mastery of the skill. Our Everyday Math curriculum that we use in our district has a study link (homework practice sheet) to go home with the student after the days lesson, to give them extra practice to help them work towards mastery of a new skill. When I look at their homework paper the next day, I use it as a tool to see who is getting it, and who needs help, or reteaching, of a certain skill, because I can see by the homework, that they did not get it the first time it was taught. In this way, I can use homework to guide my instruction (i.e.- I am not going to move on to the next math lesson if the majority of students did not master the skill from the day before.) If it is only a few students that did not get the skill, I will pull them as a small group, and do some reteaching of that skill. Homework is a way for me as a teacher to know who is getting it, and who still needs more help. I never give homework as “busy work”. Why would I do that, as I am the one who has to spend the time correcting it?


  14. Anonymous, the problem is that your intentions are not the same as the actual results. Sure, you don’t intend to give busywork, but if it feels like busywork to your students then that’s what it is. It’s not really your determination to make.

    And don’t get me started on Everyday Math. If you’re following that curriculum, trust me, you’re assigning busywork.


  15. Beware of the man who read one book. Those who are 100% against homework have not considered ALL of the research. And there are parts of Sara Bennett’s book that have been discredited. Where nothing is required, nothing is received. In the work place where punctuality is not mandated, employees do not arrive on time.


  16. Oh, please. You think the people who comment on this blog have only read one book? Give me a break.

    Believe me, we’ve seen the research, and it’s absolutely consistent that homework in elementary school has NO correlation with achievement. Even Janine Bempechat, who’s strongly pro-homework, admits that.

    In any case, it’s not just about the research. Most of us are parents who see the toll homework takes on our kids’ well-being. Even if homework has benefits, they must be weighed against the harm homework causes. The benefits would have to be enormous to be worth the harm that homework causes our children.


  17. I’m a research driven person. And while reading comments I saw one that said those people not reading Sara Bennett’s book should not be posting. And it is the only book advertised on this blog. So I agree, all the research should be considered. To say homework “harms” children…that’s an exaggeration to say the least. Balance and meaningful work is the key. I posted research in an earlier post and it appears that it doesn’t matter. To see an issue just one way is not how I want to drive my instruction or live my life. Jim Trelease is highly respected.


  18. Of course homework harms kids. It makes them hate school and learning, stresses out their entire family, and wrecks their relationships with their parents. It deprives them of sleep, exercise, fresh air, and time with their friends.

    All this for something that has never been shown to have any correlation with academic success in elementary school, and very minor correlations with academic success in middle school and high school.


  19. And Zapp, Jay Mathews didn’t do any meaningful research on this topic. He’s an education reporter!

    I used to read everything Jay wrote until I got too fed up to continue. I am very familiar with his writings and stance, I have been reading and discussing him for years. And even Jay, even Jay, who called himself Mr. Homework, finally came around and begrudgingly admitted that especially if a child is inclined to read all afternoon, that that is better than prescribed homework. Kudos to him for being big enough to admit when he’s small.

    A further caveat on Jay, though. I’ll have you know he also doesn’t like gifted programs. He is very big on a one size fits all. He wants everyone taking AP courses, no matter how poorly they do, because his Newsweek rankings issue sells big time.

    I don’t think even Jay fully understands how much homework is assigned in Fairfax County’s GT Centers (now renamed AAP). In 6th grade, the levels varied wildly. Either children were bored midnight blue or were up till midnight, completing college level assignments. It was some misguided attempt to impress the parents.

    However you feel about homework, can’t we all just agree once and for all that when a ten year old has been at it for three hours, that that’s just too darn long? That when a child doesn’t have time play outdoors or is stuck in the house all weekend long with homework, that that is just plain harmful? I can’t imagine any sane person would argue with THAT.


  20. I am in high school and can promise you assigning large amounts of difficult homework will do nothing for the average class because majority of it will end up worrying about getting through the assignment and not learning the actual criteria, or the students will simply cheat or not do it. Say what you will but I know many students who have endured too much stress from too much pressure to excel academically and have hit their breaking point. A little bit of homework to help reinforce our learning is perfect but it gets to the point where we stay up all night doing hours and hours of pointless busywork. What is this doing? Making us hate the teachers who are supposed to be the person we look up to as a positive influence? Making us choose academic approval OVER OUR OWN HEALTH? Amounts of stress that homework creates can make a student miss out on sleep, eating, healthy interaction relationships, it can give a student anxiety, make them want to self harm, make them feel stupid, damaging their own self esteem or even going to the extreme as to wanting to commit suicide. I am sorry, we are kids in high school, we want to have fun and are trying to learn about the world around us, homework should be a small sidenote, NOT the longest most demanding part of our day.


  21. Good choice. Some students can get overwhelmed with homework, causing them to be unhappy. Some even don’t like reading because they are forced to read God choice


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