Three educators. Three states. Three demographics. All practicing Readers and Writers Workshop in our Secondary Classrooms. Read more about us here.
We are the Modern PLC, and every Wednesday, we share our behind-the-scenes collaboration as we talk about the most urgent moving parts of our classroom pedagogy.
Reading accountability and grading our students’ reading goes hand in hand. Both are parts of a workshop classroom that can seem daunting, and sometimes we have to be flexible until we figure out what works well for our students and for us. Let’s start the conversation with accountability.
How do you hold students accountable for their reading?
Amy: More than any other year, holding students accountable for their reading is driving me crazy. I’ve tried passing a clipboard like I learned from Penny Kittle. Many of my students cannot get their heads wrapped around a simple “Write down the page number you are on” and then “tally your reading for the week.” I see my students for half a class period on Mondays and then every other day the rest of the week. Seems if they miss the chart at the first of the week they never get it caught up.
Last year I tried an online reading chart. Each student had a page in a spreadsheet that I asked them to keep updated. I gave them a couple of minutes in class right after independent reading time. That worked a little better, but it was more difficult for me to access at a glance. I really like to get a true state of the class.
The past few weeks, I’ve started walking around on Mondays and recording page numbers myself. I decided to try this since my students were moving into book club reading. I can see if they are on target with the reading goal for their groups. It’s worked better, but this is not the kind of accountability I want to inspire in my readers. I’ve made myself the accountable one, and I am outnumbered.
Jackie: I’ve had a love-hate relationship with accountability like you, Amy. The initial passing-around-the-clipboard method did not work for me either. I shifted to checking individually two years ago. I have a spreadsheet in which I enter their page numbers and reading rates on Mondays. The spreadsheet then immediately calculates the percentage they completed and whether they fulfilled their reading rate for the week. It isn’t a perfect system and I would much rather be conferencing with students instead of checking page numbers, but there are both pros and cons.
On the bright side, I do like checking in with every student on Mondays, and with a class of 24, it takes me about 13-15 minutes to record pages for the entire class. The other benefit is that I also immediately know when students didn’t complete the number of pages they were capable of reading for that week. Instead of telling them they didn’t complete the assignment though, we have a conversation about their reading overall.
Honestly, for my freshmen, this form of accountability is key. It is less important for my AP Literature students, but I enjoy walking through the class every Monday, touching base with every student, and ultimately starting my week off by acknowledging their reading successes.
Amy: Like you, Jackie, I do enjoy checking in with every student on Monday morning. The time is a trade off though, since I try to hold reading conferences when students are silently reading. I just don’t feel like I have the time to really talk to my students who are not getting their reading time in (That might be the crux of my frustration — I have too many students still not doing enough reading), and now meeting with each student for a longer reading conference on a regular basis takes that much longer. Seems like time eats my lunch every day.
I ask my AP Language students to read three hours a week in their self-selected books each week. Some students read voraciously, and I find these readers don’t necessarily like keeping track of the pages they read each week. I love that they read because they want to — something I hope for all my students, so I do not want to penalize them for not marking an accountability chart.
Besides just noting how many pages students read each week, what other accountability structures do you have in place?
Amy: In our writer’s notebooks, we keep track of the books we start, abandon, and finish. We also pull vocabulary words –5 words a week — from our independent reading to put in our personal dictionaries. I know you and Shana just discussed vocab last week.
This year as another accountability piece, I started asking students to complete an occasional reading one-pager. I have mixed feelings about this because I know the value of reading for reading’s sake, but marking the reading chart wasn’t working, and I have a difficult time conferring as often as I’d like. I also need my students to practice writing about literature. All they want to do is summarize, and the one-pager is one way to help them move beyond that.
I hope to get my students to think about accountability as self-evaluation. We talk a lot about the reason for reading: We build fluency, acquire vocabulary, gain empathy, and learn information. “How has your reading this week helped you do that?”
Jackie: We also keep track of the books we start, abandon, and finish. Students add to their “Books Read” list at the beginning of their writer’s notebook and they check off the books they complete. Students also pull four words per week from their independent reading and log them in their WNB dictionaries.
Like you, I tried one pagers from Kelly Gallagher two years ago, but they were difficult to track and my strongest readers oftentimes slowed down their reading to avoid the one pagers. I believe they can work, but I haven’t found a perfect fit just yet. My AP Literature students do keep a critical reading journal (CRJ), which I started using this year thanks to Sheridan Steelman’s help. Sheri is a phenomenal AP Literature teacher I met at UNH Literacy Institute. Her structuring of CRJs has helped me gain even further insight into my AP Lit students’ needs and successes.
At the end of the day, my greatest source of information comes from the conferences I have with my students. Students want to talk about their books, and it is a pleasure to sit beside them and learn every day.
So how do you grade your students on their reading?
Jackie: My school has competency based grading, so I file reading initiative grades under “formative assessments.” I look at reading time as purely formative in the sense that it is necessary practice time for students to explore their interests while also building reading stamina.
Students in my CP Freshman English class must read two hours in their independent reading books while students in my AP Literature class must read three hours. Each student has an individual reading rate, which they calculate and recalculate throughout the year. I adjust their reading times based on whether or not students are completing whole class or literature circle novels. Students then receive a weekly reading initiative grade out of 20 points. At the end of the day though, this structure is in place to help students carve out time for reading.
One of the greatest complaints from my AP Lit students at the beginning of the year was that they didn’t have time to read anymore. They loved it but it had been a long time since they’d picked a book on their own. After a quarter of independent reading, Jessica said, “I love independent reading. It gives me a break from everything” while Claudia said, “I have read more this quarter than I have in the past year.”
Amy: I wish I didn’t have to give a grade for reading. I wish I didn’t have to give a grade for a lot of the work we do in class, but that is a topic for another day. All my little reading checks equate to a reading grade, all formative, except for a self-evaluation of their reading lives students complete about every nine weeks — that’s a summative assessment I model after a reading ladders assignment I learned from Penny Kittle.
Really, when it comes to grades, if my students show me growth and improvement, the grading is easy. It’s all about moving as readers. Eventually, most students come to realize that — and they thank me for making reading matter again.
How do you handle reading accountability and reading grades in your workshop classroom? Please add to the conversation by making a comment.
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