Classroom Reading Assignment: how can you ensure the students complete their required reading?Students do not always read their classroom reading assignments.  What are some ways other than a big...

Classroom Reading Assignment: how can you ensure the students complete their required reading?

Students do not always read their classroom reading assignments.  What are some ways other than a big test at the end of the unit that you ensure the students are reading?

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Getting kids to read what they don't want to read is really hard. It's like pulling teeth. There are always those who would rather take the "F" and make up points in other ways, or take their chances with study aids.

Something that I offered was a review packet of questions they could answer, which would have some questions that would definitely be on the test. Other questions would not be included on the study guide. I also offered 2-3 extra credit questions (worth a point each) to the test, and the questions came from that study guide as well. 

I also would put students into groups and have them work together to answer a portion of a chapter. This might cover three chapters, split up among eight groups. It became relatively easy to know who was more likely not to do his/her homework, so I would group kids that worked, with other workers. I would give kids enough time that they could review the book before they answered the questions, so some would read in class.

Mentioned above is the socratic method. This is a great idea, and a favorite with several teachers in our department. In our district, the method separated students who had read and those who had not. Those who read sat in the inner circle, but were expected to discuss points and answer questions. Grades were given based on participation and correct answers. If students on the outside of the circle had only read a portion, they could still earn some points by participating with what they knew.

Sometimes I would give crossword puzzles as tests: with about thirty questions. I have a program that makes them after I enter the clues and the answers. Some can be guessed, but others simply require knowledge of the reading. For special needs students, I would offer to let them take a more traditional test.

It is also possible to give students vocabulary words that need to be defined in the context they are used in the story. Once they define the word, they they explain how it is used by the author. Then they write their own sentence. This requires some reading on the part of the student. The idea is that each student reads something from the book. 

The other element is comprehension. For some kids, if they read the words, they say they've "read." However, processing is important. Close reading in groups can help students read important passages that you really want them to understand. Working together and answering specific questions can help students to be more successful with their comprehension.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like for my students not only to be able to process the information in the text or story, but also to be able to think about their reading metacognitively, processing their responses to the reading as they go.  To this end, I encourage my students to use sticky notes while reading.  For a certain selection of their required reading, say a chapter, I will give tell give them a certain number of sticky notes that they must use.  On the sticky notes, they can include several different sorts of responses to the text, such as:

  • Connections to other texts
  • Higher level questions that they form while reading
  • Insight, observations, genuine response to the action
  • Reasons why they agree or Disagree with the author or character's view point
  • Observations on writer's craft (like figurative language or dialogue) and how either how it makes them feel or how it connects to the tone or theme

The next day when the students come to class after reading, they must produce their sticky notes and be ready to discuss them in a small group setting with their peers.  They receive points (45) for having completed the sticky notes, additional points on how well they participate in the discussion within their group (45), and a small amount of points (10) for a short reflection at the end of class; I have an all-in-one rubric that I use that has a place for the students to put their sticky notes for evaluation, some criteria for their discussion in the small group, and then a space for the final reflection.

  This strategy seems to work really well, forcing the students into a leadership role in the discussions, and because all of the discussion is student-generated, the learning process and by virtue of association, the material, feels more relevant and personal to the students.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several ways to check on this, formally or informally, and these can be used no matter what the course is. 

One way is to require some sort of log or reflection on the reading materials, in whatever way makes sense, daily, section by section, or chapter by chapter.  The log or reflection can be guided with prompts or questions, for example, "How does this chapter connect to the theme of the novel?" or "What does this period of history tell us about the period we are in now?"  It requires some extra work to formulate good questions, and then, of course, we should read the responses.  We should comment on them before returning them, and we should use them to help us refine our teaching.  

Another method is to make each student responsible for one discussion question per reading assignment.  These can be handed in at the beginning of class, or you can call upon students randomly.  Some discussion questions will certainly fizzle a bit, but we all have ways of helping students feel they have made a contribution, and actually, some very good discussions will ensue this way. 

A way that some teachers are more comfortable with is to have a weekly quiz on the reading materials.  This requires a quick turnaround in feedback, but students are often more comfortable having a more tangible means of assessment.

No matter what means one uses to check on students' reading of assignments, the goal should not simply be keeping students on track with their reading.  It should also be a means of ongoing assessment, formal or informal, since none of us wants to wait until the end of a unit to know whether or not things are going well for the student.  We not only get to know if they are reading, but also we get to know if they are understanding what they read.

janetlong eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If I could work my will, every student would read everything assigned to them and still have time for pleasure reading. In the real world, many students can't get through it all, either because their other homework eats up most of their time and it's a choice between skimping on Calculus or eNoting a chapter of The Scarlet Letter, or they struggle with archaic English (or other challenging material) and simply cannot understand what is going on without some help.

The important thing is that the student grasp what is being taught, regardless of how successful they were with the night's assigned reading. I've seen the sticky note thing done, and it's a good way to keep kids on track schedule-wise, but how much they actually glean from their reading still depends heavily on how well the teacher is able to connect the student with what they are reading. I have seen an otherwise excellent teacher turn in a poor performance teaching certain texts that she just didn't like or, jarringly, wasn't familiar with! She was unintentionally discouraging kids from taking an interest in difficult literature, though she was checking carefully to make sure they had done their reading.

