Benefits of Student Journaling While Reading: Great Way to Teach & Assess Reading Comprehension

Page content

Assessing Student’s Comprehension

When it comes to teaching novels, many teachers no longer use the old stand-by of assigning a novel, having students read it by a certain date, and then administering a test. They want creative book report ideas because most teachers realize there are many ways to assess students’ comprehension. However, it can be tricky to figure out another type of effective assessment.

I recommend journal writing as a way of tracking students’ comprehension of a novel. It can cut your grading time (because you can assess as you go, should you choose to do so) and can be enjoyable for both you and your students. Furthermore, not only does it help you pinpoint how much they have learned, it actually improves their own comprehension of the material. What could be better than one assignment that helps you teach at the same time it helps you assess?

Journal writing improves comprehension because it involves students going back and rereading for specific information. Most students would not do this if it was not required of them.

What Are Some Requirements of a Good Journal?

1) Important Words: Have students look for important words and then have them explain why they chose those particular words. Be sure to set a minimum requirement. You may choose to have students find five words for the entire novel or five words per chapter.It’s up to you and will depend on the time you have available and type of novel being read.

2) Main Idea: You could have students find the main idea of the novel, the main idea of each chapter, or the main idea of five chapters of the student’s choice. Again, it’s up to you.

3) One Page Activity (Read more about this assignment here.) It really works well as part of a journal.

4) T-Chart: This works exceptionally well if you have two subjects, themes, characters, etc. to compare. Just have your students draw a line down the middle of their paper and compare the two.

5) Journal Question: This can be a question of your choice that students must respond to. I would include a short rubric so they will know more precisely what is expected and you will get better, higher-quality answers.

These are just five ideas you can use.If you have others, use them as substitutes or in addition to these suggestions.


You can get as many or as few grades from this assignment as you need. If you choose, you could use the entire assignment as one test grade. Or, you could break it up and use each page in the journal as a daily/quiz grade. To make grading faster and more accurate, use a checklist and rubric. This will not only provide a more accurate assessment, it will decrease the number of questions students will have about their final grades.

The more creative book report ideas you have in your arsenal, the better. I have found that it’s easier to keep students engaged and interested if I vary my methods of teaching and assessing.