independent reading

Steps to Success: Setting and Tracking 2nd Quarter Independent Reading Goals and Current Book Reading Goals

One of the struggles of trying to support independent reading in a 50 minute literacy block with guided instruction is helping student stay on track with their reading and having some measure of accountability so that we don’t come to the end of a nine week grading period without finishing a single book.  While some students excel at self-monitoring their reading progress, many struggle to be intentional in their thinking about how they might go about finishing a book or how they might strive to do more than one book in a nine week period.

At the beginning of our 2nd week grading period in mid-October, we took class time to do some reflections on our progress with independent reading and to think about goals we might have for the new 2nd nine week quarter.  We began by reviewing our green reading log and transferring completed AND abandoned reads over to this reading ladder graphic organizer.  Students also completed the purple reading goal setting sheet and placed it in a sheet protector (provided by me) along with the reader ladder to place in their binder near the front of their notebook.

The final step was to focus on the current book a student is reading.  You can watch the tutorial video I created for students who were absent here, but we used this awesome bookmark goal setting tool (and it can be customized!) to help students think about how and when they might finish a book and the steps to success to get there.  We took class time to do this, and I provided students a 2nd quarter calendar and calculators to support their goal setting; I keep these tools in baskets on my desk now so that students can get them whenever they start a new book.

Learning Fun November 2019//

Students keep these in their binder (we are using this tool, part of the bookmark purchase on TPT), and I have taken advantage of the ability to modify the bookmark to come up with a slightly different version for my students:

Learning Fun November 2019//

Learning Fun November 2019//

Finally, I am requiring students to complete a Google Form/survey I have housed in our assignment section of Canvas every time they abandon OR complete a book so that I can better track their activity as readers.  Since I have 10 Chromebooks in my classroom, computer access is never an issue for students.

We are now halfway through this grading period, so students completed a self-assessment of their goals last week.  I took the Google Form responses, downloaded them, ran a Mail Merge with Word, and then printed clean copies of their responses for students to go into their binders; I also recorded their self-assessment score as a summative assessment.

Student Self Assessment//

Here is a sampler of some of the data from some of my classes:

IR Self Assessment Data//

IR Self Assessment Data//

IR Self Assessment Data//

IR Self Assessment Data//

IR Self Assessment Data//

How do you go about monitoring student independent reading?  How do you help and encourage your students with goal setting for a grading period as well as for a specific book?

In my next post, I’ll share how we are doing book chats with our independent reading in Seesaw!

Personalizing Goals for Outside of School Reading Time


Last semester we tried as a grade level to require students to read a uniform number of minutes outside of school time.  I really wanted to stay away from reading logs or anything like that, so I provided my students a calendar to keep in their literacy notebooks to track their minutes.  Unfortunately, the endeavor was a big fail for many reasons.  Most of our 8th graders have not had an expectation for reading outside of school until this year, and our desire to not impose any accountability measures that might impede the joy of reading were a perfect storm for failure.    Students DO love reading in class, so that aspect is not the reason; I think just not having that mindset or habit of reading on their own time is the core challenge.

I will be the first to tell you I don’t have this piece of the puzzle figured out though I do have some resources I want to read and explore this summer to better contemplate how to nurture outside of school reading.  For now, I decided to let students set personalized goals for the next nine weeks.  We talked about how we are all juggling many responsibilities outside of school—clubs, sports, church, hobbies, family commitments, homework—and how that may impact the time we have at home to read.  We talked about setting a goal that would be realistic and doable yet would nudge them just a little and stretch them as readers.   The only responses that were not acceptable were “none” or “I don’t read outside of school.” Each student was asked to think about a goal for a total number of minutes to read each week and what that might look like in terms of days and time per day though the total number of minutes was the main focus.

