One of the challenges of increasing the volume of independent reading students complete is keeping them on track to meet their reading goals. At the beginning of the year, I stress to my students that they are expected to read 250 pages or one book per week. Ninety percent of the time, my homework requirement is to read 30+ minutes a night, an expectation supported by the department of instruction. That is it. Most weeks, I provide enough time in class to complete classwork and long term writing projects. In addition, I offer at least 45 minutes of weekly reading time, and I coach students on where to find another 10-15 minutes of independent reading time throughout their school day. Providing classroom time to read and assigning reading as homework are the easy aspects of an independent reading program.
Tracking pages and books finished, building in reading conferences, and providing book recommendations are the primary challenges of an independent reading program in my classroom, where the amount of pages read is one of the most important goals. Recently, I’ve come up with an old school method of addressing the aforementioned challenges. Once every two weeks, I hand out a 3 x 3.5” slip of paper that asks for independent reading feedback. Types of questions include:
- What book are you reading now?
- How many books have you read to-date? Pages read to-date?
- Do you need a book suggestion? If so, what genre?
- How many books do you plan to read over break?
- What has been the best book you’ve read in the past 10 weeks?
- How many minutes have you spent reading for homework over the past week?
The form takes about two to three minutes to complete during warm up and gives me immediate feedback as to whom needs book recommendations or requires a conference. I place the students with the most pertinent needs on the top of the pile and keep the papers with me until all needs are met. Then, I file the papers in a class independent reading binder, comparing the previous feedback slips to the most current. Students who are lagging receive conference time with me over the coming week or calls home to parents in an effort to more closely monitor their homework progress.
One final assessment I conduct is a bi-quarterly independent reading grade. Students maintain a reading log, recording books and pages read throughout the year. I ask students to update their logs weekly in class and then during the bi-quarterly assessments, they self-evaluate their progress and determine their independent reading grade. Here is an example of a bi-weekly self-assessment.
Most of my eighth graders take three high school credit classes and carry a heavy homework load. Without these opportunities to both self-assess and teacher-assess their independent reading progress, the reading volume goal loses out to other school demands. Therefore, I keep at it–tracking, conferencing, and recommending books on a daily basis, because if there is one thing that I know to be true, educational success is most closely linked to the amount of time a student reads.
I’d love to hear how you monitor your student independent reading goals.