Is Independent Reading missing from your day?

I was very fortunate this past week to attend a training with Kathy Bumgardner.  For those of you that have not met Kathy or attended a workshop with her I recommend you visit her website (which she herself says is a hot mess!)  because she has so many hands on ideas and materials for literacy instruction and it is all FREE!

We know as Elementary Educators it is important that kids have time to read but we fill our time with so many things that we shorten or don’t ever get to providing time for students to read during the school day.  The part of Kathy’s training I that really had an impact on me was how to make Monitored Independent Reading happen in a classroom everyday.  It is my belief that test scores improve when this happens!

OKAY, here is what she has done in her own classroom and coached in classrooms around the country to make it work!  Procedures, Procedures, Procedures… of course it makes perfect sense that students have procedures for almost everything they do during the day so why would we assume that just providing the time for them to read but not providing a structure would be a successful implementation for Independent Reading.

Things to consider when developing your procedures:  

  • Start with a small amount of time and add more throughout the year.  There are several different opinions on how much a child should read at each grade but she suggests that we could expect at this point in the year our Fifth Grade students reading independently for 45 minutes and then shorter time periods of course for K-4 with each year building on the next.
  • Provide book boxes for all grade levels and develop your classroom libraries so that students have easy access to books of their choice but also ones that they can read independently.
  • Provide Reading Response Journals and a Reading Log for in school reading.  Having this allows the teacher to interact with the students by individually conferencing or checking in on students during the Independent Reading time.
  • Assign the students a Literacy Partner.  She recommends once you find a good fit don’t change them.  This provides the all important student collaboration.  Students need to be taught how to be the speaker and the listener. (She has some tools on her website for this type of task).

Now for the routine she shared with us…

  1. First students read a book of their choice for a designated amount of time. (She has some great ideas for the younger students on a procedure that is successful for Kindergarten and First Grade kiddos on her website).
  2. Next students turn to face their Literacy Partner and take turns being the Listener or the Speaker to talk about what they are reading.  This could be an open conversation or you could guide it with specifics like, today you will talk about the characters in your books and find examples to share that support your thoughts, or today make predictions on what you think will happen next, to something as simple as share your favorite part.  The ideas are endless!  But notice it is a routine the teacher sets up and practices.
  3. Then lastly students write in their journals.  They should have ideas for what to write from their conversation with their literacy partner.

Can this be done differently – of course it can!  But most importantly put a routine in place and you will have students reading independently (and not fake reading), in no time at all! Good Luck – I hope you give this a try!  Please comment on this post with your ideas for independent reading!