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Alice Keeler

Tracking Reading Patterns Over Time by @jenroberts1

Reading Tracker
Tracking Reading Patterns Over Time by @jenroberts1

Reading Tracker

Reading Tracker: A Simple Way to Monitor Progress

A Guest Post by Jen Roberts

I’m a 9th grade English teacher to 140+ students and I let them read every day. Independent reading is where my students get the most choice, the most autonomy, and the most differentiation. It’s where they discover what interests them, what inspires them, and who they relate to. It binds them together when they inevitably start to read the book a friend recommended, or coincidentally read the same book as another student that they don’t know well. When two people like the same book they are also more likely to like one another. You get the idea. I could do this all day.

Creating a Tracker

Did I mention 140+ students? Would you believe that some of them don’t read? Well, I built a tool for myself that helps with that. Let me stipulate that I got this idea partly from Kyra Bowers, at an Edcamp when she shared the way she used a Google Form to track assignments for her 5th graders. If you are familiar with Google Forms this is the easiest form ever. It’s technically only ONE question, in a multiple choice grid. If you aren’t interested in tracking reading (I mean, maybe you teach Math or something) then consider what what you would want to track about your students over time.

The multiple-choice grid question lets you have lots of rows going down, and then several columns going across. For the rows I PASTE in a list of my students names. (I make one form for each period I teach, and yes, you can paste a list of names.) For the columns going across I use the kinds of things I might see when my students are reading. So the first column says Reading. The second says, Reminded to read. The third says, Not really reading.

When I’m done I have a simple form that only I see. I bookmark the form for each period and keep them handy on my bookmarks toolbar, labeled only as 1R, 2R, 3R etc. Hidden in plain sight, even when I project my screen. I do not tell my students I’m using these forms. I may vaguely refer to “making notes about your reading,” but I never tell them that I make these observations on a Google Form.

Monitoring Progress

Every form submission is time and date stamped, so I know when I made the observation. By using this form each period and at least a few days a week I gradually collect data about my students that I can use to support their reading. This is especially helpful early in the year when I am still getting to know them, and they are nervous about conferring.

Reading Tracker Form
Of course, the beauty of doing this in a Google Form is that all of that data goes to a spreadsheet. In a spreadsheet I can use conditional formatting to color code the responses. Then I have data I can see and act on. Can you tell which day I helped Danielle find a new book? Can you tell if she liked that new book better? After Danielle I spent some time talking to Brian. We got him a better book too. The sheet below is just sample data, and those aren’t my students’ real names, but these kinds of conversations and changes in reading behavior are happening in my classroom as a direct result of the trends I can see from the data I collect.

Tracker Responses

Letting Tech Do Automatic Tasks (so I can focus on my students)

I have 140+ students, so I need things like this to give me an edge. With my reading tracker forms I catch trends I would have missed, I intervene sooner, and I can see progress. Also this is fast. In a little more than the time it would normally take me to take attendance I can make an observation about each student. I value that time. For at least a few seconds, and often more, I get to focus on each child. Too often attendance is about noticing who is absent; with this form I get to focus on students who are present.


I would like to thank Alice Keeler for giving me a platform to share this tip with you. I haven’t written about this on my own blog LitandTech.com because I would prefer that my students not know about this bit of my magic powers.

Jen Roberts is the co-author of Power Up: Making the Shift to 1:1 Teaching and Learning. She is a classroom teacher, an adjunct instructor to pre-service teachers, and a strong supporter of student-centered instruction. She blogs somewhat regularly about her best practices at Litandtech.com. Find her on Twitter @JenRoberts1.

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