The Why? The What? and The How?
Balanced literacy has been defined as “an approach designed to help individual students learn how to process a variety of increasingly challenging texts with understanding and fluency.” (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001)
It is an approach to teaching. NOT a curriculum. It is HOW we teach our students to be independent readers and writers. It is NOT what books we use to teach them.
Balanced Literacy has been defined in “components” or “pieces” of literacy instruction.
This 8-week series will focus on the components of a complete BALANCED LITERACY program. We will focus on clear and concise definitions. Definitions that educators can discuss in collaborations. A “common language” where we can learn from each other and with each other.
The 8 components we will focus on are:
- Read Alouds
- Shared Reading
- Guided Reading
- Independent Reading
- Modeled / Interactive Writing
- Shared Writing
- Guided Writing / Writer’s Workshop
- Word Work
Each week we will focus on one area of Balanced Literacy and share experiences, teacher tips, and resources to support and expand our Balanced Literacy repertoire.
This week: Independent Reading.
Week 1: We discussed Read Alouds.
Week 2: We discussed Shared Reading.
Week 3: We discussed Guided Reading.
This week we jump into
Let’s talk about INDEPENDENT Reading.
DEAR, SSR, Silent Reading, RAH, etc.. Whatever you call it…we call it
Independent reading is a time when students read text with little or no help from the teacher. They are usually at their seats or in comfortable places around the classroom.
In my classroom they may be at their desk, on a stool, in a rocker, or even…under a table or desk. Only one rule… You MUST be reading!
Check out FLEXIBLE SEATING
Independent reading is children’s reading of text — such as books, magazines, and newspapers — on their own, with minimal to no assistance from adults. It can consist of reading done in or out of school, including purely voluntary reading for enjoyment or assigned reading for homework. There are strong associations between independent reading and reading achievement, and many researchers believe that independent reading plays a key role in the development of reading fluency (speed and ease of reading), vocabulary, background knowledge, and even spelling. Not surprisingly, motivation also is associated with independent reading; children who are interested in and motivated to read tend to do more independent reading. Unfortunately, children with learning disabilities in reading often do not read independently, because they tend to find reading effortful, may have trouble obtaining books at their reading level, or may have generally negative attitudes toward reading as a consequence of repeated failure.
IR involves the full participation of the teacher. This means the teacher is instructing, scaffolding, and conferring with students (Reutzel, Fawson, & Smith, 2008) during IR time. For example, the teacher educates students in how to select appropriate books, scaffolds student understanding of specific text types, and confers with students to assess their understanding of what they have read.
Make the TIME for Independent Reading
If you’re really looking for independent reading to be successful with your students, you’ve got to commit class time to it. Students always see what we value by how we approach it during class. And if we want to be certain students get something done, we have to do it during class.
How you make this time is up to you. Elementary classes that tend to have students all day long can have a special fixed time each day allocated to independent reading. Middle and high school classes can allot a small portion – perhaps 10 or 15 minutes – of a class period towards independent reading each day before putting the book away and focusing on the day’s lesson. Others might prefer to wait until Friday and spend the whole class period reading that day.
How to Get Kids to Read Independently at Home?
Each WEDNESDAY and FRIDAY they bring their RAH folder back.
I have them choose 2 books…YES…2 books to put in their folder.
( I place a pile 20 or so, of books at each level … *disclaimer…right now I have 5 Guided Reading groups…
I group their PILES of books at the Guided Reading group level…
So they really are taking home books at THEIR reading level.
Just a little teacher “nudge” in the right direction!
They choose two books, put them in their envelopes,
and put them in their cubbies.
They keep them for 2 nights…hence bringing them back WED. & FRI.
We change them for two NEW books … and here we go again!
Tips to Bring Independent Reading Into The Classroom
So, how do you realize the benefits of independent reading in your own classroom? Here are a few ideas:
- Build independent reading time into each student’s day whether in school or at home. Class time is especially effective since it provides students a distraction-free time in their day to read.
- Offer a selection of books at each student’s reading level and from different genres and help them find books they might enjoy.
- Let each student make a reading list of five books they want to read and set reading goals.
- Find creative ways for students to share books with one another, including things like book clubs, video projects, blogs or discussion time.
Jennifer Serravallo answers ’10 Questions About Independent Reading’
Independent Reading Activities
If you’re like most people, after reading a really good book you want to tell someone about it; you want to share. Let students share their excitement over books!
Here are 8 activities that will engage students in sharing what they read.
- Illustrate an important character or event in the story.
- Create an advertisement to promote the book.
- Have students pick out words they are unfamiliar with and make a word wall.
- Make a bookmark that represents the theme or main idea of the book.
- Write a question to the author or a character in the book.
- Have them illustrate their favorite part of the story.
- They can write a letter to a character.
- Have them make a connection to a life experience.
- Allow students CHOICE..choice of books & choice of reading area.
- Build in time for independent reading EVERY day..model reading, too!
- Debrief their independent reading time. DISCUSS it!
Tools that may be helpful:
HOW TO GET BOOKS for Independent Reading?
Use SCHOLASTIC BOOK CLUBS, Donor’s Choose, and/or garage sales to add to YOUR classroom library for independent reading books.
These literacy posts may help in YOUR Balanced Literacy journey.
So…Leave me a comment… What does INDEPENDENT READING look like in YOUR classroom?