T1 Independent Reading


Growing Independent Readers in Our Schools through Tier I Instruction
The Common Core Standards require regular practice with complex text, balanced engagement with both informational and literary texts, and reading comprehension substantiated by textual evidence. Proficiency in these intricate processes require explicit instruction and a significant volume of authentic reading practice. Some of this authentic practice will happen with a high level of explicit teacher guidance through mini-lessons, guided reading, strategy groups, and conferring. Simultaneously, educators must gradually release responsibility to students as they practice critical skills and strategies on their own during "independent reading." Independent reading follows the whole-class mini-lesson each day during Readers' Workshop. During the mini-lesson, the teacher explicitly models a skill or strategy he or she will ask the children to practice during independent reading that day. During the mini-lesson, the teacher will provide time for guided practice of the particular skill or strategy. For example, the teacher may say, "Turn and talk to your partner about one thick question and one thin question you have about the story." As the children practice the skill, the teacher will circulate to ensure the children understand. A mini-lesson will end with a phrase similar to, "Today during independent reading, I want you to try...as you read independently." 
Ensuring a Significant Volume of  Guided Practice and Independent Reading
The amount of time spent reading in the classroom correlates directly with reading achievement and the development of reading skills. In order to impact reading achievement, students must engage in 90 minutes of reading each day (Allington, 2006). While some of this reading comes from interaction with text in the content areas, the majority will take place during Readers' Workshop in grades K-5 and English/Language Arts in grades 6-8. The following guidelines help us understand the minimal requirements for independent reading in class by grade level:
  • Kindergarten: 5-15 minutes daily
  • Grade One: 20-30 minutes daily
  • Grades Two - Five: 30-45 minutes daily
  • Grades Six - Eight: 15-20 minutes daily or 1 hour and 15 minutes weekly
This independent reading time is crucial for two reasons. First, while students are reading independently, teachers are meeting with small groups for guided reading, strategy groups, and literature circles or conferring with individual students. These small-group and 1:1 teaching opportunities allow the teacher to personalize learning for every student and gradually release responsibility for learning by bridging whole-class instruction and independent practice with highly structured pedagogy and intervention. Secondly, the extended time for independent practice ensures that strategies and skills become automatic over time. 
Building a Classroom Library to Support Independent Reading
Students need a high volume of accessible text to sustain independent reading on a daily basis. The classroom library entices students to browse books by interest, genre, topic, series, author, and other categories. Only a very small percentage of the classroom library should be leveled, if at all, and leveling is only appropriate in the primary grades. The school bookroom, rather than the classroom library, provides leveled text selections for guided reading purposes. Independent reading should reflect student choice and students must learn to select "just-right" texts on their own with explicit instruction from the teacher. LPS literacy coaches can assist teachers in planning these explicit mini-lessons to successfully launch independent reading and just-right text selection. Contact your literacy coach to schedule an appointment.
Helping  Students Select Just-Right Texts with Anchor Charts Around the Classroom
The "five finger rule" is a simple strategy to help students self-select just-right texts. Modify this strategy for primary students who may be reading at levels where there is limited print on each page.