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Reader’s Workshop MiniSeries: Episode Five: Independent Reading & Reading Responses *Freebie!

It’s Episode 5 of my Reader’s Workshop miniseries! One of the most difficult things for me to monitor in my classroom was independent reading. That’s why it gets a whole special day during my MiniSeries!

The purpose of independent reading is to have students practice reading! Beyond that, they have to practice reading strategically. We want them to read for a purpose so they read closely and make meaning out of the text. These are some important points to consider when thinking about your Independent Reading

Build Up Your Time
Let’s say that I decided to start running a marathon. Tomorrow, I’m going to lace up my shoes and head out. For the first few minutes, I’ll be motivated. I’ll be excited that I’m gonna do it this time! After about a mile, I’m going to start thinking things like, “When is this going to be over? How long is a marathon? Should I be coughing up blood? Is that normal?”
Needless to say, that will be the first and last “marathon” I’ll ever attempt.
It works this way with kids. If, on the first day, we throw kids into 45 minutes of independent reading, we’re asking for it. They’ll try for a few minutes, and then they’ll look around the room curiously. Eventually someone will make eye contact, and you will have giggles. The giggling will grow with a series of interesting faces and gestures. Interest in the book will be lost. 

We have to build kids up a little bit at a time. I start the first day with a goal of six minutes, and I establish a few ground rules. We talk about what independent reading should look like, and we create an anchor chart.
At the end of the six minutes, I use the chart to have each student evaluate themselves with a fist of 5 (Kagan). 5 fingers = I did each thing on the chart. 3 = I did some things. 1 = I only did one or two things. Then we talk about how to make the next day better. I 
I increase the time 2-3 minutes each day, until we are up to 40 minutes of independent reading time.

Set a Purpose

Before students read independently, I set a purpose for them to focus on and to respond to when they’re done reading, or during the reading time. This could be…
– a foldable to complete
– a question to respond to in their notebooks or on a post-it
– a graphic organizer to fill out
– a verbal response they will have to share with their neighbor after reading. 
I post this on the board in the front of the room so each students can see the purpose and recall it during their reading.

This is a sample item from my Reading Skills Pack: Context Clues! 

The strategy/skill I want students to practice during independent reading aligns with the strategy we are currently practicing or we have already practiced, so students are able to practice it independently.

Reader’s Notebooks

Students record their responses to reading (usually) in their Reader’s Notebooks. I have a special section dedicated to reading responses. Students date and title the entry as the title of their book. They record their pages read on their independent reading log and they write their response in their notebook. 

What does the teacher do?

During independent reading, you are busy! There was a lovely school of thought that, during independent reading, the teacher would read too, and set the model for reading. This would have been great, but realistically, kids need more support than that. We have to take the time to interact with them in a small group or individual setting to help them grow in their reading comprehension and book choices. 
For the first couple weeks, I usually do conferences to help kids choose books carefully. I also complete the DRA assessment on each student to identify a beginning of year level and some areas of concern to focus on. During reading conferences, I start my anecdotal notes about each student on index cards. Each student has a card and I record some preliminary notes. 

After a couple of weeks, when I’m done with the DRA, I create a few schedules. I put together my Guided Reading schedule, a library schedule, and a carpet schedule. Kids love to sit on the carpet to read, but I find it wastes less reading time if they know which day is theirs. I also find kids are more responsible with their library books if they have their regular day to go to the library. (Ideally, I schedule library visits at another time during the day, such as breakfast if the library is open. I’d rather kids spend their time reading & practicing their comprehension skills during independent reading time, if possible). 
Consistency helps kids be organized (and me, too.) 
Check back on August 17 for more details on Guided Reading!

To help you get your Reader’s Workshop ready & rolling, here’s a seven-page Reader’s Workshop Freebie Sampler from my Rolling Out Reader’s Workshop!

Check out the other “episodes” in the Reader’s Workshop MiniSeries:


For my complete Reader’s Workshop Pack, visit my TPT store!

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