The students hate quizzes, so I’ve switched to reading journals

A quick repost of a teaching thing I posted on someone else’s thread, just in case it’s helpful.

I know a lot of teachers have had increased difficulty with students not doing the reading in recent years (it’s gotten worse post-pandemic). I used to assign quizzes to help with that, but both I and the students hate quizzes, so I’ve switched to reading journals instead, which work much better.

The reading journal has worked very well for me again this semester. Periodically, I have them read and comment on each others’ journals as well, which helps with engagement and class cohesion.

I give them multiple specific options for their journals — my main goal is to get them to do the reading, and my secondary goal is to lower the bar around their writing anxiety. So I tell them they can write a paragraph, they can write bullet points, they can take a quote and explain it, they can write questions for the rest of the class.

This semester, I had them write and post their first journal entry, and then I immediately read and commented on them all, mostly just telling them that it looked fine. I think that helped a lot with student anxiety.

I have them ‘due’ every two weeks, but I tell them it’s best if they can read and post the relevant journal at least an hour before class daily, so I can skim through them before class and use that to help guide our discussion (really helpful for my teaching, to see what they’ve already figured out, and what they’re interested in). But I only mark them (as done) as I have time, usually 2-3 times per semester, which helps keep my workload manageable.

And stolen from the comment thread, but I do this too: “It’s also a useful way to get class discussion going, since you can call on any student and just ask them to share something from their journal.” (Amy Kiste Nyberg)

I also really liked this from the comment thread, may try to implement it next time around: “I have a commonplace book assignment that does much the same thing- I have them label entries with threads (they have five, with explanations, to choose from), and put together a portfolio of the book and reflection (tracing the development of their thinking across the semester) as a final reflective exercise.

These are generic threads or ‘tags’ (which when taken together seem to be a thread) that are concepts like ‘faith,’ ‘politics,’ bodies,’ etc. Students can track what they tagged with those threads as well as how their awareness of nuance deepened over the semester: the usual realization is that they moved from literal to figurative readings, or noticed (if they decided to excerpt material based on its fit with a tag/thread) how they deepened their capacity to see nuance.” (Valerie Johnson)

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