Independent reading is an excellent way to get your students reading, and you start by letting them choose to read the works they love.
I had two objectives for students in these quarter-long assignments:
1. To encourage reading for enjoyment as well as literary analysis. Students didn't feel pressured to read a novel, all at once. If they liked what they were reading, they would often complete the reading in the first week or two. They then nearly burst with excitement to tell me all about their "favorite" books. They learned to pace the assignments around the demands of their other homework, which is a developing skill in 7th grade, while planning to complete a project at the end of the quarter.
2. To serve as a resource for students to recommend books to their peers. Completed reviews (RR #4) were compiled in 3-ring binders in plastic sheet protectors and left on a counter for students to peruse. I encouraged students to flip through reviews to find books to read, based on their peers' recommendations.
If you have four class periods of 30+ students each, that's more than 120 books that are reviewed and recommended each quarter. Multiple reviews of the same book are helpful, as well, as they enable students to see what their peers like to read.
It's also a great way for you to learn what your students are reading, and an informal tool to gauge individual reading levels. I often found that what a student chose to read told me more about their reading level than any district-required diagnostic test. Are they proficient readers? Voracious, college-level readers? Struggling readers? Reluctant readers? Slow readers? Over-scheduled readers?
I'll post subsequent quarter assignments, which are more focused on specific CC English Language Arts standards.
The assignment sheet references grading rubrics: a Reading Response rubric, a Book Project rubric, and an Oral Presentation rubric. There are plenty of free rubrics online for you to choose from, or you can buy them from pay-for-teaching-resources sites, so choose the one that works best for your grading and classroom. Or, if you want to set specific expectations for the rest of the year, use a free rubric generator, like this one, to make your own, with specific criteria and expectations you want to emphasize.