Reading makes us better readers. Writing makes us better writers. As educators, we all know that. But do we provide the independent practice daily?
This school year I decided to make 30 minutes of independent reading time my top priority after reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller/Jeff Anderson and Reading in the Zone by Nancie Atwell.
These two books provided enough guidance to successfully pull off independent reading time that fostered the LOVE of reading, helping students recognize and discover who they are as readers.
Changes I made in our classroom that made the most impact.
- Thirty minutes of independent choice reading is a non-negotiable. It happens EVERYDAY!
- We started the 30 minutes of independent, self-selected books, the first day of school and discussed the expectation of reading 30 chapter books for the school year.
- Taught the independent reading time expectations from day one. Silent, stay in one spot, and read the WHOLE time!
- Discussed what it means to be in the reading zone. (Like a movie playing in your head. You feel like you are living in the book. You cannot put the book down) This is our daily goal.
- Taught that it is okay to abandon a book and discussed the criteria to know when to abandon a book.
- Keep a reading log of books abandoned and completed.
- Keep a list of books we want to read in our own reading log. We call this our “someday” list.
- Weekly book talks by students who want to share books they love.
- Book talk new additions to our classroom library.
- Individual conferences with students weekly about what they are reading. I document (via my Upward app on my phone) reading behaviors I notice or need to teach, what book they are currently reading, what page they are on, etc. Sometimes students are so excited they come to me to discuss their book! I count this as a conference!
- Current, new books that students can relate to, are in our classroom library. I keep up on the latest popular books for the students’ age group and I have read most of them.
Continuing to keep these things a part of our classroom has created a classroom culture of reading. I hear students groan when the thirty minutes is up. I have students gasp in the middle of a silent room when they read something unexpected. These students truely KNOW who they are as readers. They know what types of books they love. They know how to talk about books. They know how authors can tug and manipulate your emotions as a reader. These are not the same students they were in September.