Assessing summer reading often proves difficult for the student as well as the teacher. Teachers assigned the works because they know the value of reading in any student’s life as well as the necessity of college-bound students having developed background in reading classic novels. When students have all read the same novel, a teacher is able to build course content around themes, plots, character development and help students engage in examination of a writer’s style, purpose and how the writer achieves what he sets out to accomplish.
Assessing Summer Reading Provides a Challenge for Students
Students procrastinate. When faced with modern distractions, summer trips, perhaps a new driver’s license and a million other things they might find more interesting than burying his nose between the pages of a thick novel, it’s easy to understand why the book remains unread come the first day of class.
Evaluating Summer Reading Assignments Presents a Dilemma for the Teacher
In assessing summer reading, teachers approach the dilemma in a variety of ways. Some teachers and schools simply don’t assign summer reading. A few give a test the first week of school, enter a grade in the grade book and go on to other subject matter. Never mind that these tests can be so easy that a quick perusal of Spark Notes will result in a passing grade. Never worry that a student who has conscientiously worked through–and found value in–the complete novel and just doesn’t know the answer to all those disjointed, nebulous questions where several answers could apply to many of the questions. It’s downright depressing to be one of the few members of a class who read the book but still fail the test the first week of school.
Summer Reading Assessment–Are Outside Projects Really the Answer?
Other teachers give students a choice and allow them to complete a related project over the summer to turn in when they return to class. Some projects that claim to assess summer reading do no more than determine a student’s ability to cut and paste, draw, glue items together and arrange them in a shoe box or diorama. While these projects have their place in a classroom, they may not adequately address the problem of assessing summer reading.
Authentic Summer Reading Assessment Can Be Fairly Simple
A teacher can usually tell whether a student has read a book or not. She simply calls the student into the hall and quietly asks her a question or two based on something in the novel. The question need not be a hard question at all. Students can answer definitively, elaborate or ask a question in return to help clarify. Such face-to-face interaction between student and teacher is an ideal way to determine whether a student has read a book or not; however, such one-on-one assessment is not feasible in classes of 20 to 35 students or more.
To further complicate the issue of assessing summer reading, a student may have read the novel early in the summer and need additional review because so much time, and perhaps additional reading, has intervened. Non-procrastinating students should not suffer penalty for having finished the summer reading assignments earlier than their classmates.
One Solution to Assessing Summer Reading Assignments
During the first week when students are back in school, have students randomly draw slips of paper on which you have specified certain pages or chapters of the required summer work or works. You will also have numbered the slips in the necessary order each sleep needs to be presented.
Tell students that they are to consider only the chapter or pages represented by this slip. Their assignment is to use one sheet of plain paper, which you hand out with the assignment, and illustrate that chapter with original artwork, stick figures or illustrations cut from magazines. Students need not be artistic to complete the assignment, although those with talent should feel welcome to shine.
Instruct students that they will be explaining their illustration to the rest of the class as a springboard for discussion about the novel as a whole. Their job is to present the segment in their own words and to tell why this segment is important in the overall framework of the book thus far.
Yes, there is a drawback in that students who draw early chapters will have an advantage over those with later chapters. You can balance this inequity later in the course with other assignments, if this situation is an issue in your class. Advanced students will understand that the process is good for the whole.
Allow students to change chapters among themselves, provided they do so beforehand.
Make assignments due within the next day or two, and use that period to complete the entire presentation.
Create a Whole-Class Visual Aid That Proves Useful in Further Classroom Discussion
Collect all illustrations and punch a hole in the top two corners of the sheet. Use a large-eyed needle to thread yarn through each set of holes so that, when laid against the floor or wall, each paper hangs on a yarn string like clothes on a clothesline. Tack the entire line to the wall, going around the room depending upon the length of the assignment.
Voila! The class will have a visual illustration of each chapter, in chronological order, to consult as you complete further, more in-depth assignments addressing course objectives.
Best of all, no student has been overly intimidated. You go over summer reading in one day per book and you lose precious little class time waiting for everyone to “get ready” for their summer reading assignment to be graded. The best part is that everyone in class knows who has read and who has not, and the class can go on from there instead of waiting for the others to finish an assignment they may never even begin.