Of course, educators want students to develop into lifelong readers and learners. We want our students to find genres, authors, series, information, and perspectives they are eager to dive into. We also know that the minute we assign something or grade something, it reduces our students’ motivation. So how do we show our students we value their journey into reading for enjoyment without inadvertently killing their love of books? In my experience working with reluctant and striving adolescent readers, I found several tricks that allow us to justify giving students time to read in class and promote choice books.
Learning Goals related to independent reading can be helpful justification for prioritizing reading for enjoyment in our ELA classrooms. The following are some learning goals we found helpful in our high school ELA classes. Some are related to Minnesota ELA standards and others are learning goals we believe are necessary for students to master for life outside of school.
Students will be able to:
- maintain stamina for independent reading for at least 10 minutes daily.
- manage their own distractions.
- set reading goals for engagement and volume.
- actively read and comprehend a book of their choice.
- respond to their reading in writing to show their thinking as they read.
- cite evidence from their text to back up claims about plot, character, author’s purpose, text structure, and more.
- identify persuasive methods publishers use to market books to intended audiences.
- create a marketing piece (i.e., advertisement, book trailer, social media campaign) for one book they have read to garner peer interest in reading it, without spoiling the story for the future reader.
When we set learning goals, we want to help students know how to master them and provide feedback on how they are doing as they work to achieve each of the goals. We also need to be clear on the differences between assessment and grading for the benefit of our teaching and our students’ learning.
When we assess students, we can do so in formative and summative ways.
Formative assessment is that daily informal information we gather to see how our students are doing on the learning goals. We can gather a lot of information and not necessarily need to grade it all. We do want to show students we value their practice, their thinking, their engagement in reading, and their writing about their reading, so let’s go ahead and give students some points for engaging in that work. Example formative assessments include:
- reflections on how independent reading is going, including how students are managing distractions and monitoring their comprehension as they read.
- reader’s response journals where students write about what they are reading. We can help them move beyond summary to sharing all the ways they are actively reading to engage with the text. Providing prompts can be helpful for getting students to put their thinking on paper.
- exit tickets with a specific prompt related to a learning goal.
- conference notes.
- observation notes.
Summative assessment is more formal and provides students an opportunity to show collective learning across several goals. A book marketing project would be a summative assessment students could engage in to show how well they comprehended the book, and their understanding of persuasive techniques creators use to market products to others. The choice in how they will market their book will increase student engagement in the assessment. Providing one sales method for the project can work too. In my experience, students enjoyed creating book trailers because they had so much freedom in the choices they made throughout the entire plan, design, and production.
Grades provide information for the student, caregiver, and other outside entities on how students did on mastering their learning goals. My preference for many of the learning goals outlined above is to gather a body of evidence and then confer with students on where they believe they are in mastering each goal. Together we come to a consensus on a letter grade for each one.
While I know there is some debate on whether or not rubrics are the best tool for summative assessments of final projects, I find that when we create a rubric together while examining the effective and ineffective techniques in other published book trailers, we together can come up with descriptions that both guide their development and our evaluation of the final product. I have students reflect using the rubric after they have finished and then turn it in before I provide my evaluation.
Go ahead and make independent reading a central component of your secondary ELA curriculum. We can find ways to promote students’ love of reading, coach them on learning goals related to reading for enjoyment, and reward them with a grade for doing something fun.