I used to think that teaching students to become great readers meant that I showed them as many reading strategies as I could and then we would practice each one until they could do it practically in their sleep. Connections – check. Predictions – check. Inferring, visualizing, character changes – check, check, check. We had our strategies under control.
I used to think that providing my students with as much time as possible to discuss reading would make them stronger readers. After all, through the talking they would be able to dig deeper into their own process and mimic others.
I used to think that my students constantly had to stop and jot so they could record and prove their thinking on little post-its. That the more post-its they had in a book, the better of a reader they were becoming. I used them for proof that they were growing. I used them for proof that they understood the steps.
I used to think that reading was all about talking. I used to think reading was all about taking it apart. I used to think reading was all about proof.
Now I know that reading should be about reading. That in all of that talking there was very little reading. In all of that jotting there was no room for flow or getting in the zone. That in trying to give the teacher proof that they were reading, they were losing valuable reading time. We stopped all of the time. We lost independent reading minutes because we had to make sure we had something written down.
For students to become better readers, they need time to read. We know that, I know that. Yes, they need strategies, yes, they need to speak about reading, yes they need to think and grow, but what they need most of all is time to read. Every day, any chance, and it needs to be uninterrupted. So now as I plan my days, my sacred 45 minutes I get with every class, 10 of that is dedicated to no-talking, uninterrupted, choice based reading. 10 minutes of quiet in the zone reading where no one tells them what to do. I wish it was more, the students wish it was more, but it is a start. It is their chance to read, everything else comes after. Everything else is less important.
What do you do in your room to preserve independent reading time?
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.