Independent Reading

Independent Reading is a teaching approach which focuses on students monitoring comprehension. In order to develop student ability to monitor comprehension it is vital that we teach readers to focus on their thinking while reading. Our Literacy (School Improvement Team) have produced an Independent Reading pdf.

Students need daily reading experiences while learning how to master the reading process.  They need to be involved in three types of reading experiences:

  1. Reading TO children – Read Alouds
  2. Reading WITH children – Shared Reading
  3. Reading BY children – Independent Reading

Independent reading opportunities can occur throughout the day. Ideally they will happen in a natural way – when it seems right and the child him/herself chooses to read, but it is also essential for teachers to structure a daily independent reading time and teach children routines which encourage independence and engagement in reading.

An example of a routine or framework for beginning Independent Reading follows.  It can be adapted for any year level. 

Reading To or With – start with a brief read aloud or shared reading experience.  This is your opportunity to explicitly model the reading process for the developing readers in your class.  Remember to keep it to a maximum of 10 minutes (you might like to put a timer on to help you keep on time) and one focus point.  For example you may want your students to use the illustrations as a reading strategy more than they have been, so you would model a picture walk through the read aloud book and then encourage children to practise using this strategy when they are reading independently.  Or you may want to highlight how to browse and choose a “just right” book during this explicit teaching time, then encouraging children to practise the reading strategy on their own.

With older students, the explicit teaching will take many different forms.  It could be highlighting punctuation, how to read dialogue or a comprehension strategy such as questioning.

Reading by – Teach your students the routines of how to choose their books for independent reading.  IN the lower grades initially start with a shorter time of 5 minutes and build up to 15 minutes or more in Prep/Year 1 and 30 minutes by Year 3.  Stop the independent reading session while it is still successful.  Avoid wanting to keep it going for too long especially in the early stages while children are developing their reading stamina.  If your reading time is successful (that is, your children feel successful at it) they will also develop positive attitudes towards reading.

Things to consider and explicitly teach include:

Where do you want children to select books from? (not guided reading texts which need to be unseen). For example, library corner, table boxes, individual book bags, Big Books, series novels, genre boxes.

How many books do you want them to initially choose?  With very young readers who are often reading short texts, it helps with the management of choosing books to choose 4 or 5 books to take to their reading area so that they are not up and down constantly through reading time.  “Just Right Book Bags” (ziplock bags), offer a useful organisational tool where children select up to 5 books for their weekly reading.  Book Bags (or magazine boxes) could also include some choice books which are not levelled – the important thing to remember is that the reader should have the power to choose his/her own reading material, with guidance when necessary.  Other teachers prefer children to choose one book at a time and encourage them to browse and choose a new book when they finish reading it.  It is up to you to decide what best suits your teaching style and your children. 

In the older levels students are often reading a longer chapter book that will take them one or two weeks perhaps to read and in secondary settings, students may also have an assigned text as well as their independent reading book.  Students at this level often need to be directed to a variety of genres and if they have been reluctant readers, helping them to find books that will interest them will be crucial

Where do you want the children to read?  At their tables?  On the rug?  In the Library Corner?  Do they have a choice?  How will you manage this number of children wanting to choose and read books at one time?

What behavioural expectations do you have? Sometimes it might be important for readers to read quietly so not to disturb other readers?  There are times when you will want some discussion about what they are reading and you don’t want them to be completely silent! Younger students will find this virtually impossible anyway.  Do you expect them to treat books a certain way, turn pages carefully and so on? Do you expect them to put their books away in a certain way and in a certain place?  Consider these questions and remember to plan to teach these clearly and systematically.  Constantly model this behaviour yourself and give positive feedback to those students you see displaying positive “reading behavior”

Sharing about Reading

You may find it difficult to schedule a sharing time, but it is important to offer some regular opportunities for students to share what they have been reading.  Giving students the opportunity to talk about the books and share them with their classmates can give real purpose for reading (besides the intrinsic fun of reading itself!)  Some ideas include:

Book Talks – similar to Author’s Share, students choose a favorite book to tell the class about.  Younger readers may read the short text to the class, older readers can be taught to give a summary and a recommendation to the class.

Book Chats or Book Buddies – similar focus to Book Talks, but students are paired with a buddy to share with.  This way all students are involved at the same time and therefore engagement is often increased. 

Reader’s Circle – children share a reading strategy they used when reading

Remember to model, practise and give feedback when introducing each way of sharing.

