Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 463, Chapter 2: Creating Independent Readers

Assessment of Reading

Regularly assess how students are progressing towards meeting important goals and then adjust their instruction based on these assessments. Teachers can also do a status assessment early in the year to determine how the student feels about themselves as a reader. These same questions can be asked to the student halfway through the school year and at the end. The teacher can then have the student look at this and see the progress they made.


Read Alouds

Teachers read-alouds have been shown to be one of the major motivators for students’ desire to read. Reading aloud to students is a simple and research-proven way to motivate students of all ages to become readers.

Teachers should read both fiction and non-fiction. Students need to know that all types of books are accepted in the classroom for students to read. Most students develop their reading habits between the ages of 8 and 11. The teacher should also read books from series or from authors that wrote multiple books. This way students can expand their reading by choosing the other books that have been read in class.

Read alouds can help English Language Learners too. Read alouds can be used to help develop vocabulary by asking students to define unfamiliar words or words that may be tricky to understand. The teacher can also choose some books from these students cultures too.

Independent Reading

All students should read for at least 20 minutes a day from materials they have chosen. Tell students that in order to get better at anything, including reading they need to do these things:

  1. Instruction
  2. Practice Skills
  3. Practice the Whole Thing

A timer can be set to monitor the amount of time that the students are reading. When the timer goes off let the students know that it is okay for them to take another minute to get to a good stopping spot. Once students have chose their spot for reading, they shouldn’t be moving around and should have enough materials to read for the whole time. Begin with 5-6 minutes and expand from there.

English Language Learners may need dictionaries to help them figure out unknown words. They may also read books from their home language too.

Getting Materials for the Classroom

Teachers can get free books from book clubs when their students order books, asking parents to donate unwanted books, begging for books from friends or relatives, or looking through yard sales and thrift shops.

Libraries may either sell or donate used books or magazines. Bookstores may also give teachers deals on books or collect donations for classrooms of books. Teachers can also subscribe to popular children’s magazines at a low cost.

Teachers may also want to share books among other classrooms. This can be done by having crates of interesting books and rotating them every month to keep the students interested in reading.

Conferencing with Students

Reading conferences need to be something that students look forward to and not dread. To do this, the teacher needs to think of it more like a conversation than an interview and let the students have responsibilities too. Some conversation starters may include:

  • “Let’s see. What have you got for me today?”
  • “Oh good, another book about ocean animals. I had no idea there were so many books about ocean animals!”
  • “I see you have bookmarked two pages to share with me. Read these pages to me, and tell me why you chose them.”
  • “I never knew there was so much to learn about animals in the ocean. I am so glad you bring such interesting books to share with me each week. You are turning me into an ocean animal expert!”
  • “I can’t wait to see what you bring to share with me next week!”

The students are in charge of choosing a book or magazine they want to share and bookmark any parts that they want to discuss with the teacher. Each student will get about 3-4 minutes too share. The teacher will start by modeling what the conference will look like and eventually will be able to just hang up a poster to remind students of how they will work.


Making Time for Students to Share What They Read

One way to start conversations about reading is to create a classroom book board. This will consist of 40-50 books with the titles written on the book board. Students can then rate these books after they read them by writing what they thought about the book on a piece of paper and pinning it by the book title. The teacher can take time once every few weeks to read these reviews and discuss with the students why they felt that way. The board can be changed once most students have read the books.

Another way to start the conversation is having a “Reader’s Chair” and having a few students share what they read about during independent reading. The student’s job is to sell the book to their peers.

One more way is to have “reading parties.” The students are randomly put into groups (the teacher could make this more structured too by assigning groups) to discuss books they have read and enjoyed. Because it is a party the teacher can provide snacks or students could bring something in to share. By making it fun the students will want to do it more often.

Classroom Application

I love all of the ideas for having the students share books that they have read. I definitely want to make a book board and have “reading parties.” I also liked the idea of reading conferences which will help the teacher get a better look at what students like to read and will be able to assess students’ comprehension of what they are reading without them even noticing.

I would love to get the community involved by either asking members to donate books to the classroom or coming in to read with the students. This is a great way for students to build connections with members of their community.


Cunningham, P. M. & Allington, R. L. (2011). Classrooms That Work: They Can All Read       

and Write. (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson

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