Independent Reading Tips and Tricks

Helping students become good independent readers is not a quick task. It requires time, patience and effort. Read about the great ideas shared by other teachers on how they keep students engaged during independent reading as well as their reading assessment ideas from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.

Helping students gain and retain a love of reading can be challenging at times. This week on the #2ndaryELA Twitter Chat middle and high school teachers shared their ideas on independent reading. Read the Storify below to see all of the great knowledge these teachers shared. Chat has been curated to reflect the best tips and tricks.

Q1: What types of independent reading occurs in your classroom? Teacher or student selected?
  • This year, we have Reading Labs every double period - 45 min SSR, with page goal of 250/quarter for Reg and 500/quarter Honors. A hit! 
  • I love Independent Reading. It is always student selected per my genre guideline for the month.  2peasandadog.com/2013/08/spice-up-your-book-reports.html 
  • Both... Independent reading of novels is mostly student selected. We follow the reader's workshop model
  • I do themed lit circles so students choose from usually 5 books on same theme for individual reading
  • Started with coming of age theme last yr. Students could pick from a variety of books. Then grouped based on book they chose 
  • Every student has 40 min of individual reading built into school day. Students select books from library. Also do class novels
  • When students finish their book for the month they can choose anything to read  http://www.2peasandadog.com/2013/08/classroom-library-makeover.html 
  • Individual reading is huge for me this year. Tried 1 day/week in past but didn't work. This year tried 15 min/day 3x/wk. Success! 
  • Student selected, but we do the 40 in 40 challenge to encourage students to read different genres
  • In my Learning Strategies class, we have 1/2 teacher directed 1/2 independent reading every Wed. We all read the same book. 
  • Both - in my READ 180 class we do leveled/self selected, in ELA, mostly I choose because of homework time limits 
  • #NSUEngEd does Book Talks on own. They have to read a classic (usually taught), YAL, nonfiction, & PD.
  • Student selected...the students choose a novel/text to read that is thematically similar to the text being examined in class
  • Students have opportunity to do both self-selected books and class novel as independent reading activity. Choice matters! :) 
  • We also have a book challenge where students compete to see how many texts they can read outside of class
  • Here is the PD book we did "line lifts" from last week. @KellyGToGo's In the Best Interest of Students
  • Going to be starting book clubs…which are teacher selected books but students get to choose from the selection.
  • Outside of sci lessons students rewarded for reading during down time (lunch line etc.) & 30 minutes of SSR before dismissal 
Q2: How do you hold students accountable for their independent reading? 
  • I do book conferences with students. 1st quarter this was heavily guided and had more plot questions, but by now we chat more informally
  • Students meet w/lit circles (students reading same book) & work on activities once a week. I circulate, see who participates 
  • Independent reading - so far, either Current Events or Book Talk/Sell This Book presentation
  • I assign a monthly book assignment, sticky note responses, reading journals, small group discussions and conferences 
  • If class novel, complete reader’s response/participate in class discussion & culminating task.
  • We use reader's notebooks for students to gather their thoughts... I try and collect once a week
  • They have to present a "reading rainbow"- like segment about their book 
  • I have a reading menu with various options for students to respond to; it helps show they're reading but also gives them choice
  • Authentic conversation. They share when exciting. I ask questions. No pressure, just enjoyment & they're reading so much more 
  • This is tricky - we (the ELA dept.) use a reading log but …
  • My students DISLIKE the reading log 
  • Students do 1-2 book talks a quarter
  • It helps when students choose books based on their interests...provides that intrinsic motivation they need to keep reading!
  • I'm thinking about doing book conferences in community circles this quarter. Double duty for meeting needs of students & tracking
  • I also do book trailers... students love this... lots of fun to watch too. Gets other students interested in new books
  • I use reader's notebooks with a variety of tasks, but I really love to use blogging - kidblog has been awesome! 
Q3: What are some of the best independent reading projects/assignments you use?
  • Right now, I just do the books conferences, but next year, I will do Genre Reports by @2peasandadoghttp://ow.ly/Xzme5 
  • Set a school wide goal of all students reading 1,000,000 per year. We track wordcount publicly and analyze weekly. Use AR to track
  • Discussion, mostly. I don't want to read a book report, I want to TALK about books! lol Also love Notice & Note signposts 
  • Fav assignment #1 Tweet sheets http://goo.gl/0dY5dZ  Students create Twitter handles & write tweets from character's POV 
  • Anything where students can create or make something new! 
  • Fav assign #2 Character silhouettes http://goo.gl/GCVNtZ Students fill outline of chosen character with traits, quotes, etc.
  • Thanks to @2peasandadog, I have had success with both Current Events (news) and Sell This Book
  • I have my students read a genre each month and reflect on it with a variety of assignments
  • Book trailers are awesome! Students also like "character sketches" where they become a character with costumes, props, & scripts 
  • Students completed mini projects from a menu that had to total 100 pts. Gave choice which we know they love!
  • Fav assign #3 Literary Postcards http://goo.gl/ZRK6He  Students illustrate key scene & write from character's POV 
  • Students may write a review for a book in template form but we've worked many incentives into reading I have some reading 3/week 
  • My class loves making novel tribute pages. They write a big idea/theme in the middle of a page
  • Decorate the page based on the big idea/theme…include four pieces of evidence from the book somehow into the picture
  • My students love comparing the book and the movie! 
Q4: How do you track progress on independent reading projects?
  • I keep a book log for each student, with titles, page counts, my recommendations, and their recommendations to other students (always a Q in the conference). 
  • Students do part 1 of Tweet Sheets in class http://goo.gl/0dY5dZ 2nd part is a way of summarizing their reading
  • Participation in discussion. Small classes sizes (about 5-8 students) means everyone talks.
  • AR, in room star charts, reading journals/logs
  • I do lots of conferencing with the students.... need to check in on a regular basis
  • Periodic check-ins/updates/status of the class and chapter due dates. The majority of my students enjoy reading, thankfully. Answer to post: Me too! I'm lucky. The ones that don't still "buy in" because everyone is doing it together.
  • I formally and informally conference with the students. I also use post it notes with questions to see their thinking
  • I have made kids tell me the number of pages in their book and then divided by the number of days till the due date. Then using that info, I help them set a calendar. 
  • I want to try reading ladders but I've decided to put it off to next year
  • I had students turn in three pieces of the project halfway through the quarter. I also do reading conferences
  • Word count/book count trackers in each class and in cafe. Whole school gets weekly report from @firstresponses to analyze
  • Book menu; allows students to select from a list of options to respond to
  • If a reader has become stagnant I give them a goal of reading x pages by Friday & pass AR - when they do, they receive incentive 
  • Kids love it! Most get really excited for passing a quiz. We have quarterly incentives for reading
  • Goodreads.com!  A great site to share, discuss, get recommendations, etc.
  • I use Google Classroom. I like to use the ask a question feature to post a question to check in about the reading 
  • I love 'think' pages - fill a whole page in notebook with all words, all images or a combo plus one quote
Q5: How do you motivate your students to complete independent reading in a timely manner? 

