Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Tabbing: A Pacing Guide for Independent Reading

Pacing independent reading can get harder as students get older.  Longer books, more time, less adult guidance, more responsibilities and activities. etc.  I require my 5th graders to read outside of school and set goals with them about their independent reading that sometimes require deadlines.  Most students have no trouble finishing in the necessary amount of time, but my slower readers, my procrastinators, and my self proclaimed I-have-better-things-to-do kids need a little guidance.  Since I can't follow them home each night to check in on their reading, nor do I have time to conference with each student each day, book tabbing has been a life saver.
The idea is that we set a goal for how much a student should be reading a day.  Instead of seeing a chapter book and having no concept of how to finish it in two weeks, the book is broken down into smaller chunks that a kids can be responsible for.  The number of pages to read is determined by the goal or deadline and the number of pages in the book.  This is helpful because I have a surprising number of students who like to pace themselves according to chapter.  This could be ok, but it doesn't work if they have the idea that reading one chapter a day is sufficient, no matter the length or number of the chapters.  Pacing by pages splits things a little more evenly, and I always encourage the kids to read past their goal to get to the end of the chapter when they can.

Having a goal of pages to read each day is much more appealing and manageable when  let the kids use these cute little tabs.  They act as a book mark and a visible goal for their daily reading. I use the little post-its that you can get in multi packs (the cheap off brand ones work just as well- they are tucked inside a book page, so they stick just fine).  You could cut regular post-its in strips, but that is more time consuming and expensive.  The kids love the colors, love that they are post-its (who doesn't love post-its?), and love reaching a tangible goal each day.

There are two groups of students that use Book Tabbing in my classroom:
1. Students who  are behind in their independent reading, have a history of procrastinating, or chose a book longer than they normally read: these students are required by me to tab their books.
2. Type A kids that like to be organized or just really like post-its: I am totally fine with these students tabbing their books when they want to.

All of the kids are capable of tabbing their own books, but I have to do a little instruction to help them with that- otherwise they just stick a random amount of tabs in a book.  In a designated place in our classroom, I keep a bag with the needed supplies: a set of instruction cards (printable below), easy to use calculators (though they can do the math by hand), and little post-it tabs.

Here are the step by step instructions for the students:

 Here's a shot of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tabbed to be read in ten days:
You also can make it even more specific (and easier to check on) by writing the dates that a section needs to be completed on each tab. The students know that they can always read past a tab or even read to more than one tab, which they will sometimes do in preparation of a busy day or two that they know they have coming up.  Time management and thinking ahead are nice skill to see in a 5th grader!

These tabs make it very easy for me to quickly check in on students who need some guidance and accountability.  I can ask if they read to their tab the previous day (or visually check) and ask them a few quick questions about that section, as well as what their plan is for finishing today's tab.  Book tabbing is also helpful to me as a teacher because it allows me teach my students to set appropriate goals and to pace themselves when working on a big project, not just rely on adults to tell them where and when to complete a task.   It has been a great (and easy to implement!) tool in my classroom.

Click here for printable Book Tabbing cards to use with your students:


  1. Love this idea! So simple and sensible - but I never thought of it. Great to actually SEE the goal and feel great when reaching it!

    1. Ha, Betty, I have found that sometimes my simplest ideas are the most effective in the classroom :). I'm glad you found this helpful!