I was trying to compile a list of options for my students to use so I can assess their independent reading (and also what we’re reading in class), and I thought, “Hey! I can turn this into a blog post!” Booyah. (I have been told by my super-hip students that this slang word is incredibly out of date, but I still think it in my head.)
Over the years, I have gradually switched from pen-and-paper-tests to projects for assessing students’ knowledge and experience of the books they’ve read. I have found, anecdotally, that projects seem to be a better indication of what a student actually learned while reading, and tend to be more memorable in the long run. Also, they can be easier to grade than tests (with the right rubric), and most have to be graded at school, reducing my take-home work.
Here are different assessments I have used, as well as one that I hope to try in the future:
1. Written Review
Students write about the following information and post to Google Classroom or another public forum such as Goodreads or Amazon. (If one of the latter, they have to send me a link or screenshot of their review.) If they choose this option, they must try to have people comment on their review.
Info to include: Book title and author, why you chose to read the book, author background info, basic plot outline, what did you like the best, what did you not like, what was the most important thing you learned, should people read this book (why or why not?), what do you like and/or not like about the author’s style, and if you could ask the author any question, what would it be, and how do you think they might answer?
2. Book Talk
Students answer the above information, but they present in front of the class. They can use whatever visual assistance they need, but I grade only on what I hear.
Students pretend they are creating a soundtrack for a movie version of the story. They must find songs that would go along with the following, and explain why they chose them: main characters, setting, theme, external/internal conflicts, character relationships, and big moments.
Another part of this could be designing an album cover, and putting the soundtrack into a format where others can put on headphones and click through different song selections to listen.
4. One Pager
There have been a lot of great versions of this assignment floating around Pinterest and online. I am currently requiring students to have the following: title and author, at least one graphic to visually represent the book, short summary, short descriptions of the setting and main characters, vocab word, important quotes or passages and personal response/takeaway from the book. The paper must be completely filled and visually appealing.
5. Movie Trailer
I have not personally made one, but some of my students have used iMovies to create trailers. These include the title and author, important scenes and quotes from the book, fake reviews from newspapers or TV shows, and any other relevant information. They also have to turn in a separate paragraph saying who they would choose to cast in the main roles (and why) and where they would choose to shoot the movie (and why). The trailer should not give away the ending.
6. Board Game
Students create a game incorporating key elements of the story — characters, setting, conflict, big moments, resolution, important vocabulary or made-up words, and theme. The game should be able to be played with at least two to four other students.
7. Memory Box
Students must find a certain number of items to fill up a small box. In the past, I have required that the objects have to do with a particular character, and what he or she might store in a memory box, but it could pertain to the story as a whole. The items must be accompanied by an explanation of why they were put in the box. Sometimes students choose to attach the explanation with tape or string; sometimes there is a list all on one paper. If they do the list, they’ll need to number the objects so it’s easy for me to find.
Students pretend they are on a news or talk show, and interview one (or more) of the main characters from the book. They will need to research what type of questions go into interviews. I’ve had students record their interview for me, and the class then watches later, but it could also be done live.
9. Photo Journal
Students take their own pictures that go along with each chapter or major part of the book and write captions for each picture. This can be done in a variety of formats — I have had students put together photo albums, or turn in slides online.
10. Alternate Ending
This is a particularly popular assignment for when students don’t like the ending of a book — such as The Giver, by Lois Lowry, which despite being a wonderful book, gets complaints every year for how it ends. I think it gives students a sense of closure to be able to rewrite or add to the ending, and makes them feel better;)
11. Prequel or Sequel
If the book is a standalone, students may want to write about the events before or after the story. They could also write fan fiction, or alternate stories that are not talked about specifically in the book.
I’m always a little leery of allowing this as an option, but I play it up that it needs to require just as much effort as any of the other projects, and I have some examples from past students to emphasize this point. It should also have an accompanying explanation of the graphic(s) displayed.
Students create a smaller scale of an important piece of the setting, or recreate an important scene from the story. This should be accompanied with a short written description of things that were included, and why they were chosen.
14. Interactive Museum
Students create a virtual museum exhibit of their book using this website, which was developed and is maintained by Dr. Christy Keeler. This will probably require some outside research, in addition to reading the book, and should be acceptable for classmates viewing.
15. Character Autopsy
I just found out about this from the Facebook group #2ndaryELA, which has many fabulous ideas. Here is an example sheet: A Character Autopsy
What are assessments you do with your students for reading?