Rethinking Reading Quizzes

I love pinterest and am loving using it as my PLN.  I’m getting so many great ideas from it.  This morning, as I was browsing through my pins I ran into this one:


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I struggled this past year in encouraging my students to complete text reading.  I will admit reading for my class was challenging; we were using the Spodek book.  It is a college level book focusing on themes and periodizations in World History.  The language was difficult for my freshmen and sometimes it presumed knowledge that my students did not have.  I usually assigned 10-15 pages each night and did not assign much else for homework–with a few exceptions.  Nevertheless, my students complained about the reading.  It was “too hard, they didn’t get it. . .  .”  The list goes on.  Ultimately, by mid-year, 90% students were not reading the text.  I could tell by the reading quiz scores and discussions in class.  My suspicions were confirmed by my summer school group saying, “Miss, no one did the reading last year.”

I knew I needed to rethink reading quizzes, but  my summer school students confirmed it.  Here were rules for reading quizzes last year:

  • Timed–10 minutes
  • Students could use any resources you brought to class–an annotated book, notes, study guide.  Most students simply brought their book to class and skimmed for answers to the reading quiz. This is why they hated the time limit and whined about it so much.

What I am considering for next year:

  1. Continuing reading quizzes; however, students will only be permitted to use their own HANDWRITTEN notes.  They will turn in their HANDWRITTEN notes with the quiz.  Additionally, I am considering moving the quizzes online.
  2. Alternating reading quizzes with some of the activities from the list above.
  3. Giving students a study guide for each chapter.  I haven’t determined whether I’ll require students to turn this in on test day.  What I like about study guides is that students will have something to focus their reading, but if I require submission of it–lets be real, here–students will simply copy others work.

Side Note:  We selected the Duiker & Spielvogel book for next year.  It is organized better for high school freshmen, yet still challenging reading.  I sent the book for review to the freshman guidance counselor and “SPED” teacher.  Here were their comments:

“The text is a lot easier – much more straight forward in it’s organization and instruction. I think it will be great.”


“The text looks like a great pick. . . I love the summary timelines at the end of each chapter. I see an opportunity for cross curricular instruction. . .while the chapters are fairly long, each presents an organization that would be easy for students to form a note template to prepare for lectures or summarize topics in the margins . . .Great selection ladies.”


5 thoughts on “Rethinking Reading Quizzes

  1. Students don’t like to work hard at their reading, no matter how easy/difficult the text. Several of my best students admitted that they don’t read the novels for AP Lit, they just use Spark notes. (cliff notes?) I was appalled. I like your idea of allowing them to use handwritten notes; they may have copied them from someone else, but in the effort of writing them, they will have learned something. I sometimes permit handwritten notes also, but I don’t tell the students when. That way they’re encouraged to always take good notes, just in case.
    Margaret recently posted..Revelations Part 2My Profile

    • Thanks for commenting. You are right! Students don’t like reading anything that is assigned by a teacher. At the end of the year, when I felt like I covered material too quickly and didn’t give students enough time to process and work through content, I decided to let them use their notes on the test. It worked brilliantly because I took up note sheets with the test so future classes couldn’t recycle them. It definitely forces students to have some interaction with the content beyond just reading it. When I think about my “to-do list”, I always complete the tasks I write down without needing the sheet to remind me, but stuff I keep repeating in my mind to do or add to my computer calendar, I never remember to do them on my own. I usually need to refer to the list. Sorry for the ramble, just got kind of carried away.

  2. I really love the idea of using a study guide for reading. My thought would be to include reading questions, fill-in-the-blank items, etc. — something that gets them to actively look for information. Although, this still might not encourage reading the actual text.

    In addition to making their own outline/notes, they could create their own quiz questions based on the reading. They would need to write the question and provide an answer based on the text. You can then use these questions for your reading quiz.

    Just a thought. Hope you’re doing well.
    Jennifer Kennedy recently posted..Teaching Good Stuff – An Interview with Saba McKinleyMy Profile

    • I used to make guided readings for my public school children because they needed to read the text and they were often completed as in class assignments. I like the idea of making them write their own quiz. . . it would be a hoot if they read in preparation for a quiz, but when they arrived I said: Write your own quiz based on your notes. It would make things even better if they could then swap and peer grade. Thanks so much for the ideas!

  3. I am curious to see how next year’s group respond to the text. I am sure it will go well. Text books are for students since we teachers know more than the text. Many become obsolete fast and thus our knowledge extends beyond it. That said, finding the right balance is so important. I think you made a great choice for your students.
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