August 20, 2011

Summer reading tests kill interest in reading

Years ago, when I taught with traditional methods, I started the school  year with summer reading worksheets and a test. The test typically composed 20 percent of the first marking period's grade. As is the case with other archaic methods, such as homework and tests, this put students in a peril, as far as their grades were concerned.

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The aforementioned is why most assessment of summer reading kills students' interest in reading in general, and summer reading, in particular.

When I converted to a Results Only Learning Environment, I did away with the worksheets and tests over summer reading. This was only one step to engaging students in reading during their lengthy sun-baked breaks, though.

We used to assign one or two novels, and demand that students prepare summaries on them and take a summative assessment within the first week or two of the school year. Since many students failed to read the books, they started the year with a failing grade.

Teaching in a ROLE showed me that student autonomy is the most important element of developing a thirst for learning. So, my colleagues and I created a long list of books at various reading levels and asked our students to choose from the list. If they couldn't find something they loved (this almost never happens), they could choose a book of their own. We just wanted them to read and, more importantly, develop a love of reading.

Now, when the school year begins, we ask students to complete a project, complete with a huge menu of choices for demonstrating learning. There is never a summary and never a test. Students enjoy sharing their reading experiences in creative ways, and reading becomes fun.