Independent reading–is it an effective use of classroom time? The goal of Guided Reading is to help students learn to read independently and fluently. The skills and strategies we teach during whole class lessons and small group instruction are put into practice during independent reading. For this reason I’m a firm believer in allowing young readers the opportunity to select and read books independently.
The “Read to Myself” center was just as important as the other centers my kiddos visited during literacy rotations. Even though students weren’t required to do a response activity at that station, they were reading! And I believe if we’re teaching our kiddos to read, we need to give them opportunities to do just that–as often as possible!
It’s also important to dedicate another short time block each day (or as often as possible) for whole-class independent reading time. Again, give those kiddos all the opportunities you can to read for pleasure!
Here are 3 quick tips to help you ensure the kiddos in your classroom get the most out of independent reading time.
1. Give Guidance – Help Students Learn to Choose Appropriate Books for Independent Reading
Independent reading is all about giving students a choice of books to read and allowing them the time and space to do it. But there’s groundwork to be laid at the beginning. Your little readers will need some instruction on how to choose a “Just Right” book. Review the characteristics of “Too Easy,” “Too Hard,” and “Just Right” books, and show students how to use these guidelines when choosing a book. Teach the “Five Finger Rule.”
Use the Five Finger Rule When Choosing Books for Independent Reading
- “Too Easy” – One finger (or none): Only one new word?! This book is too easy! It might be boring, and it won’t provide many interesting new words for you to learn.
- “Too Hard” – Four or five fingers: This book may be too hard for you right now. There are too many difficult words, and it would be frustrating to try to read this book (for now). Remember, though, that you’ll become a better reader through practice; so you may LOVE reading this same book later on! For now, though, it’s not a good fit.
- “Just Right!” – Two-to-three fingers: This book is Just Right! It has a few difficult words for you to learn. That’s a good thing! Learning new words can be fun! Even though this is a “Just Right” book, there may be a few challenging words; however, you’ll still be able to read and enjoy it.
2. Offer Choice – Allow Students to Self-Select the Books They Read Independently
Once you’ve taught a whole-class mini-lesson on how to choose a just-right book, allow students to self-select books from the classroom library or from their Guided Reading leveled bin.
One important note: While I believe it’s important for you to help students learn to choose appropriately, I believe it’s also important to allow them to exercise choice in book selection. The students in your classroom should have access to all of the literature that is available in your class library. Explain to them that It’s ok to read an easy book once in a while, just for the joy of appreciating the beautiful illustrations or enjoying a fun story. It’s also permissible to tackle a challenging book that’s a little beyond their independent level, as long as they are interested in the topic and are willing to endure some struggles with difficult vocabulary. Emphasize that the best choice is a “Good Fit” or “Just Right” book, but allow your students to make their own reading selections for independent reading.
Comfort counts, too! Allow students to choose where they read. Provide comfy seating such as oversized pillows or bean bag chairs to make the reading experience relaxing and enjoyable.
3. Teach Responsibility – Give Clear Rules and Guidelines for Independent Reading
Give your class a mini-lesson on how to use the classroom library during independent reading time. Instruct students on how to care for the books and resources in your class library, and explain basic selection and check-out procedures. Discuss classroom etiquette, emphasizing cooperation and respect for others. Model how to whisper-read, and give a light-hearted, humorous demonstration of what NOT to do, such as reading loudly or mishandling a book. Share book care guidelines–here are a few points to touch on:
Caring for Books
- Be sure your hands are clean before handling books
- Keep books away from food or drinks
- Use a bookmark to save your place (never turn down pages)
- Do not write or draw in books
- Store books away neatly when finished reading
Got Books? Share Them to Build Independent Readers!
Put those library shelves to good use–encourage independence and foster a love of reading! I hope these quick tips have helped to remind you of the importance of including plenty of independent reading time as part of your literacy framework. It provides valuable reading practice and allows students to encounter the books and stories they love.
And speaking of stories your kiddos will love, I am over-the-moon excited to introduce you to my brand new, exclusive, online Guided Reading program!
I know you’re a dedicated teacher, and I know it’s your goal to provide a quality literacy experience within the walls of your classroom; and WOW, have I got you covered!
Guided Readers is a comprehensive online Guided Reading program that provides hundreds of leveled Guided Reading texts, rigorous lesson plans, and word work instruction, based on best practices in literacy instruction. The Digital Interactive Reader will also provide your students with oral comprehension, decoding, and fluency practice.
Guided Readers will give you access to amazing lesson plans along with professionally illustrated printable & digital books and instructional materials.
And talk about giving kids a choice! Guided Readers allows you to give students access to books on their level or on a range of levels you want them to have access to. Students can access their bookshelf with leveled books the teacher has applied to their account. They can read the books independently on a computer or tablet; and with Guided Readers, they can also listen to the text while the words are being highlighted on the screen. Students can record themselves reading, listen back to the recording, and take quizzes based on the stories they read. On the Teachers Portal, teachers can view student quiz scores and listen to recordings of student reading.
There are hundreds of leveled readers already on the site, with 20-30 books being added each week! Books ranging from levels A-Q are currently on the site, and levels R-Z will be added in the upcoming months. All Guided Readers leveled books are published by Laprea Publishing and are professionally leveled through our partnership with Fountas & Pinnell and Lexile.com. Best of all, there’s FREE access to any new additions to the site during your annual membership!
That’s it, teacher friend! I hope you’ve found something helpful in this quick post. Thanks for stopping by!