Why Blog


I’m passionate about finding ways to simplify comprehension instruction and learning. I’m concerned that we are defining comprehension too narrowly as an accumulation of five or six meta-cognitive strategies when cultivating comprehension involves so much more than that. We need to help children acquire accurate fluent reading skills and strategies; build background knowledge; develop their oral language and vocabulary; make reading-writing connections, and acquire a repertoire of meta-cognitive strategies to use as and if needed.


So I invite you to join me in blogging about this ever-so-important topic. I look forward to hearing your ideas, teaching strategies, book recommendations, classroom stories, etc., basically anything that will inspire a healthy conversation among colleagues.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Turn the Tables and Put Independent Reading "First"

All too often we try to fit independent reading into our schedule once all the other parts of our balanced literacy program are in place. We reason that since we're working with small groups of readers or conferring with students one-to-one, we'll simply let the other kids read and provide literacy centers to engage them and keep them busy. But we often don't buy into the important role that in-school independent reading can play in children's reading lives. Independent reading often becomes just something we give kids to do to fill the time. It's time, however, to turn the tables and put independent reading first...

Understanding the valuable contribution independent reading can make in children's reading lives is the first step in giving it the center-stage attention it deserves and improving its effectiveness. Independent reading allows students to practice the skills and strategies you've demonstrated throughout read-aloud, guided reading, and shared reading. It exposes them to background knowledge of new topics or deepens their knowledge of topics they're already passionate about. It exposes them to vocabulary and literary language they're not likely to hear during oral language exchanges. It shows them possibilities they have for their own writing. If an author of an informational text has included a scale drawing to compare the size of something they're learning about to something they already know, then why not try the same in their own writing. Opportunities to improve children's reading lives abound...and the first step is acknowledging they're there and then figuring out ways to actualize them.

Over the next couple weeks, I'll take a close-up look at various aspects of independent reading. In addition, if anyone has specific independent reading-related questions, please send them along.

10 comments:

  1. I've used F&P's "First 20 Days of Reading" to introduce independent reading procedures and guidelines and it has worked wonders. If my kids aren't in a guided reading/lit study group with me they are reading independently!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sounds like you've got a good handle on things. Having those first 20 lessons is certainly helpful to jumpstart the year.

    ReplyDelete
  3. In the face of all of the test-prep reading we do (because it wouldn't behoove us to have kids encounter that kind of reading for the first time when they take The Test), I hold fast to independent reading time. I will. not. let. it. go. PERIOD.

    ReplyDelete
  4. i hear you loud and clear, and so totally agree!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I so agree- give them a chance to choose something that they enjoy and utilize the strategies and skills taught in authentic reading experiences. Reading for pleasure!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I so wholely agree with this "independent reading first" stance! In addition to it being a time to practice the good "stuff" of our mini-lessons, I have a few imperatives to my independent reading program:
    - lessons to build stamina/independence are an important first step and need to be revisited periodically
    - same goes for lessons on choosing good-fit-books
    - book exchange happens during a different part of the day, not during 20-30 min. of independent reading

    I want my students to be the best readers they can be of authentic texts, so we need to spend our time reading authentic texts. If I wanted them to be better at reading "activities" (or centres), we'd spend our time on those. Such is not the case. What matters most gets the most of our time.... And, they actually prefer "real" reading time to centres... though they can be a refreshing alternative when used sparingly.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, yeah..... Just want to echo 19anne's comment re: choice! So important!

    ReplyDelete
  8. in response to anne and sandra—sounds like a plan...a good one!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I also add an accountability piece after independent reading. With my reluctant readers, we share things that we "noticed" - about the book (content), their own reading (skills) or their thinking (strategies, thoughts, wonders etc.) Together we have co-created a list of all the possibilities under each category. With modeled practice, everyone has a idea!

    ReplyDelete
  10. sounds like a great reading share! it's one of the most important parts of the reading workshop but a part that too often gets left out. thanks for sharing. we need to get kids talking about what worked well and what they need to improve.

    ReplyDelete