independent reading

Independent Reading and Free Reading

rsbsadmin 3rd Grade, Dawn Smith, Independent Reading Leave a Comment

When I’m meeting with small groups, my students are get this….. READING!!!! It is so great! All my students are reading books of their choice at their level. Some of my students are reading books such as Biscuit all the way to one of the books from the Goosebumps series. Making this happen in my classroom has been a long process, but oh my so worth it!

First off, a shout out to the wonderful 5th grade reading teacher, Cas Miller! When I made the jump up to 4th grade a few years ago, she shared with me how she did independent reading with her classes as well as taught me the ropes with CIA. Up to that point, independent reading was something that my students only did when they finished their work it was not a part of our reading time at all. I was able to take what she shared with me and combine it with what I thought about reading to come up with my independent reading time.

Independent Reading

Independent reading for me starts with determining my students’ independent reading level. So to start the school year, I used the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project guided reading assessments.

I like them because they look at ALL aspects of reading! It looks at their fluency, accuracy, retell and comprehension. The comprehension piece is made up of two literal questions as well as two inferential questions.

So far this year, I’ve been able to do this testing two more times to see how much they have grown, and to determine their new reading levels. It has been exciting to see their growth. I have a student that started reading at a level C and is currently reading at a level J! I can’t wait for Parent-Teacher conferences in March when I have her lead her conference to share with her parents how much she has grown in her reading. And to think that we still have 3 full months of school until the end of the school year!

Now that I know my students’ reading levels, it is time to read! But, what are they going to read? My classroom library is the key to make this happen. It is fine to have books, but they needed to be leveled. I use the Scholastic Book Wizard website to help me find the levels of my books. I’ve been able to find the guided reading levels for most of my books, and have written the levels on the inside cover. This process also helped me to find out what levels of books I have or don’t have. At the start of the school year, I had students that were at a level C, but had very few books at this level so I had to purchase, and borrow books for these students to read.

Levels – check. Books to read – check! I didn’t want to just have students read though, I wanted them to practice and apply their comprehension skills. While my students are reading, they are working on completing a comprehension packet. I have three different packets that my students may fill out. Two of the packets are for fictional stories. One is for levels A-K, and the other is for level L and above. The packet for levels A-K includes drawing/writing about mental images (visualizing), a problem and solution graphic organizer, and writing a summary. The packet for reading levels L and higher, follows the CIA format and includes many of the charts and writing that we do during our class book. The third packet is for students to fill out if they are reading a nonfiction book. When a student has finished a book and a packet, they turn in the packet for me to look at. I look it over and return it to students if they need to add anything. Students are then able to take an Accelerated Reading test on the book if they wish, and many students do so.

Attached are copies of the different packets. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some great teachers that have helped to create these packets. My great thanks to Cas who I mentioned before, and Carrie Nash. Carrie is my fellow third grade teacher that has helped me greatly to take what Cas has done for 5th grade and finding a way to make it appropriate for our 3rd graders.

Nonfiction Packet — levels L and above reading packet — independent packet for levels A-K

Since I’m with a group most of the time, I’m unable to watch to make sure all the students are actually reading. For this reason, I’ve created a weekly reading log for students to record the book they are reading. Students simply record the date, title of their book and what pages they read that day.

I’ve also taken one of Cas’s great ideas and have a simple poster that says, “What are you reading?” Students put up a post it note that says their name, the date, and title of the book they are reading. By quickly looking at the back of my door, I can see who is reading what, and how long they have been reading it. I’ve been able to look at the door and also have conferences/chats with students about what they are reading. In some cases, it is as simple as talking about if the book is at their level or asking what they think about their book so far.

Free Reading

Independent reading is obviously a large part of my reading time, but I also like the idea of students reading books that they are interested in that might be just a bit too hard or to easy for them. This is our free reading. Free reading is often the reading that my class does when they finish their work, or we by chance have some extra time. For free reading, the students are “free” to read any book that they would like. In some cases, it is a student looking at a Time Kids Almanac, looking at an encyclopedia, or reading a book that I don’t have a level for. It isn’t uncommon for me to see two students at different independent reading levels looking at the same book and helping each other read it.

It is during this reading that students often like to share with me different facts or tidbits of information that they have read about. Sometimes, it is a lower reader reading a caption from a nonfiction book that is way too hard for him. When this happens, I don’t know who is smil10 waysing more, me or him. He just showed that he can read from a book that might be too hard and that he can read thicker books.

<– I think this poster sums it up best.

The best way to become a better reader is to read! With independent reading being such a big part of my reading time, and our free reading, I feel confident that I’m giving my students the best opportunity to practice and become a better reader.


Written by Dawn Smith — 3rd Grade Teacher

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