This is a guest blog post. It's authored by special guest blogger Paula Dugger, who is an educational consultant with a rich-literacy background that includes serving as a Reading Recovery Teacher/Teacher Leader, first grade teacher, Title I and high school reading teacher, as well as a Reading Coordinator.
While independent reading may seem like an easy skill, it is often very challenging for a beginning or struggling reader. Because of its strong correlation to academic success, most elementary schools have some type of independent reading time within the instructional day.
The many benefits of independent reading include fluency practice, vocabulary development, reading comprehension, and oral language development. In addition, reading opens up an endless bank of knowledge for students who read more. However, teachers need to utilize this time to monitor and record important information regarding the students’ reading behaviors that can lead to better instruction.
“Independent reading” can be defined as any reading a reader does on his/her own by self-selecting a text which is of interest to the reader that can be read with little or no help at a high degree of accuracy. Some teachers mistakenly believe that this is a time when a reader reads alone silently without help in order to “read” or “practice” a teacher-selected text and not necessarily a text that can be read at an “independent” level of accuracy nor of interest to the reader.
So how do we teach and ensure our students are reading independently every day? I have personally used the following strategy, as well as trained teachers to use it daily in their classrooms. While this might seem only appropriate at the elementary level, it is also vitally important all the way through high school.
1. Begin by scheduling a time for independent reading. You might want to start out with 5 minutes and progress in increments of 3-5 minutes until you have reached a desired time of 20 minutes or more.
2. In order to monitor each reader, I have created a form (shown to the right) with the names of all my students so that I can record information on as many of them as possible each day. You can download this form at the bottom of this page.
3. I almost always have time to listen to each student read several pages since these texts are supposed to be at the easy or independent level.
4. I can ask comprehension questions if I feel a need to and/or can record information that might help me with each individual reader.
5. Have all students read aloud at the same time during the allotted time, while the teacher moves around the room listening in on readers. This gives the teacher not only the opportunity to hear every student read, but to also do any explicit teaching and modeling needed on components such as how fluent and phrased reading should sound.
It is often the teacher who is at first most resistant to having everyone read out loud, thinking that the students will not be able to focus on their own reading. However, if everyone is reading out loud, the teacher will know if the students are actually reading. Silent reading can easily be “faked.” If I want my students to read more, I need to hear them. In this day and age, very few students have the luxury of reading in a quiet place, especially when at home or in a public place. So, it is ok for classrooms to be filled with readers engaged in oral reading!
Once the students begin reading, I can visually see and hear everyone reading. This allows me to move around monitoring with confidence that everyone is engaged in learning. A bonus comes in knowing that I have listened to most, if not all, of my students read orally each day.
Try these tips and be amazed at how confident your students will become in reading!
Paula Dugger has a B.S., M.Ed., and Reading Specialist Certification from The University of Texas at Austin and Reading Recovery training through Texas Woman’s University. Paula does educational consulting and training through Dugger Educational Consulting, LLC.
Paula and her husband Neil are parents to two wonderful daughters, Alicean and Ashley, two sons-in-law Kevin and Patrick, and grandparents Carter and Blake. She also raises registered Texas Longhorns on the weekends. The longhorn cattle are featured in her first book published by Hameray Publishing Group, titled Longhorns.
For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection, in which Paula's book can be found, click here to visit our website or click the image to the left below to download an information sheet highlighting key features. To download the free log, click the image to the right.