So, you’ve unleashed the minds, hearts, and imaginations of your students into the world of literature and they have begun reading hundreds of titles, many of which are foreign to you. Let’s face it – it’s just not possible to read every book ever written, even if you live to be 500 years old. So, how do you both hold students accountable for their work and reward them for a job well done? Since I am treating this as a fully experimental year, I decided to let students choose or create a project of their own to complete each quarter. Heck, I even let them design their own rubrics so that we would have a mutually agreed upon standard of grading. And you know what happened? They rose to the glorious challenge.
After allowing them to peruse the suggested list of Independent Reading Project Ideas, they chose which book they were going to use and paired it up with a project idea that fit with their text and their strengths and interests.
We spent a full class period discussing rubrics. After looking at models (both good and bad), we talked about purpose, structure, format, and wording. We identified the skills the various model rubrics were asking students to demonstrate, and what made those rubrics either successful or not. We even altered the wording, structure, and categories of some of the weaker models to see if our adjustments made them stronger. When it was time for students to try their hand at crafting rubrics, they found that they had a solid base of knowledge from which to pull.
Even though I allowed students to work in groups if they had chosen the same project, I received close to 100 rubrics from my classes. At first this was overwhelming – there were so many and they were of such varying quality! However, I soon realized that this was an opportunity to glean models from my students.
How awesome is that! I had 100 different ideas to consider – models that I could use outright or combine to generate an exemplar. The end result is that I linked the strongest student rubrics alongside each of the Independent Reading Project Ideas. Students could either use the revised rubric they had created, or they could choose one of the student exemplar models provided.
With their mutually agreed upon rubrics in hand, my students produced some truly awesome projects that went beyond my expectations. They:
- created a book trailer for Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park,
- took their literary appetites to new levels with this cake commemorating Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
- thought of a playlist for Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin
- made an interactive quote book for Rick Riordan’s The Last Olympian
- wrote fanfiction based on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
- designed a new cover for Ellen Hopkins’ Crank
And those are just a sampling of the great assignments that came in from each class. Every one of these student endeavors demonstrated a high level of understanding and interaction with the text. They showed genuine engagement and allowed their strengths to shine. I saw creativity, artistry, intricate problem-solving, and imagination that I would not have ordinarily seen with a standard essay or possibly even with a whole-class text.
I call that a win for the Reading (R)evolution.