I’ve always struggled with independent reading in my 8th grade classroom. How do I turn my kids into readers? How do I assess their reading without killing their love of reading? How do I manage all of this so I am not permanently buried in independent book projects?
This work is influenced by the books “Reading Reasons” by Kelly Gallagher and “The Book Whisperer” by Donnalyn Miller. Both authors helped to shape my thinking about the function and importance of independent reading.
I have one independent reading assignment for each month of the school year. I decided that roughly three paragraphs of -something- was about what I wanted my students to complete, but if it was always the same -something- they might get sick of it and/or cheat. The finished product here is assignments that are creative, engaging, and useful for helping to turn all of your students into readers.
Each assignment contains a description, learning target, audience, content, skill focus, and optional extension activity. Many of the assignments contain examples of finished work so that students know what they are working towards.
I take the kids to the library at the beginning of each month to select a book and give them their assignment. If the skill set is something new, I teach it and review it throughout the month in warm ups or mini lessons. I let them know when it’s halfway through the month so they can be approx. halfway through their books and then the assignment is due at the end of the month.
This is working -very- with my students. By way of anonymous survey, 82% of my 135 kids last year reported that their independent reading habits and skills have improved.
My students are 8th graders but I am certain that these assignments would work for any secondary student – they are not specific to a grade level and can be used for complex novels or simple ones. Even if you don't want to dive into the "one book per month" method, at least you have a variety of new independent reading assessments in your files.
I hope that you have as much success with these assignments as I have!
Some topics include:
What is a character thankful for?
Giving an abstract noun to a character (hope, bravery, honesty, etc)
Inviting characters to a fictional party/event
Promoting a book to your peers
Researching a topic in a book that makes you curious
Sending a playlist to a character