We then took our goals and made them public in our classroom for easy reference:

I’m setting cycles of independent reading outside of class of 7-10 days.  At the beginning of the reading cycle, students receive a tracking sheet on a neon colored piece of paper; they update it each day as part of our “warm up” activity.   My plan is to then have them do a written reflection at the end of the cycle and to complete it in class.  We completed our first cycle this past Friday, and while I still need to take a second pass at reading student responses, most seem to have been pretty honest in their tracking of their target goal of minutes.  In addition, the responses to the reflection questions are also telling and revealing.

While I want my students to meet or exceed their goals for reading time outside of class, I hope that the personalized aspect of our reading goals will help students begin to cultivate a habit of making space in this busy non-school lives for reading.  These reading cycle reflections will become part of their literacy portfolios, and we’ll do a formative self-assessment at the end of this nine week grading period.  Right now I am really inspired by Julie Swinehart’s work with student reading identities, reflections, and goal setting; I think I might adapt her work for my 8th graders.

How are you nurturing habits of reading outside of school time with your secondary students?

Creative Formative Assessments of Independent/Choice Reading

As we were winding down our final week before spring break last week, I wanted to give my juniors a way to compose a creative product as a formative assessment of their independent/choice reading.  Students could create the product over:

  • A book they recently finished
  • A current read of an entire book (great for students nearly finished with a book)
  • A chapter or set of chapters of a current read (especially great for students who had just started a new book or were not terribly far into a book)

For my 3B Honors and 4B CP classes, students got to choose from one of the following options below:

  1.  Think in Threes Graphic Organizer
  2.  Found Poetry
  3.  Blackout Poetry
  4. Mari Andrew Art and Writing Playlists
  5. Two Voice Poems
  6. Sketchnote
  7. One Pager (free form or guided with a template and instructions)

As you can see from the photos below, I created “stations” for students to explore the form and finished examples.  In addition, I created instructions with at least one example for every product and placed those in my hanging files (see last two photos) so that students would have plenty of support, especially since most of the products (with the exception of sketchnoting) were new.


For my other three sections of 11th ELA, they all  were assigned the guided one-pager.  This assignment is essentially like a guided sketchnote and is great for students who may need a little more structure for completing a high quality sketchnote.  Many thanks to Betsy at Spark Creativity for offering her take on one-pagers and the resources she provides at no charge!

Though I usually offer choice to every section, this instructional decision was based on the needs of those learners as well as the reality that two of those classes needed extra class/computer lab time to finish an author research assignment we were working on (blog post on that learning activity soon); as a result, we didn’t have as much class time left to complete our creative products as the other sections did.   However, for these classes, offering only one option worked great for these students as they sometimes are overwhelmed by choice and because of our time frame/schedule.  For these classes, examples were provided in my neon pouches that they could take to their work space; they were also posted online in our online learning management system.

As always, I provided students colored pencils, markers, sharpies, and other supplies for their creative work.

While I have a few students who will finish the Monday we return from spring break, many students finished at the end of the week.  The thinking I heard happening out loud and the dialog between students about decisions they were making about their work were rich and reflected a depth of thinking that other kinds of assessments might not capture.   For example, one of my juniors has blown me away with his two voice poem based on Yeonmi Park’s In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.  For his two voice poem, he decided to focus on the inner conflict Park felt—one voice is the part of her that wants to defect; the other is the side of her that fears defecting and the unknown.

I was quite impressed with the effort and detail of thought many students were demonstrating in their process and design as well as their finished products.  In addition, my heart overflowed with joy observing many students helping their peers and collaborating when someone was struggling with their product.

Below is a gallery of scenes from our work and the first wave of completed products I received.



I will definitely use this type of assessment with students in the future as we continue our independent/choice reading, especially since their in-class formative assessments/reflections are usually written.   I think there is value in both kinds of formative assessments.  However, as you can see from this gallery of products, these creative options give students an alternative way to show their understandings, insights, and engagement with the book they have selected and gives them different options for showing their thinking.

I continue to be thrilled by the response to our independent/choice reading that has been a major part of our classroom lie this semester.  I hope to finally get a post completed to update you on what that has looked like in terms of structure and time as well as insights from students with their reading goals and self-assessment as well as our weekly formative assessments.