“But how do you grade their independent reading?”
I am asked this question while presenting on how to create passionate readers.
I am stumped for a moment for an answer. Not because I don’t know, but because we don’t. Why would we? And yet, it is a question I am asked often enough to warrant a decent response.
My middle school does not issue a grade for how many books a child has read. For how many minutes they have read. For how far they have gotten on their book challenge goals.
And there is a big reason for this.
How many books you read does not tell me what you can do as a reader. How long you can sustain attention to a book may tell me clues about your relationship with reading but it will not tell me where you fall within your reading skills. Actual skill assessment will do that. Explorations where you do something with the reading you do will tell me this. The amount of books you have read will not tell me what you are still struggling with or what you have accomplished. Instead it will tell me of the practice you do with the skills that I teach you. With how you feel about reading in front of me and when I am not around. About the habits you have established as you figure out your very own reading identity. These habits are just that; skills you practice until something clicks and it becomes part of who you are. Those are not gradeable skills but instead a child practicing habits to figure out how to get better at reading. A child figuring out where books and reading fits into their life.
So just like we would never grade a child for how many math problems they choose to solve on their own, how many science magazines they browsed or how many historical documents they perused, we should not grade how many books a child chooses to read. We should not tie pages read with a grade, nor an assessment beyond an exploration into how they can strengthen their reading habits. Number of books read, minutes spent, or pages turned will never tell us the full story. Instead it ends up being yet another way we can chastise the kids that need us to be their biggest reading cheerleaders.
So when we look to grade a child on how they are as a reader we need to make sure that the assessments we provide actually provide us with the answers we need. Not an arbitrary number that again rewards those who already have established solid reading habits and punish those that are still developing. And if you are asked to grade independent reading, ask questions; what is it you are trying to measure and is it really providing you with a true answer? Are you measuring habits or skills? Are the grades accurate? If not, why not? And if not, then what?
PS: And for those wondering what we do assess in our reading, here is a link to our English standards.
If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released. I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.