Establishing a Reading Culture: Accountability

Creating a culture that supports and celebrates reading requires several components. In Authentic and Relentless Enthusiasm, we talked about how to create the positive energy surrounding books and reading. While a positive vibe is one essential part of the foundation—so is responsibility and engagement. Therefore, accountability is a must.

Because my 8th grade crew had an odd sense of humor….Hmmmm…I wonder if this motivated them to be accountable? 😉

In our class, we began each period with independent reading and ended with our class novel/read aloud. In between, there might be some reading of informational texts depending on what our objectives were. Accountability for those non-fiction bits could be relatively straightforward with online platforms like Newsela, ReadWorks, or CommonLit. However, how do you hold students accountable when they are all reading something different? And beyond comprehension questions, how do we make sure students are engaged in the whole class novel?

Here are a few of the strategies we used…

  • Status of the Class. Donalyn Miller suggested this strategy in The Book Whisperer. Three times a week, right after independent reading, students verbally reported, round-robin style, their current book and page number. Lizzy relied on Life in Fifth Grade’s framework for her Status of the Class routine, and it worked beautifully. We are a 1-1 school, so we initially tried Padlet. I thought it would be a more streamlined process by having kids post their progress on a shared bulletin board. In our case, it just wasn’t effective. They didn’t look at each other’s posts, whereas with Status of the Class, they paid attention to each other’s progress—and peer accountability is a powerful tool!


  • Conferences. Lizzy and I met with kids during independent reading , enjoying some one on one time with the kiddos. Because we co-teach, we wanted to assure consistency in our conversations, so we decided to anchor our discussions to a specific skill or objective. Our conversations with kids were fluid and were as varied as the children themselves, but in the course of them, Lizzy and I would use it as an assessment opportunity. You can see the simple rubric we used for genre and plot at the beginning of the year, or grab a general template Reading Conference Assessment here.
Conferences also allow us to give students the kind of individual attention that helps build rapport.
  • Book Commercials. We kept these simple, as we didn’t intend for them to be a project, a summative assessment, or anything time-consuming—just a quick, straightforward act of “yes, I read the book.” In fact, the rubric for our book commercials also served as the directions. We didn’t do these as often as we would have liked. That said, we also found that we didn’t need as many accountability checks as we thought we would need because it became obvious our kids were reading…and loving it!!
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Accountability means kids get to take ownership for this shift!! LOVE this!!
  • RACE Responses. Our school used RACE for its constructed response model, but you could easily adapt this to your framework for written responses. While the previous three strategies applied to independent reading, this one can also apply to the class novel. Knowing what you are assessing is important with RACE Responses, so keep that in mind. Lizzy and I tried creating a RACE question on the fly…exactly once. Framing your question to assess what you want to assess can be tricky business, so definitely plan your questions ahead of time. Ahhhhh….RACE is a whole topic for another series down the road!

Accountability measures can give peace of mind to many of us in the trenches, as we are held accountable for actually teaching these kiddos. Hopefully, one of those strategies or tools is a takeaway for you, or at least sparks something new in your thinking that will work in your classroom. Summer time is such a grand time for reflection and idea generation—so fun to consider how to change it up for the upcoming year!

Thank you for reading the second in our blog series, Establishing a Reading Culture.  ♥Julie

Next Up: Access.

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