Fun Assessment for Silent Sustained Reading

My 90 minute English class begins with 15 minutes of silent sustained reading every day. I prioritize this time because I know students won’t love every book we read as part of our curriculum. I want to give them the opportunity and time to read anything that interests them. They can read whatever they want…graphic novels, biographies, popular young adult books or science fiction. My only request is that they select books that are at or above their reading level.

My students LOVE silent sustained reading. It gives them time to “pleasure read,” which is a welcome time out for many of my overscheduled and stressed out high school students.

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The challenge for me was to design an “assessment” that was meaningful. I had tried everything from the traditional book report style assessment to more creative movie trailers, but I didn’t feel like they accomplished what I wanted from a silent sustained reading assessment.

It wasn’t until I went to a book club meeting with some friends that inspiration struck. At our book club meetings, we ate food, drank wine, and talked about literature for hours. Why couldn’t our SSR assessment be more like that? (Sans the wine, of course.) I thought about what inspired me to read my book club books and the answer was that I really enjoyed that evening of food, conversation, and friends.

So, I decided to design a book club style chat assessment for our silent sustained reading. The goal was to get my students having conversations about their various books. Ultimately, I hoped they would turn each other on to titles they had read and enjoyed. Below is a brief overview of the assignment. I’ve also included a link to a Google document with a detailed explanation of the assignment for any teacher interested in using it!

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SSR Book Club Style Chat 

  1. The Passage: Hook your group members! Choose an exciting, interesting or descriptive passage to read to your group.
  2. Visually Stimulating: A picture is worth a thousand words! Create a small poster with the title of the book, the author, and at least one symbol incorporated into your collage or drawing.
  3. Honest Reaction: Is this book worth reading? Write an 8-12 sentence reflection about your book. This reflection should focus on your reaction to the book.
  4. The Perfect Dish: This book makes me crave… Choose a type of food, dish or beverage that you think goes nicely with this particular book and bring it in to share. Write a 4-6 sentence explanation of how this food goes with your book.

This book club style chat has become a favorite with my students. They enjoy any activity that involves food and the conversations about their books have motivated students to read books they might not have otherwise known about.

Click here to view the Google Document with the detailed explanation for this assignment. If you have a Gmail address, simply log into your account then click “File” at the top of this document. Select “Make a copy” and it will automatically save in your Google Drive.

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59 Responses to Fun Assessment for Silent Sustained Reading

  1. Megan says:

    this is my students’ FAVORITE activity!!

    • My kids totally love it too! They always ask, “Tucker, when are we doing the book club chat?” It’s fun to see them get pumped to talk about their books.

      By the way, I told all my students how much I loved Eleanor & Park. I bet I see a bunch of kids bring it in for SSR before the end of school. Thank you again for recommending that. Wonder is the next one on my young adult fiction list!


      • Gerry says:

        Thanks for the great idea and for sharing it. I have always had my students read a book of their choice each quarter. We’ve created book trailers to exercise their creative nature, written card catalog reviews (Prep uses Follett Destiny) so current and future students could see what others thought, wrote responses and gave chats so students had opportunities to share. But I like this systematic approach. I always used silent sustained reading when I taught junior high(remember those), but I have only given reading time occasionally at senior high level-especially in a competitive college preparatory school. However, we use a block schedule, too, so I am going to go back to this practice next year and use your approach. (BTW Omaha is home to Rainbow Rowell who continues to shine with her novels.)

      • Anne Grant says:

        Did you ever read Wonder? It is so good. I am going to use it for modelling this activity for my 7th grade ELA class.

      • Stephanie Huggins says:

        Awesome idea Catkin! I love it! I will let you know how it works with my students. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Bethany says:

    This sounds amazing!! And something that my students would really go for. Thank you so much for sharing your idea!

  3. Sasha says:

    This is a fantastic idea! How often do you do this?

  4. Tina McIver says:

    How often do you host these book clubs? I was thinking of more a “lit circle” idea where kids are reading the same book in small groups. They they could have their book club with people who have read the same book. Just wondering how much time you give them to finish a book before having book club.

    • We do this once each semester, Tina. They don’t need to be done with the book to use it for their book club style chats. I always remind them not to give away the ending anyway.

      You could definitely do this with literature circles. At the end, you could mix up the groups so that one member from each lit circle group is in each book club style chat group. Then they could learn about what their peers were reading.


