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Create Reading Accountability

By: Elaine K. McEwan

The recent trend toward computer-based motivational reading programs, such as Accelerated Reader, has left the mistaken impression with some teachers that they no longer need to be concerned about either what or how well their students are reading because the computer will handle that. In reality, answering a few relatively easy factual questions about a book that may or may not be at an appropriate level of difficulty is not the kind of accountability that engaged reading demands. Meaningful accountability demands the flexing of cognitive muscles. Teachers must also be aware that students, eager to earn points and prizes, are often expending more energy beating the computer's scoring system than in reading books. There are dozens of ways to encourage students' creativity, personal response, and interpretation while still ensuring a more personalized and rigorous form of reading accountability. Here are few of them.

Portfolios

A portfolio is "a collection of student work, connected to what has been read and studied, that reveals student progress. It might include items such as personal responses to reading assignments; self-assessments, teacher observations, attitude and interest surveys; writing samples (both complete and in progress); evidence that the stydent reads for enjoyment and information; and summaries" (Educational Research Serv). It might also include a list of books read by the student; a summary of several books read during the school year; a listing of books read categorized by genre to illustrate the breadth of reading during a school year; a description of a favorite book, a list of books read at home or a list read at school; a brief description of the five latest books read; or a list or descriptions of favorite authors. Portfolios can be adapted to any grade level from second grade through high school.

Reading journals

Reading journals contain daily written responses to what has been read during a silent reading period or for an assignment. There are many ways to approach journal writing in response to reading, depending on the grade level or the type of text (narrative or expository).

Reading logs

Learning logs serve as a running record of students' perceptions of how and what they are learning. The paper is divided into three columns: "What I Did," "How I Worked and Learned;" and "What I Learned" (Alvermann & Phelps).

Every-pupil response activities

After reading a portion of text, either in class or for a homework assignment, every student completes a brief written response to the text. Students then participate in a discussion with a partner. The writing assignment might include a brief explanation of a specific situation, problem, or question as a way of assessing their understanding of the concepts about which they were reading. These self-assessments are collected sporadically and never graded. The goal is to reach consensus with their partners regarding the question that was posed, by supporting their responses with text evidence and good reasoning as well as by considering the evidence and rationale presented by their partners (Gaskins, Satlow, Hyson, Ostertag, & Six, 1994, pp. 559-560).

McEwan, E.K. (2009). Teach them all to read.. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.