The Sworn Statement

How do you hold students accountable for their reading?

If you are a smart teacher teaching smarter then you will strip back the white noise, do away with the superfluous frills and frolics and “focus on doing the simple things right” (Riches, 2020).

You might therefore take a leaf out of Patrick Kelley’s book and opt for a sworn statement.

A sworn statement is about the only time when swearing in class is acceptable. What Patrick Kelley decided to do was to hand over the writing of the statements to the students themselves rather than get everyone to sign the same one.

He gave them permission to be creative and funny as long as it was linked to something they actually really cared about and believed in.

And they did and they surprised him too because they treated things seriously, for the most part!

He assigned 7 pages of reading to each student which they committed to reading and then after they had read their text they completed a ‘quick write’.

A quick write “means writing one page of whatever comes to mind in whatever order, without worrying about spelling or grammar.”

During a quick write students weren’t allowed to refer to their book but rely on what was in their heads. Kelley says, “This method will soon train a student’s brain to remember what it reads.”

At the end of their quick write, students write their sworn statement such as the real-life example Kelley gives in his book:

I Tom Jones III, swear on the love of my favourite video game and my mother’s love and support that, I, Tom Jones III, have read pages 123 to 129 and did not copy my quick write but wrote every word from my huge head. Signed, Tom Jones III.

Okay, as a strategy it is far from perfect and isn’t supposed to be a permanent solution but it is worth trying and running with before students get bored of it. Kelley says that for his students the novelty did wear off but “this tactic started a love for reading for several students.”

And that’s the point – you aren’t going to capture every single student but you will recruit some. This is why different strategies have to be tried and tested throughout the year in order to try and capture everyone.

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