Whether your students are engaged in whole-class texts, literature circles, book clubs, or independent reading, you’ll need to gauge their analytical thinking. There are traditional assessment tools, like summary writing, graphic organizers, and quizzes, but after a while, these approaches can start to feel stale, both for the teacher and students. In this post, you’ll find a handful of unique post-reading activities to use with older students.
These assignments will help to keep reading discussions and assessments fresh. However, one size does not fit all. Consider offering students choices of how they can show their learning. Also, balance is important. Assessments are only fun when students don’t feel inundated with them.
Most of the post-reading activities you’ll read about in this post can be used with books, short stories, articles, poetry, and plays. They really aren’t genre specific, which makes them incredibly versatile. Plus, many of them can be used both during and after reading.
1. MAKE CONNECTIONS WITH MIND MAPS
Mind maps can be a great way to synthesize what students have gleaned from reading a book. Plus, there are so many ways to approach them! My favorite is to focus on a particular standard.
Have students put the title of the book in the middle of the map. Then, break down the standard. For example, let’s look at CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.3: “Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.”
Now, let’s think about what skills are embedded in this standard. In order to be proficient with the standard, students need to:
- analyze lines of dialogue
- analyze story events
- identify how dialogue and events propel action
- analyze how dialogue and events contribute to characterization
- explain how dialogue and events provoke characters to make decisions
In a mind map, then, students could create one extension from the center to explore each of these skills. Not sure how to help students begin with mind maps as post-reading activities? This visual is helpful!
Try the same idea with sketchnotes, which are amazing processing assignments to use with online learning.
2. ENCOURAGE PERSONAL REACTIONS WITH BOOKSNAPS
If you’d like to capture snippets of what passages are resonating most with students, ask them to create a booksnap journal as they read! This project can be fun to flip or scroll through because you will be able to see patterns. Are students mainly choosing humorous quotes or events? If so, push their thinking. What techniques is the author using to create this humorous effect (RL.8.6)?
Booksnaps provide us with opportunities to talk with students about what they are reading during conferences and small group discussions. Plus, they can easily be incorporated into a digital portfolio or reading journal.
Need a ready-to-go activity? Snapabook is a fun, alternative activity I created to tie together booksnaps with pop culture (Snapchat).
3. SCAFFOLD ANALYSIS WHILE READING WITH COLOR
If you need a low-key, quick post-reading activity that zeroes in on main idea and text evidence, try asking students to re-read with color. This exercise is less involved, so it’s great when you only have a short amount of time.
To complete this activity, students will need a text, a Post-It, and three different colors of markers or colored pencils. The basic premise is to hone in on a specific skill or standard – like finding the main idea, identifying text structure, or highlighting vocabulary. To do so, scaffold students’ reflection about the text with three questions that build. With each response, students draw their ideas (in a different color) on their Post-It.
When finished, have students share in small groups, or build the Post-Its into a gallery walk so that students can comment on one another’s work. Students can also re-read with color virtually with a wide variety of tech tools – Notability, Slides, Jamboard, and Glogster, just to name a few..
Read this post about re-reading with color to find more details to get started!
4. THINK CRITICALLY BY EVALUATING BOOK COVERS
Post-reading activities often involve writing. Students need to write informative essays. Yet, they don’t always have to be as traditional as we might expect. This activity allows students to reflect on what they have read, analyze the way the book is marketed, evaluate the effectiveness and accuracy of the cover, and then write about their findings.
Students who enjoy being artistic will love evaluating and re-designing the cover of their text. When we ask students to evaluate book covers, we are really asking them to first analyze what marketing tools are used to sell the book…and then to reflect on whether or not those marketing tools are effective and representative of the book itself.
This book cover activity can be fun to pair with book talks, elevator speeches, book clubs, literature circles, evaluating texts units, and reading workshop.
5. RESPOND WITH TECH USING FLIP GRID
Flip Grid is a powerful way to get students talking about their texts. As a post-reading activity, try having middle and high school students respond to an essential question…or pose one!…using an app like Flip Grid. Classmates can respond to the original videos to keep the discussion going.
A couple things to think about if you are considering using this platform:
It can be extremely time consuming to listen to and respond to Flip Grid videos. Middle and high school teachers know. With over 100 students total, it just doesn’t make sense to sit in front of the screen for hours on end. So, brainstorm how you can make it work for you.
- Do your students participate in literature circles? Just have them post one video for the group.
- Incorporate Flip Grid into a menu of options so that students can choose it, but not everyone will end up doing it.
- Stagger due dates so that videos are submitted at different times.
- Have students respond to one another’s FlipGrid posts!
6. GET ARTSY AND CONCISE WITH ONE PAGERS
Students are often drawn to one pagers – digital or print! They have just the right amount of creativity and flexibility. Plus, they are only one page, which is much less daunting than an essay! Of course, one pagers can’t ever replace essays completely, but they can be a breath of fresh air when you want students to analyze a text without creating large stacks of work to assess.
If you haven’t explored one pagers yet, you’ll notice that students need scaffolding. They are often confused when presented with a blank page and vague directions. Read more about one pagers, their benefit, and using them as a post-reading activity. Here are the scaffolded resources I use for fiction and informational texts.
7. CREATE GALLERY WALKS
Use QR codes or educational playlists as part of a gallery walk. QR codes or links on a playlist can lead students to videos and articles. If your students are reading Romeo and Juliet, for instance, find high-interest videos and articles that feature a variety of opinions about or interpretations of the work. Then, have students respond in small groups, in a back-channel chat, on a discussion board, or in a breakout group.
To illustrate, pretend students just finished reading The Hunger Games. Ask students who have read it to add to a short graffiti wall on Jamboard or Slides to share their thoughts and an extension question.
One quick tip for using QR codes! Make sure that once you create them, the links won’t expire. Some websites will save your QR files for you to keep them active, but others will not. If you plan to use the activity again in the future, choosing the right QR code generator will save you time.
So there you have it! Seven post-reading activities that capitalize on technology or students’ attraction to visuals. As a final thought, remember that students need complete clarity about post-reading activities they are being asked to complete. We need to be able to explain…
- What is the purpose of this assignment?
- How is it going to help students learn?
- How will students be able to tell they are learning? Does this project make growth visible?
- Is the project relevant to students? Can you use it to tie in students’ interests?
- When will students receive your feedback? Without meaningful and timely feedback, projects typically are less effective.
- Who is the intended audience? Can the project be shared with a wider audience? Authentic audiences are motivating!
And, even though many of these post-reading activities are visually appealing, we need to make sure that we are selecting projects because they will truly tell us what we want to know about student learning, rather than because they might look pretty hanging up. Of course, that may be a bonus!