  5. Jess says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share this! I love the idea of letting the students guide these discussions while encouraging one another to read. The idea of having a discussion over food might even be enough to motivate my reluctant readers 🙂

  6. Sarah S. says:

    Wow! Great! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Bridget Martin says:

    Love this idea.
    Some questions. When you have a chance.
    In the photo it looks like the kids are not all reading the same book. Is that the case?
    Do you set up the groups or do the kids select their partners?
    Do the kids bring food for their group or the whole class?
    Thanks for your post.

    • Hi Bridget,

      Every student selects his/her own book. I split up the groups based on the food items they bring to share. I don’t want all the students who bring sweets in the same group or there would be sugar overload. I also keep any eye open to ensure I do not duplicate titles in a group if multiple students are reading the same book.


      • Pamela Knutson says:

        How do you get away with the food. With all the nutrition rules coming out of the White House, I’m not sure how my administration would feel about food in the classroom. I’ll check it out.

  8. Amanda Potts says:

    Love this idea- thanks for sharing! Another fun one I’ve done with Grade 9 students this year is a “book talk”: about half way through the semester (so coming up any time now…) they choose a book they’ve enjoyed during SSR and plan & give a book talk on it. Book talks are only 1-2 minutes & are designed to catch your attention, so they’re fun and easy to watch. We watch a few on-line first (and now I’ve got some filmed from previous students) & off they go. The best ones often feature background music, book covers (published or created) and fantastic hooks. My students love these – and then there’s a rush to pick up the coolest books they’ve just heard about…

  9. Great! One hour a week, on Saturday, of silent reading for my ‘ digitalized ‘ students (16-18 ) to find again the rithm of the slow thinking in Jesi, Italy…:-)

  10. I love the idea and have tweaked the doc to apply in my Social Studies class. Will begin to use this following week. Thank you so much!

  11. Maggie says:

    I really like your idea of using a book club! It is a fun way to hold students accountable without giving an assessment that is boring and time consuming! It seems like your objective for silent sustained reading is to maintain student motivation towards reading, which is brilliant! As a student, I was really turned off to reading when I was required to read all these books that I did not like. Giving students time to just read for enjoyment is a great teaching strategy. Assessments like book reports or creating movie trailers did not seem to match your objective of motivating students. Your idea of using book clubs really suits the objective of maintaining student interest and also sparking interest for reading books in others.
    The book club model is essentially the same as a literature circle, except you have students reading different books (but that works just fine for your objective because you aren’t assessing direct comprehension of the reading). A caution to other teacher using literature circles, make sure you model proper techniques to use during book club. Some guidelines to follow can be found in Thom’s Rules of Order: Ten Tips for Book Discussion (Barthelmess, 2014).
    In one teacher account of the use of literature circles, the teacher found many benefits (Witt, 2007). Primarily, the teacher found that the literature circle increased student motivation (Witt, 2007). This result supports your use of book clubs because it matches your objective. Witt (2007) also found theatliterature circles lead to higher-level thinking and student engagement. There are other benefits to literature circles other than motivation and engagement. In the teacher’s account, he cited results from previous studies on literature circles. Davis et al. found that literature circles improved students’ reading level and performance on tests (Davis, Resta, Davis & Camocho, 2001). Other researchers found that literature circles “helped develop thoughtful, competent, and critical readers” (Brabham & Villaume, 2000). Your use of book clubs is a way to hold students accountable for reading, keep students motivated, and spark interest in other books. Based on the research of literature circles, the book club is the perfect “assessment” for your objective.


    Barthelmess, T. (2014). Thom’s Rules of Order: Ten Tips for Good Book Discussion. Horn Book Magazine, 90(6), 28-32.

    Brabham, E.G., & Villaume, S.K. (2000). Questions and answers: Continuing conversations about literature circles. The Reading Teacher, 54(3), 278-280

    Davis, B.H., Resta V., Davis L.L. & Camacho. A. (2001). Novice teachers learn about literature circles through collaborative action research. Journal of Reading Education, 26, 1-6.

    Witt, S. (2007). “I Love Reading!” – Fifth and Sixth Graders React to Literature Circles. Lutheran Education, 141(3), 179-190.

  12. Kristen says:

    This is such a great idea! Does this happen at the same time you are reading a different book for class or is the Book Club book the only book the students are reading.

    • Hi Kristen,

      Yes, they read their SSR books every day and we are always reading another anchor text. They read their SSR books for pleasure. They are not tied to our curriculum.

      Take care.

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  16. Nikolaj says:

    At the same time, the panel admits that it “does not negate the positive influence independent silent reading time may have, nor the possibility that wide independent reading significantly influences vocabulary development and reading comprehension.

  17. Karen says:

    I’m curious how you manage grading the first criteria of the rubric:
    “Quality of passage and overall conversation”? Are you recording each group in order to listen to the quality of their conversations later?


