Book clubs are a great reading strategy that works to increase student reading skills, but let’s face it, when students work together it can be hard to fairly asses a grade. We can see the benefit of students working collaboratively to accomplish a goal, but don’t want to create an environment where students are not demonstrating what they’ve learned.
When I teach using a book club strategy, I deliberately set the expectation that student grades are not determined by the work the other members of the group complete. This helps reassure my high students that they are not dependent on someone else’s work ethic and tells the rest of the class that they will all be held accountable for learning. If you set clear expectations of what you want your students to know and create assignments around those learning targets it is easy to asses a grade for individual work. All assignments, whether completed individually or with the help of the group are scored based on what the individual completes and turns in.
The purpose of each assignment is to help students organize their thinking about their book and prepare them for book discussion. Some of the work is expected to be completed on their own, as they read, in order to think and process what they’ve read and some is expected to be completed as a group or partner within the group. You might be thinking that students could just cheat, while that is possible, it is unlikely if students are reading a book they have chosen. Additionally, since I provide time in class for both reading and working on assignments, it is easy to check in with students on their progress. I’ve also discovered when students have choice in the book for book club, they invested in the activity and will actually hold group members accountable.
In a perfect world, the final assessment of the book club would be the group discussions. While there are standards and rubrics for group discussions, it doesn’t quite meet the needs of assessing reading skills. For the final assessment, students create a formal writing piece that demonstrates their understanding of the book and their ability to critically think about the book. The specific prompt I give to students depend on the original objective of the book club unit I established at the beginning of the panning stages.
There are many moving parts to assessing book clubs: reading, multiple assignments, discussions, reflections, writing piece. All of these give you the teacher valuable information about where each individual student is in relation to their ability to read and comprehend. I would urge you to use all of these moving parts to fairly asses your students and resist the urge to give one end grade for book clubs.