What is independent reading? It’s an essential part of your school day! Learn more in today’s post.
This summer, This Reading Mama and I have shared six posts about balanced literacy. We’ve given you essential information about each element of balanced literacy – with printable charts and lists to make your teaching easier.
We’ve talked about
- The definition of balanced literacy – with a printable chart
- Interactive read-aloud – with a list of books perfect for thoughtful K-2 read alouds
- Shared reading – with a list of before, during, and after reading activities
- Guided reading – with FAQ’s about guided reading
- Word work – with 20 simple word work ideas
And now… we’re finishing the series with a look at independent reading.
What is independent reading?
Independent reading is a time in the school day when students read text with little or no assistance from the teacher. They are typically at their seats or in comfortable places around the classroom.
Maybe you remember SSR, sustained silent reading, from your elementary school days. In the traditional SSR model, students were allowed to choose any book at all (as long as it had pages) and read on their own (as long as they were silent). The teacher read alongside the children, as a model (unless (s)he had papers to grade or a desk to tidy).
Giving each child daily time to read was a good start, but the independent reading model has changed.
Essentials of independent reading
- Students choose books with teacher support and keep them in a bag or bin. They read from these books each day until it’s time to choose new books.
- Most of students’ independent reading books are “just right” – books they can read with at least 95% accuracy.
- Students have 15+ minutes of independent reading time every school day. (The ideal is 20-30 minutes.)
- During this time, teachers are conducting independent reading conferences.
The basics of independent reading conferences
Reading conferences are the key to making independent reading time a successful part of your school day. During a reading conference, the teacher sits down with a student and talks to him about his reading.
Here’s the structure of a conference:
- The teacher asks how things are going.
- The teacher listens to the child read and/or talks to him what he read.
- The teacher makes a teaching point.
- The teacher sets a goal for next time.
- The teacher may help the student choose new books for his reading bag.
Independent reading conferences are one of the very best things you can do as a reading teacher. There is nothing that will help you know your readers more, and they will love having your devoted attention. We advise having a reading conference at least once a week with your struggling readers and every 1 1/2 -2 weeks for the rest of your students.
If you’re wondering how on earth you’ll squeeze these in, remember this: reading conferences are short. Think 3-7 minutes. If you have at least 20 minutes of independent reading time every day (the recommended minimum!) you can meet with 25 students in less than two weeks.
The key to successful reading conferences
First, the good news. Even if you’re new to reading conferences, and you feel like you’re bumbling your way through them, it’s okay. This focused attention that you’re giving your readers is huge. Just consider how much more you’re learning about your readers than if the only time you heard them read was in whole class, or even small group lessons. When you know more about your readers, you’re better able to give focused teaching at other points in your school day.
So the very fact that you’re attempting reading conferences = awesomeness.
That said, the key to truly successful conferences is knowing what to teach, and when. How, in the space of a few minutes, can you assess your student’s current need and choose the right teaching point?
We’re here to help! Download the file below. You’ll get a list of helpful teaching points for your K-2 reading conferences. Plus, you’ll join our VIP list to receive special tips and tricks for teaching young readers. It’s free!
Check out the rest of our balanced literacy series!
*Stock images via iStock.
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