Which is to say, motivate reading with classroom discussion that connects kids with what they are reading, then use quizzes or journals or prompts--whatever suits your style as long as the students are kept on task. Backfill with essays that challenge students to show you what they know.


brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Adding a Socratic element to classroom reading for students can also help ensure they get the main ideas of the content, as well as add to some higher level thinking skills and improve their reading.  One easy way to do this is to read out loud, as a class.  Now, given, you won't be able to assign entire chapters of text in this fashion, but if the students aren't reading it anyway, you have gained content coverage and participation that you would not have otherwise by adopting a socratic method.

Have as many students read as possible.  Don't ask for volunteers, because then kids can drop out.  Call on them so that everyone has to follow along.  Call on even your weakest readers and help them pronounce the words, and perhaps shorten what they have to read, or select passages you think match their reading level.

You can also skip passages you think are "fluff" or less important than others you want to make sure they get.  By admitting and practicing that not every word in a textbook is sacrosanct, you gain some buy-in on their part and model how to find the more important information.

belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it is more important to make sure the student is absorbing the information however possible rather than enforcing a reading schedule. I always got better results through classroom activities such as presentations than from trying to memorize facts and figures. Learning styles are different for everyone, and a single rigid method will leave some students behind.

I did have good results with one teacher who, at the beginning of each class, had us turn in a one-page stream-of-consciousness paper on the last class's reading. This enabled me to skim the material, put down a few fast thoughts, and then check back on the points that I vaguely remembered. This is better than a chapter quiz because there is no pressure to memorize facts for the sole purpose of regurgitation; I could ramble about my reactions and how I was reminded of other topics, and it gave the teacher (or at least the TA) a better idea of how my mind worked. That class was fairly unstructured, though, and probably wouldn't work as well for a mentally-organized person.

jeew-m eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think this method would do some thing good for both you and students.

Ask the students that you will give them a quiz on a particular day. It will be an open book quiz on the particular topic. So the students know that they have a quiz on the particular section. Since this is a open book quiz the student can read the material and answer the quiz.

So when you design your quiz you can use the important parts of the section for your quiz. And also make sure that they have very liitle time to answer. But don't tell them that.(For a close book quiz if you give 30 seconds per answer here you can give 45-60 seconds per answer because you have to allow them to read the material.)

Now the student who read the material before coming to the quiz will know where is the answer in the note and he will do it quickly. The one who doesn't read the note will not find the answer with in the time limit. you will be very much careful on the time because the success depends on the time you allow.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would often give students a project or series of questions they needed to answer.  This assignment was always designed so that the answers couldn't be found outside of the text.  I was careful to make sure they would have to read the work rather than cliff notes or watching a film.  Reading during class is another great way to ensure students are reading.  I almost always had my students do some classroom reading with an active reading activity.  Sometimes this was simply answering questions as they read.  Other times they had to answer essay questions or predict what might happen next at key points in the text.  It is difficult to motivate students to read something they aren't really interested in.  I found my students far more willing to participate if they were able to connect the text with their own lives or if they were able to look forward to accomplishing a creative assignment with that text.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You can't. Students can go to places like eNotes or Cramster and look at summaries or get discussion questions answered for them. I think given the ease of internet cheating, we need to completely eliminate grades and simply offer classes that students only attend if they are genuinely interested. Since US states are increasingly uninterested in subsidizing universities, and are simultaneously giving huge tax cuts to businesses, let businesses deal with their own HR issues and universities return to being voluntary associations of scholars and students genuinely interested in learning, not low cost credentialling factories supplying big business with semi-trained labour.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Class discussions after each chapter, or group of chapters. You can gauge the students' reading by their participation.

Short periodic quizzes. These could be a small as a paragraph. They should be based on the latest reading assignment.

One-on-one conferencing. Pull students aside randomly to discuss an aspect of the reading assignment. Students hate to be embarrassed face-to-face.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another strategy that I have never taught, but had to do while I was in school was a dialectic journal.  For every summer novel I had to read, I had to take a quote from every chapter and write an analysis of why I thought that quote was important to the novel.  It forced me to read a little more critically and think about the bigger picture of what I was reading.

luiji | Student

Give some sort of reward if they all do it. e.g. show them the movie on the condition that they have all read it

chocolatekirby007 | Student

As a student I can personally say that students generally don't read because there is other sources of entertainment (digital) that are more readily available out there. To get us to read, I suggest assigning books that are to be turned into films or book already in a film version and the comparing/contrasting the two. I find that to be pretty fun :)

hugsie | Student

Make it more interesting for them, get them to act it (if the books a play) or they could take turns reading it out loud to each other in friend groups so they can understand better. 

udayanga | Student

Tactical method can  be used to check whether students read or not

  1. Ask questions
  2. formal test
  3. content checking
  4. Psychology test

These can be used to check that situation

filips | Student

It is the student who is important in a reading assignment, since written material of any kind has a target, a reason for coming forth.Therefore the better the interest, the more successful the reading. The question hints at "ensure" which hints at "proof" so the proof of complete and good reading is a task , decided by the teacher according to the students' general characteristics, to show they connected to the core, the true meaning. If the book has a film script the students are eager , in general, to compare the book to the film. Students do not respond well to the general introductions to a piece of writing, so to ensure they read the teacher must point out interesting pieces of the work to stimulate creativity, empathy, real interest. It is therefore truly important to highlight stimulating, intelligent points inside."veil up: you see this treasure? come and get it!"