Leslie Tulloch Literacy Consultant 2014– Adapted from Lisa Burman

THE READING CAFE- Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, Expanding vocabulary

The Reading CAFE is an effective teaching process that provides students with strategies to develop greater comprehension.

 The difference between skilled and developing readers is in what they do when comprehension is compromised. Skilled readers do not simply notice that they have lost meaning. They also have plans for fixing up their comprehension.

(Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Lapp, D., In a Reading State of Mind Brain research, Teacher Modelling, and Comprehension Instruction)



The Reading CAFE

Independent Reading


Strategy groups

Authentic reading tasks (responding to reading)

The intent of the Reading Workshop (daily 50 minute sessions) is for students to learn to: Keep track of their thinking while reading;

  •  listen to the voice in their head that speaks to them as they read;
  •  notice when the text makes sense or when it does not;
  •   know when, why and how to apply specific strategies to maintain and further understanding; use 'fix-up' strategies, including stopping to refocus their thinking, rereading or reading on; question, connect, infer, sort and sift ideas, notice new information;
  • show a range of emotions, responding with delight, wonder, sadness, even outrage; have a conversation with the text;

Leave tracks of their thinking:

  • remember what they were thinking as they read;
  • monitor comprehension and enhance understanding;
  • make their thinking visible; ( It is impossible for teachers to know what students are thinking when they read unless they tell us through

During the reading workshop students are taught to:

  • identify their purpose for reading;
  • become aware of their thinking as they read;
  • monitor their understanding and keep track of meaning;
  • listen to the voice in their head to make sense of text;
  • notice when they stray from thinking about the text;
  • detect obstacles and confusions that derail meaning;
  • understand how a variety of strategies can help them repair meaning when it breaks down;
  • know when, why, and how to apply specific strategies to maintain and further understand;
  • understand the importance of a "Balanced Reading Diet".

During the Reading Workshop students are introduced to and encouraged to use the following language (Anchor charts are built with and referred to by the students)

"Since I don't understand this word, a    "The text makes me think ..."            "This connects to what I read

 good strategy would be to ..."                 before about ..."                                "My inner voice says"                    

"I need to revise my thinking by ..."        "Something I could do is ..."

"I don't understand ..."                             "I'm not thinking about the text here " "I need to reread..."

"This doesn't make sense to me ..."       "Maybe if I read on ..."                           "Huh? I don't get this part ."

"I can't hear my inner voice here..."       "Oh, now I get it..." (after reading on )  "Maybe I'd better..."

Teachers can ask the following questions to guide our assessment of student understanding:

  • Do they jot down their thinking to leave tracks of their inner conversation and to monitor understanding?
  • Do they go back and refocus their thinking?
  • Do they reread or read on for clarification and to clear up confusion?
  • Are they able to use fix up strategies to get back on track?
  • Do they stop, think and react to the information to gain understanding?
  • Are they beginning to articulate the strategies they use to understand the content as well as the reading process?
  • Do they refer to the class chart for support?

What Does This Look Like in the Classroom? (Evidence)

  • Reading Journals contain the students' reactions, questions, connections, and inferences about their reading?
  • Learning Intentions evident
  • Student thinking evident
  • Short texts are used where students have jotted down their thinking
  • Anchor Charts — What We Learned About Monitoring Comprehension, Fix—Up Strategies, Self Monitoring Language

Students are asking themselves the following types of questions:

  • Did I follow my inner conversation?
  • Did I leave tracks of my thinking?
  • Did I stop and refocus when my mind wandered?
  • Did I go back and reread when the text didn't make sense?
  • Did I try reading on when I was confused?
  • Did I use a fix-up strategy?

Within the Reading Workshop a successful Independent Reading session would look like:  


  • follow a process that has been developed, modelled and is understood by the class
  • quietly read self selected 'Just Right Texts' whilst maintaining a 'Balanced Reading Diet'
  • notice when they are not paying attention and stopping, going back, and refocus
  • noticing when they are confused and reread confusing parts to try to make sense of them
  • monitor the words they don't know, rereading them, reading on, using dictionaries to figure them out
  • ask questions when they are confused to help make sense of text
  • write down their thoughts to keep track of their thinking


  • confers with individual students ( reinforcing and setting new reading goals)
  • takes a strategy group (specific instruction with a small group all having a common reading goal)
  • roves and monitors students as they read
  • maintains up to date reading records