Independent reading time is the perfect way to help students build the correct habits to carry over to reading at home. When teachers conference with students they can use that time to give personalized instruction that will help students analyze their progress, practice fluency and learn comprehension strategies they might need to improve.
What is independent reading?
Independent reading is guided by student choice and can be done for pleasure or to get information. It is a time where students take responsibility for their learning and use all the strategies they have learned and practiced as a class and use them individually with self-selected books. Students will choose a text that is appropriate to their independent reading level, their interest, and their choice. They will read it and practice the fluency skills and self monitoring skills they have learned.
Independent Reading versus Silent Reading
It is important to understand the difference between silent reading and independent reading. Silent reading doesn’t have to necessarily be student choice, it is generally teacher led. Independent reading is a time where students will choose “just-right” books and spend independent time reading. With sustained practice this will become habit and aid the student to become lifelong readers.
Holding independent reading conferences regularly will help build a better trust and community with your students. They will feel better supported in reading. The greatest benefit is that they will understand how to transfer their learning and continue to use these strategies during school and home reading.
When holding a reading conference, begin the conference by setting a purpose with the student and help them understand the importance of the reading conference. You can review the students reading portfolio or log, discuss their interest and attitudes with books and even have them read a passage from their book.
Asking questions is important to get students in the right frame of mind to talk about their book and also discuss the strategies that they use while reading. I have many conference forms in my pack that will help you discuss with your student different literary elements and comprehension strategies.
Student: Book: Date & Time: # Book Read this Year: Text Difficulty: Conference Priority: Instructional Focus:
Then, I will ask the following questions:
I see you’re reading ______. Tell me about it.
Why did you choose this book?
What genre is it?
What’s going on in this picture (or the picture on the cover)?
Why do you think the author gave the book this title?
Have you ever read any books by this author?
What’s the problem that gets the story started?
Tell me about your favorite part.
What did you learn by reding this book that you didn’t know before?
Was there anything you were confused about or didn’t understand?
Is there anyone that you would recommend this book to? Who and why?
Then I will have them choose a page that they will read, I will record:
Finally, together with the student, I wil help them set an independent reading goal. Teach a mini lesson that will explain a strategy, model the strategy for the student then practice it to make sure they understand.
The strategies that I cover are:
Fluency: I can read accurately, with expression and understand what I read.
Accuracy: I can read words correctly.
Vocabulary: I know, find and use interesting words.
Comprehension: I understand what I read.
Each of the above have cards that I give to the students to refer to.
I also have little “sticky notes” they can use to remind them to use different strategies when reading.
And finally in my independent reading conference packet, I have independent reading response activities for students to use with their books.
Giving students time to read during the school day is important because they might not do it at home. At least at school you have control over the environment. When students get a chance to read they might be more apt to do it at home. Also it’s important for students to read independently so they can get a better idea of what they like to read and build stamina. It is in your hands to give the opportunity for students to read in your classroom and I hope you use this time to encourage them and to use conferences as an accountability tool and to help students talk about the books they find interesting.