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Marrying accountability and independent reading

The book nook in Elizabeth's classroom

The book nook in Elizabeth’s classroom

My middle school remedial reading students come to me with a wide variety of reading profiles, interests and needs. Yet one thing almost all of my students have in common is that they begin the year as students who have spent very little time reading. In order to combat this problem, our classroom book nook comes stocked with high-interest trade books, comfortable chairs, and posters beckoning students to sit down and read! With a little persistence (and, I’ll admit — sometimes a little bribery!), I’ve found that I can usually get my students reading.

The hard part comes once they’re mid-book. I want to hold my students accountable for what they’re reading, but I find it nearly impossible to have meaningful conversations or written dialogues with all 130 of them at once! This is where book projects come in. Book projects allow my students to share what they’re reading with me and their classmates, yet don’t take a ton of extra time and energy.  Some projects my students and I are especially fond of include:

  • Index Card Recommendations: After finishing a book, students write a mini-book recommendation detailing story elements, their favorite character/part, and who they think would benefit most from reading the book
  • Book Talks: Similar to index card recommendations, but done orally in front of the class
  • Book Soundtracks: Students create a soundtrack for their book, typically matching one song of their choosing to each chapter, including a sentence explaining their choice
  • Cover Remix: Students re-design the book’s cover based on their own interpretation/feelings about the book
  • Cast the Movie: Students assign people they know (famous or not) to play the roles of main characters from their book.
  • Character Convos: Students choose a character from the book they’d like to talk with, and script a phone/text/in-person conversation with that character
  • Test Making: Students write their own set of multiple choice, short-answer, and essay questions about the book

One of my main goals for book projects is that they need to be quick to for students to complete and for me grade — the goal is to give students a fun way to share what they’ve read, not to bog us all down with extra work. I’ve found that the projects above typically meet these criteria, particularly when students are given a choice of what to complete. They also serve to get students thinking — and talking! — about their books in new ways, which is always a positive in my book!

I’m looking forward to continuing the trade book conversation with you all this year, and hearing what you’re doing to increase independent reading excitement in your classroom!

Elizabeth Maine About Elizabeth Maine

Elizabeth Maine is currently a K-6 language and literacy interventionist and coach in the Highline Public Schools just south of Seattle, WA. She has taught grades K-12 in various capacities over the last seven years and loves making connections between reading & writing and helping students of all ages find texts they love.



  1. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    Do kids still make dioramas for books? I remember loving that assignment option in 7th grade. I was a slow reader (still am) and it got me re-reading the book for details of setting that I didn’t take in at first when I only wanted to know what would happen next.

  2. Elizabeth Maine says:

    Lolly, this is a great question. I have sensed a move away from dioramas/illustrations amongst fellow English teachers. I’ve felt the same way at times, feeling like it makes it too easy to just choose one part of a book to illustrate/dioram-ize and not really assess for deep understanding. However, I’m beginning to think that may be flawed thinking – I love your point about giving slower readers a chance to really dive into a chunk of the book – particularly for books with detailed landscapes/settings. I’m thinking about how I might assign a diorama assignment in my classroom…stay tuned!

  3. Jessica Scott says:

    Lizzie, I love the book soundtrack idea, and the cast the movie one too. What creative ways to get at children’s comprehension!

  4. Lizzie!
    I love your mini ideas. What I like about these is that they require very little materials for my students. I noticed that dioramas, posters, and even a cereal-box book report (which may feel more creative and exciting) pose difficulties for students who can’t access materials.

    Can’t wait to read more!

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