4 Little-to-No Prep Strategies to Increase Student Reading Accountability
Kids don’t read. A sad fact that is only perpetuated by media and technology.
Are media and technology ALWAYS to blame to you?
Literature and stories are not dying, but the need to read them is. Why read it when…
- You can watch the movie or show?
- You can just read the summary and analysis online?
- Everyone else is going to summarize it for me in class?
Well, as ELA teachers, we know why they should be reading it. We can come up with a million reasons to explain it to them. But, the fact of the matter is, kids aren’t going to bother reading. It’s even worse when they’re secondary students, too. There are many reasons for this, but we’ll address those later.
With this being a constant problem with our whole-class readings, I found five ways that kept my students accountable. Now, these strategies are not necessarily “designed” to increase comprehension–though, some of them do. They are strictly implemented to ensure students are reading their assignments, outside of class, instead of just looking it up.
Require a direct quote or page number.
This one has become a more common practice with reading guides. Before, you gave a list of questions, the kids filled it out. Then Smoop, SparkNotes, and eNotes posted the guides and answers, eliminating the need to look through the book. Well, if you require a direct quote AND page number, they have to at least open the book. Even if they can find a quote online, each publication has different page numbers; so, you’ll know if they copied.
Tell them what happened and ask them details.
One of my favorites, this one can be a written or verbal quiz in class. Teens are used to giving superficial answers from elementary school. As such, they’ve gotten great at remembering gists and acting like they know what happened and just “forgot”. Well, they don’t anticipate you asking details. Example:
- “In last night’s chapter, blank, blank, and blank happened. Who was most devastated by the end of the chapter?”
- “You should have all read about the blank last night. Why did that even start?”
- “Things got crazy in the story last night and happened in a few different places. What were the three locations at which it took place?”
Most of them probably remember there was a fight between the characters. But, where it happened? Why it started? Who was watching from the dark window down the street? No idea. The kids who read it will at least vaguely remember some descriptions, if not the exact answer. Either way, you’ll pick up on who was really reading.
Write a synopsis and do a class check.
One easy thing you can have them do is write a bulleted summary of everything they remember happening in the chapter/section. Then, as a class, you can grade it by having another student check off key points they included based on your key.
This one should be done in class–not as homework or anything–as a quick quiz, possibly. If you do it ahead of time, they can just look it up. Having to rely on their memory in class will truly reveal whether they read it. NOTE: you may have students who read it, but didn’t quite comprehend it, like if you assigned Shakespeare. Maybe have starters or hints for students like that.
Of course, discussion allows for students to actively participate in talking about the book. The ones who didn’t read or don’t get it will definitely stand out. But, it also gives you the opportunity to weed out the kids who are pretending to know and riding on others’ answers to bolster their own. Depending on your questions and the type of discussion, you can even ask incorrect questions to trip them up and see who all can correct you. Points, no points. Done deal and as quick as you make it.
My favorite part of these is that none of them require extra prep or work for you.
And, you can switch it up for the different classes so they can’t cheat. If you know the book cover-to-cover–like most teachers who have to teach the same thing year to year–you’re just rattling them off.
Plus, these can all be counted for small point amounts. Easy to grade, can be entered quickly, and it won’t kill the kid who ran out of time that night; but, it will kill the kid who never reads and misses multiple of them. It starts to add up–and they can’t make that up because they’re mostly “participation” activities; though, they can be “assignments” depending on how detailed you want to be.
Yeah, it’s a gift. I tend to collect childhoods.
Okay, so with these, you find out a kid didn’t read…now what? They lose points. But, how are they supposed to participate in class without having read the assigned selection?
I’m glad you asked!
This is where a little prior work may come in. But, what’s nice, is they can be premade and reused year after year.
What I would do was make those students who didn’t read go read on their own–in the hall, in the testing room, in another classroom, somewhere (take their phone, first). But, while they read, they had to do a reading guide or take specific notes, not only about the plot, but that also address the same topics we are going to hit as a class. If you’re nice, they can recover their points with that handout, or you can just let them take the fall. Either way, they’ll get the comprehension and analysis they almost missed. Most kids, after a couple times of that, find it’s easier to quickly read the selection that night and do the activity the next day, than read and do research and notes, by themselves, during that short class time.
I can’t guarantee this will work for all your kiddos.
Depending on your demographic, you may have a high number of busy kids, illiterate kids, working kids… Basically, students who are worried about everything else but this. There may be nothing you can really do to get them to read short of making them read in class or read to them (which I do recommend in another post). But, I found, for my mixed bag of students with few extremes, it worked just fine.
Try it out and let us know how it goes down in the comments and on social media.
While you’re there, are there any strategies you can recommend for us teachers? How do you hold your kiddos accountable for their reading assignments?