Boost Accountability During Independent Reading

As teachers, we all want our students to fall in love with reading. And many of them will! We do our best to foster positive feelings about reading by designing beautiful, inviting reading nooks, allowing kids to choose their books, and making silly voices as we read fun stories out loud. 

There’s a lot to be said for allowing kids to read just for fun, but we’re also responsible for their progress. We need to provide simple yet effective ways to hold students accountable for their reading, both during independent class time and at home. 

The way I hold my students accountable (in a way that doesn’t make them dread reading) is with my “Life-a-Line” strategy. This strategy can be used in many different ways, including as a way to teach students how to cite textual evidence. For today, though, let’s chat about using it for independent reading accountability. This routine is perfect for a reading center!

What is the Lift-a-Line Strategy?

In a nutshell, the lift-a-line strategy asks students to choose and reflect on one particular line of text from the book or story they’re reading. 

There are three main parts to it: 

  1. Students choose and copy down a line that stood out to them from the text. 
  2. They draw a picture to further illustrate the idea from their chosen line and/or to explain why they chose it. 
  3. They spend some time writing about why they chose the line.

I love using this strategy for a couple of reasons. First, it gives students the autonomy to choose what stands out to them rather than directing them to find an answer to something the teacher or the curriculum writers are looking for. Kids take ownership of the task because they get to keep an eye out for something relevant to their own lives and interests. 

The second reason I love this strategy is that it’s a low-stakes way for kids to practice a super-important literacy skill: citing textual evidence. I can sneak in a little skills practice during independent reading time, which is always lovely!

Lift-a-Line Student Template

Have this template emailed to you for free!

How to Orient Your Students to the Lift-a-Line Strategy

If you are using “lift-a-line” mainly for accountability, I suggest leaving your instructions pretty open-ended when presenting the task to students. 

I think it’s always a good idea to model the strategy in front of the whole class. I’ll read a story for fun all the way through and then ask students what stood out to them. Some of them will remember a specific phrase, but more likely, they’ll tell you about a character or an event in the story that stood out to them. 

We’ll revisit those certain spots together and hone in on one line. We talk about what makes something “stand out” when reading: 

  • Was it surprising? Did something confuse you?
  • Can you relate to one of the characters? 
  • Did something happen in the story that you have experience with?
  • Is there something in the story that you want to do sometime in the future?
  • Did something make you angry, sad, excited, or happy?

Those are all great reasons to “lift a line” from the text! 

Once we pick a line as a class, I model how to illustrate and write about that particular line. Then, I ask students to complete the lift-a-line strategy on their own during independent reading time. 

Should We Use This for Assessment?

The key to using this strategy for accountability is to keep it low stakes for students. If you turn it into an assessment-style assignment, you may have trouble developing a sense of positivity and accountability around reading. 

I like to look at my students’ responses to get insights into what they’re thinking about and what their interests are. And of course, I read their responses to check that they’ve done their independent reading. In case you’re wondering, it’s pretty easy to tell when a kid is “faking it” with this strategy – super vague/generic responses are the giveaway. 

One quick note about that: The first few times, don’t just assume a vague response is due to “faking it.” A lot of times, students need some direction on how to choose and develop a response to lines that stand out to them. Definitely spend some one-on-one time with kids who need some extra support in this. 

Other Ways to Hold Students Accountable for Reading

The “Lift-a-Line” strategy is only one way I hold my students accountable. I definitely rotate through a variety of exercises. Here are a few more ideas for you to keep in your teaching toolbox:

  • Book journals – have students record or draw pictures about what they read independently
  • Have one-on-one “book chats” with students
  • Choice, choice, choice! Offer kids lots of options with a diverse collection of titles. Make sure your students can see themselves in the books as well. Representation matters!
  • Host a book club or set up a “fireside chat” in the classroom with cozy seating and flickering flames (I like to use the fire video on Netflix)

Incorporate a Digital Reading Log

One final thought: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking students to record the reading activity on a straightforward reading log! In fact, I think it’s a great way to keep track of how much, how often, and what titles your students are reading. It’s good for quick reference, and you can build reading log checks into your weekly routine. 

Our Digital Reading Log uses a cute, customized, and fully-editable Google Form for students to complete after they read a new book. The Form asks them adaptive questions about their book based on if they selected “fiction” or “nonfiction.”Once they submit their Google Form, their responses auto-populate on your included Google Sheet, where you can see all your students’ reading logs at-a-glance.

Related Reading: Sort Data With Filters In Google Sheets (this will save you so much time sorting through responses)

What are your favorite ways to keep students accountable for reading? Share your tips in the comments, and be sure to follow us on Facebook for more support and resources!

Hi! I’m Toluca from Markers and Minions, where I help teachers feel more effective and confident with high-quality resources and an awesome teacher community!

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