Independent reading is a great way to help students build vocabulary and improve their fluency. You might be using an independent reading program or schedule in your classroom. Your school or district may also do a facility-wide program like D.E.A.R., which stands for drop everything and read. There are so many benefits to implementing this type of program. However, you’ll want to know how to hold your students accountable for independent reading. What are you doing to ensure your students are benefiting from independent reading time? Here are 3 tips for ensuring you’re holding your students accountable for independent reading time, plus some background on why independent reading time is so valuable.
Why you should implement independent reading time in your classroom
Independent reading allows students to choose their reading material. This freedom of choice gives students the opportunity to read books and materials that appeal to their interests. By having this freedom, students are more likely to become engaged and committed to their books.
Independent reading time also gives students time to practice silent reading. This can help them with their fluency and comprehension. You may find that students who struggle with comprehension when reading aloud to the class will comprehend and retain information much easier when they read to themselves.
A few tips for allowing students to choose their books:
- Only allow students to read at or above their reading level, not below. While there is nothing wrong with reading below their reading level, you want your students to utilize independent reading time to their advantage. Keeping them at their reading level or higher will ensure they are being challenged and growing as a reader.
- Don’t dictate what students read, as long as the books they choose are appropriate. Independent reading is a great opportunity for children to branch out and read about topics that interest them. They may find they enjoy reading topics that no other student in the class enjoys and that’s ok. Encourage them to find a theme or story that they love and support them in their reading.
- Ask students to read the second or third page of the book. If they do not know 6 or more words on that page, they should choose an easier book. It may be that the book’s theme or genre is unfamiliar to that student or it may be a topic that they are just learning about. Without having a teacher or peer to support them with new vocabulary words during independent reading, the student may skip over or omit important parts of the story. This may be counter-productive and not benefit the student.
- Offer a variety of types of books and stories for independent reading time. Encourage students to pick up something new, whether that be a new author, genre, or series. While they can bring books from home, you can also offer them a variety from your classroom or school library and perhaps they’ll find a new favorite author or topic that they wouldn’t normally have picked up.
3 Tips for Keeping Students Accountable During Independent Reading
Independent book reviews
Many independent reading programs include a reading log for students to record their reading time and progress. While reading logs are great for tracking progress, students may feel they are being measured against one another or graded on the speed or volume of reading. Book reports are another great tool for student reading, but again when they are turned in to be graded, students may shut down and feel they are being assigned more work.
One alternative to these types of reading tools is book reviews. While a book review is similar to a book report, it’s an easy way to encourage students to share what they are reading, without feeling the pressure of receiving a grade. Reviews simply give the details of the book, an overview of the story, and then the student can give their rating or recommendation.
A fun alternative to simply writing book reviews is to use them on a bulletin board so the entire class can read them. Students enjoy reading book reviews completed by their peers and may even use them to decide which book they will pick up next. You can create fun themed book review bulletin boards using the templates from this Independent Reading Activity resource.
Encourage a personal reading journal
Reading response forms are a great way to gauge reading comprehension. On the flip side, they can feel like more work and deter students from being excited about their reading. They may also feel pressure to correctly answer questions and do poorly on the responses solely because they are nervous or don’t perform well on tests.
A personal reading journal is a great way to provide students with a way to process what they have read. Writing in a reading journal can be a required activity after independent reading time. Set a timer and ask students to spend that time in their journals. You can give them a prompt or allow them to write whatever they’d like.
You can also offer it as an option for students so they can write about their favorite parts of the book, jot down words they aren’t familiar with and want to look up, or sketch images of their favorite character as they read. This is a great activity for your early finishers as well.
Provide freedom in how they use their reading journey. This will allow kids to see it more as a companion to their reading rather than an assignment.
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Allow time for discussion
Readers who participate in daily independent reading are also more excited to share what they are reading about and actively listen to their peers tell about stories. Take a few minutes at the end of the independent reading time or at the end of the day for discussion. You can facilitate a guided discussion or simply allow students to share a few things about the book they’re currently reading.
Independent reading is such a valuable activity. It can help foster a love for learning and reading in your students. It’s also a great time to model the behavior for your students. Take a few minutes and do some reading of your own. Show them that reading is an activity that’s enjoyed at all stages of your life.
Using the tips I shared along with modeling independent reading yourself, your students will look forward to this dedicated reading time each day!