  • Students have a quarter grade, and draw slots for the conferences at the start of the quarter. It's been a community. building experience since they all read 
  • We've worked hard to make reading a cool thing to do at school. Took several years of school wide effort
  • Daily check-ins on logs, pump up reading a lot, staff PD on how to manage independent reading time, a functioning library
  • Choosing good books, mostly, & student choice. Also, removal from discussion & having to do written response instead if behind
  • Motivation is high for most, but not all. I try to make the project differentiated & fun as incentive for completion
  • I have to give due dates for the reading and a grade for the final project
  • Most of my students like reading because they have choice. I help the others with calendar method as previously mentioned
  • Keeping it positive! Things that seem like punishment will only further deter a student from wanting to complete the reading
  • My students love visiting my class library keeps motivation high
  • Checking in late! It's important to define "timely manner" up front. Set expectations and make it clear everyone is capable! 
  • Students do DEAR every Mon & Fri and do turn and talks with different partners. A lot of my students love to read 
  • I teach 8th grade and the biggest motivator is that they get a sticker when they finish a book. Stickers never get old! 
  • Weekly lit circle meetings help re-engage and excite students, also bookmarks to track progress 





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Helping students become good independent readers is not a quick task. It requires time, patience and effort. Read about the great ideas shared by other teachers on how they keep students engaged during independent reading as well as their reading assessment ideas from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.


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