Independent Reading

“I don’t believe in the type of magic in my books.  But, I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”  J.K. Rowling

What is independent reading & how do I set it up?

  • IN-CLASS & OUT-OF-CLASS SET UP:  We have a lengthy IR Resource- that we affectionately refer to as the IR Tome, due to its massiveness- that Delta ELA teachers have used for three years now to help them wrap their heads around the basic structures of independent reading.  It has lots of practical schedules, systems, & suggestions to help you get independent reading going in your class or to help you problem-solve to make the independent reading that is already happening even better for your students.
  • SCHEDULE:  Consider these 2 sample daily schedule-skeletons that incorporate IR to shorter or longer length classes.
  • HOW TO CHOOSE A BOOK:  Make sure your students know how to choose a book that fits their interests and their reading levels.  Consider teaching a few mini-lessons to help your students choose a book!
  • MANAGEMENT WOES?  We feel your pain!  We published a whole post about what to do when the Behavior-Management-Cycle initially doesn’t work during in-class independent reading time.  It’s linked here.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY?:  There are many solutions to help hold your students accountable for doing their IR without killing the fun of independent reading within the IR Tome & on this page of the Million Words Campaign.  Many ELA teachers in the Greater Delta have also taught students how to write in response to these Choice-Based Independent Reading Prompts with an IR Rubric, with much joy & accountability success!

How do I invest students and other stakeholders in IR?

  • BOOK PASSES & CHOICE-BASED IR: Hear from Kristy Ward (Baltimore, ’97) and her students on how this system has affected their attitudes about reading- and increased their reading & personal growth.  This video is WONDERFUL, but it’s on TFAnet which means we have to take a bit of a circuitous route to get there:
  • STUDENT-FACING-TRACKERS:  Ensure that your students know their progress as independent readers by teaching them how to use a tracker like these.
  • TEACHER-FACING-TRACKERS:  Know what books your students are independently reading.
  • REGULAR MINI-LESSONS & REFLECTING: Talking with your students about IR at the beginning of the year only is not going to cut it!  Students need cyclical reminders and opportunities to remind each other and themselves why IR is where it’s at! Consider protecting class-time every 4 weeks or at the beginning of each 9 weeks for students to reflect on how they are doing as independent readers (using a tracker & reflection questions like the ones above!).  You could also have students discuss any of the following artifacts within a mini-lesson about jump-starting IR investment:
  • INDEPENDENT READING CONFERENCES:  Talk to your students about the books they are independently reading, and listen to your struggling readers read to you so you can figure out what’s holding them back.  There is a good video of a struggling reader conferring with a struggling reader on TFAnet, so you can watch it, but you have to go through a couple steps to see it:

My students were invested in IR at the beginning of the year, but somehow many of them aren’t anymore!  What happened?  What do I do?

Just like every other important system or procedure that you’ve developed, in order for your students to adopt INDEPENDENT READING as a HABIT, you’ll need to cyclically reinforce and re-invest your students in IR.  If you notice that students are actually developing bad habits with IR (i.e. they are filling out their reading journals untruthfully or they are treating classroom library books destructively), you might even need to do a full IR-culture-re-set.  Consider problem-solving with ELA-friends or calling your MTLD or Sarah Franzen to chat about what is precisely holding back your students’ IR culture.

Here are some IR-investment-mini-lessons.  Consider planning to re-invest your students in IR at least once per 9 weeks.

  1. Teach & have your students discuss the Reading Flow:  the place you get when you’re so into your IR book that you don’t notice when someone else sneezes or when there is an announcement over the intercom, etc.  Make getting into the READING FLOW a goal of in-class & out-of-class reading! 
  2. Teach, have your students discuss, and have your students rate themselves on an in-class-IR-rubric.
  3. BUILD CONSTANT IR BUZZ with the short, easy ideas on pages 3-4 of this IR resource I found on Achievement First’s website.

Additional Recommended Reading 

  • The Million Words Campaign
  • The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller
  • Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do about It, by Kelly Gallagher
  • Reading Reasons: Motivational Mini-Lessons for Middle and High School, by Kelly Gallagher
  • When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do, by Kylene Beers

4 responses to “Independent Reading

  1. I tried clicking on the link for “Student-Facing-Trackers” but there was no link. Is it somewhere else on this webpage? I greatly appreciate the help! 🙂

  2. I am just beginning my classroom library in Miami-Dade as a new corps member. I have been browsing and downloading from this site and thank you for the extensive information. However, in one of the documents I downloaded a “Book List” is referred to as an excel document with 500 books or more that can be used to see how to organize library, etc. Is this document available? Does it include grade level and AR points? I am looking for the most comprehensive list for grades 5-7 (I teach 6th and 7th grade, but some students read on 4th-5th grade levels) that includes ISBN, Title, Author, Genre, Grade Level and AR points/number of words. I want to use this to help my students pick books and set goals. Please let me know if this is available or something like it! Thank you!

    • Hi, Aliya!

      Most of the resources from this blog are borrowed from other teachers around the country. I don’t believe that we have that book list that you’re asking about. So sorry! If your school has AR, then you should be able to pull lists from your schools’ AR program, right?

      We posted other lists of high-interest, low-reader books about a month ago. Check that place, too! Hope this is helpful! Sarah

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