Focus in on Your Students' Reading Habits | Mentoring in the Middle

Focus in on Your Students' Reading Habits

It is so important to get to know your students in the first few weeks of school.  Who do they live with?  How much support do they have at home?  How busy are they?  What do they enjoy doing? What's important to them?

As you're getting to know them, you're probably also getting to know their data: state or district assessments, information from their cumulative folder, information passed on in your district-wide system, information from the previous years' teacher.

And you're asking for information:  who do I contact when I have a question or concern?  What should I know about you?

So it's hard to feel like giving students yet another form to fill out might be helpful.  But I believe it is!  One of the most powerful tools I use in Reading is a reading interest survey.  It doesn't take long to fill out and it gives you lots of valuable information!
So when you first talk to that student about books, even if he or she says they don't like to read, you have valuable information about what they like to do, what activities they're involved in, and how much free time they have.  

So you have a place to start as you help them locate their first good-fit book!

I like to conference with my students - and depending on the year, I'm more or less successful with meeting with them regularly.  I copy this form so I have one for each student.  In addition to marking down a few things from the reading survey, I also write down some data that I collect when I have students do an Informal Reading Inventory.  That way, if I see that a student is reading below grade level, I can suggest holding off on higher-level books for a little while.  Sometimes kids want to impress you and some kids have mastered fake reading.  But if you know them well, that doesn't last for long! 

I like to use CAFE and a modified Daily 5 in my room.  Actually it's more of a Daily 3: Read to Self, Word Work, and Work on Writing.  

During the time that I see a student reading to self, I just plop down beside them....okay, I put my trusty stool next to them and sit on it....and have a brief conversation about what they're reading. Early on, I might have them read a paragraph or a page to me to listen to their fluency, we'll discuss something that happens, and I leave them with a focus for their reading until the next time we meet.

My students learn from the beginning of the year, that when they read, no matter where they're doing it, they do it with their :
      • book(s)
      • pencil
      • Reading notebook
They write down the strategy or focus they're working on and the next date when we'll meet.  I mark the same thing down in the notes section.  And off I go to meet with the next student!

My students have come to love this individual time with me, and often remind me that they have a meeting scheduled with me that particular day.  To be honest, I have a hard time keeping to the schedule, but I know how important it is to them, and how much I know my students as readers.  That keeps me going!

The Reading survey is available in my TpT store, and with the Back-to-School sale coming up, you'll be able to get it for 25% off!


  1. I think it is so important to know your students and this interest survey is a super way to get connected from the beginning of school!

  2. I love interest surveys, too. I think they're important, not just for me, the teacher, but for my students to actually go through the motions of thinking about themselves as readers and writers.

    1. Good point. Kids learn something about themselves, and that's invaluable!

  3. What a great "Back to School" inspiring post! :) I love that your students must be so aware of your on-going interest in them!

  4. What a great "Back to School" inspiring post! :) I love that your students must be so aware of your on-going interest in them!

  5. Wonderful ideas! Teachers can really impact students' attitudes toward reading. Another thing to do is talk to them regularly about what you are reading in your free time. Read them excerpts or give a book talk. Show them your enthusiasm for reading, and they will eat it up.

    1. I agree, Cheryl. My students read when they come back from lunch for a few minutes to get settled in, in addition to time they have in class. But after lunch, I'm reading a book too. They love to ask me about the book I'm reading and they see that I'm practicing what I'm preaching!

  6. This is really inspiring. I realize it won't always work out the way you intend - nothing ever does in the classroom, but the general idea is great!

    1. So true! As teachers, our middle name need to be "flexible!" I just really value how much I learn about my students by reading these surveys. The meetings are wonderful but I'm notorious for playing catch-up whenever I can. So many things come up that can interrupt the best plans!

  7. I LOVE using reading surveys! They give teachers SO MUCH information that we may never find out otherwise. Thanks for such a well written post.

    Best wishes!
    Jen :)