5 Reasons Independent Reading Makes a Difference in your ELA Class | Mentoring in the Middle

5 Reasons Independent Reading Makes a Difference in your ELA Class

 It might be scary to try.  But honestly, it's not that hard to do as long as you have systems in place.

Kids love having choices.  They get to pick what they're most interested in - with text they're comfortable reading - and you learn a lot about them in the process.

Let's start with the basics:

As much as you possibly can, give kids time to read.  If not every day, then as many days as possible.  Ten minutes is the absolute minimum, 20 would be amazing.  If classes are shorter, get creative.  Maybe you work on skills Monday through Thursday and they read on Fridays for part of the time.

Maybe it's the warm-up activity when they first come into the room.  If you chose this, make sure you practice it a lot at the beginning of the year, so they know your expectations.  It is, however, a VERY GOOD way to settle kids down after lunch and/or recess.

Why do it?

  1. Independent reading exposes kids to a wide range of text structures, vocabulary words, and worlds beyond their experiences.  Most of them haven't traveled to the countries they might be reading about, or haven't imagined worlds beyond this one.  
  2. Every book they read builds background knowledge.
  3. Independent reading forces kids to analyze and make sense of texts, often on their own.  They start to make connections between their world and the one in the book, they observe character development and compare and contrast it to how they believe they would respond.  All in all, a lot of critical thinking takes place! 
  4. Independent reading improves fluency by building reading stamina.  When I start the year reading with students, we talk about expectations and how we're going to practice reading for 10 minutes.  They scoff that that's not a big deal.  However, they rarely make it through ten minutes!  I time them (they don't know that) and when I notice that kids are struggling, I just say that we're stopping for the day.  I don't make a big deal of it, I just tell them how long they read for, and that we'll work on building more stamina the next day.
  5. Because students are given a choice of books, they discover their love of reading!  Okay, some discover a "like" of reading.  But books don't hold a negative place for them.

And here's the biggie:

Find a way to talk to your students about their books.  Even if you can only give them a minute or two, they will look forward to this time with you!  I've done it several different ways:

  • When I had longer class periods, I would meet with students individually or in small groups.  We would chat about their book and I'd have them look for something (for our next meeting) that we were learning about in class.  It could be anything from figurative language to character development.
    • You can have students in small groups even if they've read different books.  Ask the same question to all and have them talk about their book.  You hear how their reading is coming along and their classmates get to hear about a book that might interest them.
  • I tried - and enjoyed - having kids respond to questions in a journal.  I used these questions and let students choose which one fit their book the best.
    • I scheduled kids for journal turn-ins each day of the week so I wasn't faced with a huge pile to respond to on one particular day.  I would respond to their comments and questions and we kept a dialogue going that way.

You don't want to miss this!

Join me and some really talented teachers for this FREE online summit from July 24 - 28th.  You can catch lots of speakers talking about real issues for middle school teachers who offer best practices that have worked for them.  This is Professional Development at its best!  

Here's what's included:

Day 1 + 2: Reading & Writing Strategies / Workshop Methods

Day 3: Creative Topics Unique to Middle School ELA (ChatGPT, projects, creativity)

Day 4: Student Support Strategies (ELL, intervention, classroom management, etc.)

Day 5: Teacher Support Strategies (grading, batch-planning, etc.)

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