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Teaching Tips: Independent Reading Strategies

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/20/2012

Have you ever given an independent reading assignment and had your class react as if you asked them to run a marathon or complete a secret mission in Afghanistan?

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    I taught U.S. History long ago. One Spring day as I reviewed World War II battles with my last period class, a student raised her hand and asked, "How do you like know all this stuff. Like you're like pretty young, you know. It's like you're only 25, you know, and you like know everything there is to know about World War II battles."

    I answered, "Well, I read the chapter last night." The entire class laughed. They thought I was kidding.

    I wasn't.

    I challenged them to open their books to chapter 28 and find something I taught that wasn't in the chapter. They couldn't.

    Being a novice teacher, I neglected a true teaching moment and moved on to the Battle of Midway. A good teacher would have pointed out the benefits of independent reading and shared some strategies to better comprehend the material.

    I won't make the same mistake this time.

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    Independent Reading Tips

    • Know your students - I don't mean hang out with them at the football game or during lunch. I mean know their interests.
    • Set up a classroom library - If a student thinks reading is boring, it's because he or she is reading the wrong books. I've had great success inspiring children to read by making young adult books available for checkout. If there's just one independent reading tip you implement, make it this one.
    • Set aside time in class - Depending on your students, setting aside class time for reading may be an appropriate way to "hook" them. No matter how many independent reading strategies you know, it won't matter unless your students apply them.
    • Model good behavior - Students watch what you do. If they see you read, they'll be more likely to read (unless of course they hate you, in which case telling them they shouldn't read might be more effective). Encourage parents to model good behavior as well. In fact, teaching these independent reading tips to parents or listing them on your website may be more useful than you droning on and on to your students about them.
    • Take them to the library - A trip to the library removes many a lame excuse
    • Assign independent reading - For some classes, requiring 20-40 minutes of independent reading outside of class may be appropriate.
    • Establish in class discussion groups - brilliantly presented in another article.
    • Encourage students - Having students share and express their thoughts on their reading builds confident readers.

Teaching Reading and Thinking Skills

Teachers are faced with the difficult task of preparing students for jobs that currently do not exist. Focusing on content will not prepare them for the world they will inhabit. It becomes, therefore, critical to focus skills to prepare them for life. Begin with reading and thinking skills.
  1. Helping Students Identify Main Ideas and Supporting Details.
  2. Teaching Reading Skills: Summarizing and Making Inferences
  3. Reading Comprehension Strategies: Understanding Sequence
  4. Teaching Tips: Independent Reading Strategies
  5. Reading Lesson Ideas on the Author's Purpose from Primary to Secondary