Reader Responses (or RRs as they are affectionately called in my classroom) is one of the easiest and quickest ways to check if students are understanding the texts you assign them. There are 3 sections that quickly cover TEKS and common core standards including: summary, application, and reader response.
It is a great way for students to practice sharing their opinions in a meaningful way as well as work on summarizing and explaining theme and how a text applies to their own lives/community/world.
I grade these with 20 points for summary, 30 points for application, and 50 points for their response. I look for meaningful responses where I can see that a student has thought about the text and formulated their own opinions about what they have read. I get tons of insight into how my students are handling the information as well as their ability to process whatever content read/covered in their own way.
My students also keep these in their binders throughout the year. Occasionally, something we read later in the year will trigger thoughts to previous materials, so the RRs serve as a great student-made resource. Students have used them to refresh themselves, refer back to them for essays, as well as assess their growth over the year.
I use this for every age 6th grade and up.