Increasing Student Accountability with Reading Response Menus!

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Expectation: teacher spends 20 blissfully uninterrupted minutes with each reading group while the other students complete their independent reading tasks to fidelity.

Reality: teacher spends 18 of the 20 minutes monitoring the activities of students not in the reading group.

Result: students don't get quality independent reading time in during the school day, and their comprehension skills suffer.

Sound familiar? Trust me, I've been there before. However, things changed once I introduced reading response menus to my reading block.

During my first few years of teaching, I struggled with keeping the rest of the class on task while I met with small groups. Unfortunately, this means everyone suffered. The students in my group weren't getting the attention they needed, and the students who were supposed to be at centers were doing everything except what they were supposed to do.

I needed to come up with an easy way to keep students on track while they were working independently, one that would them build their reading skills on their own while I met with the students who needed it the most. After a lot of trial and error, I came up with a set of reading menus that students could work on at their own pace, without assistance from me.

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Now, as a fellow teacher you know that it wasn't immediate sunshine and rainbows once I introduced these menus. There was a lot of modeling and practice, as well as a lot of trial and error, before things started to look up in my classroom. However, once my students got the hang of using the menus (and learned my expectations for how to complete them) my reading block started running much more smoothly!

I have used these menus several ways: as an accountability piece during the reading block, and also as nightly reading homework (both with students completing one activity a day). Along the way, I've learned a few things to help implement response menus effectively. Here are some of my top tips:

1. Choose a set up that works for you

Ideally, you want to keep everything your students need to work on the response menus in one central location. I would suggest either a composition notebook or 3-prong folder for each student, especially if you are using the menus as a homework assignment. If you are using a composition notebook, you can glue the menus directly in, along with activity examples and a rubric to help the students understand your expectations.


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It would be the same for a 3-prong folder: place all of the necessary information in the middle of the folder for students to refer to as needed.

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The best part is once you complete the initial set-up, you can sit back and relax! Your students will have everything they need to complete their assignments for an entire year- one of the reasons response menus are a great choice for independent work!

2. Roll things out slowly

I can tell you one thing with certainty- if you just hand something like a response menu over and wave goodbye, you are not going to get the results you want. It's important that students have a chance to practice each menu task with assistance before they work on the menus independently. 

At the beginning of the year, I would do one activity a day with my students (using the slideshow from my Editable Reading Response Menus to introduce each task). After we were about halfway through the activities, the menus became part of their independent work- with the students only able to select tasks that we had practiced. By the end of the first quarter of school, students could use the menus fully on their own.

Since the menus don't have to be completed in any order, you can pick activities that correlate with the lessons you are teaching in class. This is a great way to reinforce the skills you are already teaching!

3. Be clear about your expectations

One of the things that my students found most helpful was having an example of each response menu item to refer to. Initially, students would use these examples as a template, and as they grew as writers they would begin to add more personal touches to their writing.

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The thing that I found most helpful was training my students to use a checklist before turning their assignments in for the week. Since I knew from experience that students will just check things off at will if they don't have a lot of modeling (typical conversation: "You checked off that your name is on the paper and it's nowhere to be found." "Oh...you meant on THIS paper?" #insertcryingemoji)- I made sure to go through the checklist many, many times before handing it off for the first time. 

If you train your students well in how to use the checklist, grading these menus will be a snap each week. I was able to finish my entire class in 30 minutes- and I was also able to see what skills and strategies were clearly understood, and the ones that needed to be retaught.

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Want to see more? Head over to TpT to check out my Editable Fiction and Nonfiction Reading Response Menus. In addition to the menus, editable templates, activity examples, slideshow and rubric there are bonus task cards that are perfect for a reading center!

Have you used response menus in class before? What are your top tips?

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