My principal stopped by this morning during our Independent Reading time and commented on how engaged the kids where in their reading. Its true. It's my one absolutely beautiful time in the day. For the most part, the kids are actively engaged in the reading process. Sometimes, they might just be looking at their books, and there are the one or two who get up to go get water even though we review EVERY time, that we stay put in our spots, but its one of those times that I can look around and feel satisfied.
What makes me love Independent Reading? Here are a couple of my favorite things that make it run smoothly in my class.
We do our independent reading (or Read to Self time, I may use those words interchangeably) first thing in the morning after our Morning Meeting. It is a good transition into our day, their brains are still warming up and this give them time to wake up for what's ahead. I like it too because it can never get pushed to the side if we do it first thing. We can't run out of time, get caught up in something else.
Bags of Books
I've learned to tell the kids to pull out a "just right" book to read to me. I love giving them choice, but in effort to make sure they are also picking books they can read, I do have them choose books from my leveled baskets. They often end up reading their free choice books more, but there are a lot in the library that are on their reading levels, and if it is too hard, they usually choose a book they can read to read with me.
I love the Hefty 2.5 gallon bags. I usually switch them out midway through the year, but haven't gotten around to it yet. This one is pretty destroyed, but as long as it holds books, we are good! I use a letter sticker on the front to help them remember which leveled book basket to choose from.
I was curious when I pulled out the books in this bag to see if any would actually be from his basket, and there were 3! (He actually has moved up a level or two, we just haven't changed the sticker). He also has 4 free choice books, and 2 guided reading books in there. We keep our fluency folders, and reading journals in there too. We keep all of our poems in our fluency folder and I tell them to practice the words we have in the interactive phonics portion of their reading log.
We make new book choices about once a week during the read to someone time. We only read during this time. I wish I could say they remember what baskets they get their books out of, but hopefully by the end of the year we will figure that out! ;)
I assign spots for my kids to sit in all over the room. We will be changing it up soon, but the kids have for the most part done well where they are. A couple have had to move back to the table, but I think that they should be able to get comfy reading. It's the only time of the day they can spread out however they choose. I have lots of cushions and pillows that the ones who are on the hard floor. The kids move pretty quickly to their spots and it doesn't take us long to settle in to reading. I usually move around to them at their spots when I conference with them.
Conferencing/Keeping Up With Notes
This is the first year I feel like I have been consistent in conferencing with the kids AND figured out a system to keep track of it! Its kind of a mesh of the organizational system from The Cafe Book, and once that I have seen other people use.
Each child has their own tab and behind it I keep my notes, data, etc.
These data pages are a free download in my TPT store. You can check them out here!
I have another set of Reading Conference questions and data collection that you can find here.
Our conferencing has been mostly based on the reading strategies right now. I have the kids read a bit and I note what strategies they are using well and then one that I think they need to work on. Lately I leave with them a picture of the strategy (from my reading strategies pack found here) to use as a bookmark and keep it in their mind. As more kids are becoming fluent readers I will need to build in more time for comprehension chats, but right now we are focusing mostly on decoding.
Anyways, conferencing is one of the areas I want to work on the most. That "now what" piece really needs some work when I meet with the kids to challenge them to the next level. I met today with our literacy coach and have LOTS of new ideas to help in some areas of our Independent Reading that need to improve! But that is for another time! Check back soon for more details on that!
(Click the picture for part 1!)