Monthly Archives: September 2013

Using Goodreads for Independent Reading


I’ve been trying to figure out how to use Goodreads in the classroom to monitor independent reading for the past three years. As time has gone by I’ve discovered that fewer and fewer parents are paying attention to students’ independent reading, and parent signatures have become a less than effective way to monitor student reading. This led me to my current theory that students will be more accountable for their reading when it exists somewhere in cyberspace, and somewhere that a teacher can actually monitor and that their friends can see as well. Thus my quest for how to use Goodreads as a weekly/monthly reading log.

Independent Reading Requirements

My students are required to read a minimum of 75 pages of Independent Reading per week. I played with a number of minutes per day, which would require them to log daily, which is to me an unnatural reading habit, and a number of pages per trimester, which doesn’t create daily reading habits. I finally settled on a weekly goal, and while I have set my goal lower than I would like, it still elicited groans from some of my students and yet is doable in the day and age of all-kids-are-busy-all-of-the-time. I figured this is about 75 minutes of reading per week, 300 pages per month, and 900 pages per trimester.

Setting Up Goodreads

I set a day aside and had students create Goodreads accounts. We had a nice and brief discussion about genres as they indicated their genres, and I encouraged all students to select “Children’s” so that they could populate their shelves quickly and with their favorites. The kids loved shouting the names of the kid books they read and talking among themselves about their favorites. They were all also required to select “Young Adult” and find the summer reading books they had read. Many of the girls selected “Chick Lit” and quickly learned that the shelf wasn’t for 13 year old chicks.  I roamed around the room while they began populating their “read” and “want to read” shelves and I was able to see which kids were into Anime and Manga, which kids read comic books, and which kids were already reading more “adult” literature like Stephen King or from Oprah’s book club.  After creating these shelves, students friended me.

Weekly Check-Ins

Every Friday I have students go into Goodreads and create a “status update.” They include the page they are on in the book and 2-3 sentences that can be summary, connections, response, analysis, predictions, or questions– all reading habits we are trying to instill in students. Varying page numbers is an issue. Some kids are able to find their edition of the book on the book page, but many are reading it digitally and have varying font sizes. I have students indicate the page numbers in their status rather than in the small page number window, resulting in “18% of 1786 pages” or even “I’m on page 10,132 of 17,933” as the first sentence of their status update.

Students write their 2-3 sentences (editing for good writing conventions) and click Save Progress. If a student has finished a book and started another, he or she creates a status update for the completed book, clicks I’m Finished, and then adds the new book to the Currently Reading bookshelf. The status update for the new book is optional.

We did this together every Friday for the first month of school. Each week the time needed has been less, and this has given me the opportunity to check in with every student. My settings are set to receive weekly updates from Goodreads, and I’m just checking off each student as I see the update is completed. I have class time to touch base with kids who are having trouble.


I am grading each status update for 5 points– 2 points for the pages (I’m guestimating here because of the page variations) and 3 points for the writing/content. My mantra is that students should be writing well and using specific details all of the time.  Sheesh, it’s only 2-3 sentences.

After four weeks of weekly checks, I’m going monthly. After clicking around I found that I can see all of my previous status updates. I will have students find this page on the last Friday of the month, screenshot it with their iPads, and submit it to ebackpack. I will grade the monthly record for 5 points per Friday entry.

Finding “all of XXX’s status updates”:  this process is cumbersome, and I anticipate having to walk students through it every month.

1) Log in and create the Friday update.

2) Click on the title of any book on the Currently Reading bookshelf.

3) Click the timestamp under the most recent status update. This takes you to a page with all updates for that particular book.

4) Click the link to “all of XXXX’s status updates” in the top right corner. This will list all updates from every book. I think this list will become very long as the year progresses, so students will have to make sure to capture the correct updates each month. However, each update is dated and timestamped, so it will be clear if updates were done when expected.

4) Screenshot the correct updates and submit to ebackpack.

The submission to ebackpack will also let me annotate on the student submission, giving me the opportunity to let kids know what they are missing in their updates so that they can improve as the year progresses.