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  • Writer's pictureMegan Mariano

Assessment in Reading Workshop: 9 Ways to Hold Students Accountable for Independent Reading

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

A lot of teachers are hesitant to let students read whatever book they want for instruction. Many feel there is no way they could assess a student based on a book they (the teacher) never read. Teachers question if the student is actually grasping a would I know if I have no idea what the book is about?

The following lists the ways I hold my students accountable for the reading they do. I do not teach whole class novels (see my post about that here).

  • Focused skills

  • Text evidence

  • Conferences

  • Rubrics

  • End of unit assessments

  • Book reviews

  • Reading logs/records

  • Book talks

  • 40 Book Challenge

Focused Skills

I think this is where it all starts. You have to determine what specific skills you want your students to accomplish. Each lesson should be a specific skill and that skill should be VERY concise. Create teaching points that students are striving toward. Such as: characters are complex and often portray different behaviors, or non-fiction books use text features to magnify a major point...and so on. The teaching points can be tricky to come up with on your own. I use Lucy Calkins to get my teaching points or I look at other lessons and build it from there.

A teaching point should be clear; a statement, not a question. It's what they are determining about their reading that day. Each day should be a different teaching point. The teaching point should be based around a genre or topic (character, social issues, dystopian, setting, etc.).

Text Details/Evidence

This is one of the first lessons I do with my students. They learn how to use evidence and elaborations to prove their thinking. I provide them with stems to help guide their writing.

Next up would be text evidence. What is text evidence? Students prove their thoughts about reading by pulling lines from the text. I tell my students it's as if they are lawyers trying to defend their client...what in the text can back up what they are saying?

So, for my students, I always have them do some kind of reading response. Sometimes it's a jot. Sometimes it's a lengthy paragraph. Sometimes it's a graphic organizer. If I want to assess it, they MUST include text evidence in some capacity. The picture here is an example of what I do with them. Click here if you want it!

How does this help you know they "got it"? Well, it's pretty clear based on the evidence they pull. For example, you may ask your students to determine a strong character trait regarding their character. Students would choose the trait, then find lines from the text that show the trait. Look at those text they prove that the character is brave/kind/determined? Does the evidence by itself show that trait? If so, they got it! If not, then there is probably a disconnect.

This works for any skill. Main idea...write the main idea and pull lines to support. Do their lines prove the main idea they stated? If not, then their main idea may be off. their quotes show that an object has a deeper meaning to it? If not, they may need a stronger choice.

With text evidence, you can truly get a sense if they "got" the teaching point. You don't have to read the book they read. You MAY have to go into their book during a conference to get a bit more insight, but otherwise, you should be able to tell just based on their evidence.


I wrote a blog post about how I conference here. If you are conferencing regularly with students, you get a gist of what they are reading about. You peak into their books to familiarize yourself with characters, settings, problems. Through conversation, you get a decent feeling of whether the child knows what he/she is talking about! For everything you discuss, ask them to show you. Show you where they are referring to. This ties into what I mentioned before about text evidence. Lucky for us, most books they are reading are not too challenging for us, so it shouldn't be too hard to skim and get general ideas.


I constantly see teachers ask, "how do I give a grade when students are working with their own books?". I think a lot of teachers do whole class novels because it's easy to give tests, quizzes, vocab. lists, etc. It gives them easy ways to grade.

In Reading Workshop, it's not as straightforward. You don't give out a set amount of questions then give a grade out of 100%. In this case, rubrics are the way to go.

Honestly, I am not the greatest rubric maker in the world. There are lots of great rubrics out there if you dig around on TpT or blogs. However, I created a standard rubric I used to grade reading responses. Again, my students write lots of reading responses and all different types. So, I made a rubric that covers all the bases. It is scored based on 4 points (and half points) and those points equate to a percentage to put in my gradebook. Is it completely foolproof? No, but I'd much rather the students be journaling than giving out pointless tests about books they don't care about.

End of Unit Assessments

Since I teach units, I always do an end of unit assessment. I do them digitally. I give the students a short text in the genre of the unit (usually found on Common Lit or ReadWorks). Off to the side, I put digital sticky notes with prompts that focus on the teaching points from the unit. Students read the short text and highlight based on the prompts. The digital sticky notes are color-coded and they must highlight to match the color of the sticky. Within the sticky, they answer the prompt.

The prompts on the digital stickies are statements such as: "This line shows strong mood because..." or "This shows a strong character change because..." They highlight a line that goes along with the prompt, move the digital sticky near the line, and explain their thinking. Again, this goes back to the importance of text evidence.

I also use a rubric for this. It's similar to my reading response rubric...a scale with 4 major points. Not 1:1? You can do this on paper with different colored highlighters and actual sticky notes, too!

Book Reviews

My students read every single day and are expected to read at home, too. I don't have them do book reports. I don't give them fancy choice boards to choose how to show their reading. I have them do a book review once a month.

The book review allows the student to express their opinion on the text. I require them to include some quotes and few other concepts, but not much else. I get so much information from their daily work, I don't need them to summarize, tell me characters, problems, settings, etc. I really have them do this more as a means of sharing with their peers.

Students add their reviews to Padlet for all students to see.

Once they write their reviews I have them put them up on Seesaw or Padlet. I am new to Seesaw this year, so as of the date of this post, students haven't used it yet for reviews, but I plan on allowing them to record book reviews. In the past, I had them put it on Padlet. This allowed the entire class (and my other classes) to see their friends' reviews. It gave them ideas about what books they could read next.

This I grade on a rubric, too.

Reading Logs/Records

I do NOT make them write how many pages they read each night and have mom or dad sign it. They have a Reading Record where they record all the books they've read and a brief weekly reflection. This just helps me gauge how much they are reading and determining if they are reading. It is NOT a lot of work on their end and they don't have to do it every. day (which is what I hate about daily logs).

I used to have them do a weekly reading log that required them to do a lengthier reading response. This is definitely a good option, too. The only reason I stopped was because we did enough of it in class, I didn't need any more!

Book Talks

These are totally informal, but allows you to get a picture of whether students are reading. Give them time to talk about their books with others in class (or online!). Just listen. Your teacher instinct will tell you whether they are reading.

The 40 Book Challenge

Read my post about this here. I hold my students to high expectations. Challenge them to read 40 books for the school year, and you will be sure to get kids to read! This is inspired by Donalyn Miller's book The Book Whisperer. Each month I check in with them about it. I celebrate even small accomplishments. "You read two books this month? Is it more than last year? That's amazing!" I've seen such growth in my students due to this challenge.

Bottom Line

I don't believe in forcing students to read from a textbook or novel they have no interest in just because it makes for easier grading. Isn't our goal to make students readers? If you are lucky enough to have some freedom with your curriculum, consider allowing student choice in reading. YES, there are ways to assess them.

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