    • Hi Karen,

      Students share their passages with me via Google Docs or screenshots, but I circulate around the room listening to them read. If I’ve got questions about the quality of the passage, then I reference the shared document or screenshot they’ve sent me.

      I’ve thought about recording, but I’ve never done it because there are 6 groups and volume can get kind of loud. I think that might create too much background noise for a recording. That said, I get a good sense of the quality of their conversations by simply just walking around the room and observing them. I’m on my feet moving for the entire

      I hope that helps!


  18. Beth Crawford says:

    What a great idea! Do they share with you the type of food ahead of time, so you can group them?

    • Hi Beth,

      They bring in their food on that day they present. I organize them into groups during silent sustained reading at the start of the period by food type to avoid too much sugar in a particular group 😉


  19. Angie says:

    Such a great idea. Will be sharing with teachers at my school.

  20. Michelle says:

    I love this idea! Can’t wait to try! Do you have any other suggestions for assessing independent reading? For instance, are you a fan of keeping a log, post-it note thinking, or constructed extended thinking prompts? Thank you!

    • Hi Michelle,

      Yes, I also do check-ins using Google Forms. It’s not really an assessment, but more of a way for me to check in with students to see where they are at in their reading. Beyond that, I don’t do much assessing when it comes to SSR. I want SSR to be about reading for pleasure. I don’t want to take away from that.

      I have had students write Good Reads reviews, which they enjoyed.


  21. Julie Jee says:

    My 10th graders just had their book club chat today. The conversations that they had were great. They especially liked the food option. This is, by far, my favorite independent reading activity that I’ve done. My 10th and 12th graders also loved this activity last year. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  23. Angela Victor says:

    This ties in perfectly with TCRWP and Book Clubs. Check out this link to hear more about the importance of students citing text references during the conversation and the importance of teachers offering support (making the learning transferrable).

    • Thank you for sharing that link, Angela! It made me think about the need to sprinkle informal book club chats throughout the semester as a way to keep a dialogue going about their books all semester.


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  26. Angela Parker says:

    Hi Catlin,
    I’ve been doing your book club chats for two years now with eleventh and twelfth graders and absolutely love them! We do them once a quarter, and the students really look forward to them. I’m wondering how you handle books that are movies. I have made it a rule that students can’t chose any books that have been made into movies since I want them to read not just watch, but that eliminates so many great ones (this year we’re going to lose Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle-so bummed!) What is your policy?

    • Angela,

      I don’t have a policy like that. They read in class so I see what they are reading. I’m not super concerned about whether or not they’ve seen the movie. In fact, I know a lot of kids see a movie and get inspired to read the book. I’m just happy they are reading!


      • Angela Parker says:

        Okay, sounds good! I will do more in-class tracking of their reading and abolish my no-movie policy. Thank you!

  27. Andrea Cowen says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I want to try it this MP, but I am curious: how did you give students a grade? I think I would struggle to grade each student based on the rubric since I have about 30 students per class. I would be afraid that students would finish talking before I got a chance to grade them.

  28. Andrea Cowen says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I want to try it this MP, but I am curious: how did you give students a grade? I think I would struggle to grade each student based on the rubric since I have about 30 students per class. I would be afraid that students would finish talking before I got a chance to grade them.

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  30. W says:

    I love this!! I have a new 7th grade Reading Workshop class and they chose which books I purchased and are going crazy reading and DISCUSSING books! It is like my classroom utopia! I have 3 sections grouped by reading level, and my high flyers are reading novels like crazy. Some groups have read 6-8 books since the beginning of November! My struggling readers are reading independently because “it is just SO good, I want to know what happens!” I am going to add these activities -THANK YOU!!

  31. Jae Goodwin says:

    How often do the students get together to do this. Do they form their own club groups?

  32. Nancy says:

    I love this idea, but when I tried it with my freshmen it did not go well. Several did not bring in any food. Most were not creative. I had one kid bring in one pear and try to split it with the 6 students in his group. Many just brought in chips or pop because their book was about a teenager and that’s what they eat! And of course, some brought in no food at all. Sad. I may try this again next year.

    • Hi Nancy,

      That’s too bad. I have had classes in the past where a handful (5-6) students did not bring food or did not complete the assignment, but I group them based on their books and food items so everyone still gets to participate in the experience and hear about books. I always have fewer students who fail to bring food/projects second semester because they enjoyed the experience first semester and felt bad about not having something to share.


  33. Chandler Crook says:

    Love this. Going to turn it into a presentation. Thank you and bravo!

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