5 Strategies to Get Your Independent Reading Routine Going

Independent Reading

Are you a dual language teacher who is teaching your class new routines?  Do you want your class reading independently?  Do you have any solid strategies to use for independent reading?  In this post I will share 5 strategies to help you go from no structure to a well structured independent reading routine!  

5 Strategies to Get Your Independent Reading Routine Going

Strategy #1:  Introduce Independent Reading to your dual classroom with Goldilocks!

Are you teaching in primary?  Most kids--even at a young age-- know the story of Goldilocks, or 'Ricitos de Oro' in Spanish.  And this is great prior knowledge for you to build on.  

The story of Goldilocks naturally lends itself to helping you teach your kids how to select that 'just right book'.  Select your favorite version of Goldilocks or check this one out.  

Remember how she breaks into the Bears' home and devours the delicious porridge?  Well, one is too hot, one is too cold, and one is JUST RIGHT!  And Ricitos devours it!!

Goldilocks keeps testing out so many things in the house from the porridge to the chairs all the way down to the beds!  She tries 3, and one is always just right.

Use this idea with your class.  Some books are too hard, some are too easy, but there are some that are JUST RIGHT!  Encourage your kids to choose mostly those 'Just Right Books' for their independent reading time.  We want kids to devour delicious, JUST RIGHT books!

"But how can I teach them to know what is 'just right'?" you might ask.

Strategy #2: The 'Five Finger Rule'

5-Finger Rule for Selecting a book-Spanish and English
Download the charts here for free!!

The '5 Finger Rule' is great for this!  As your kiddos read a book they need to keep track of how many errors they make, using their fingers to tally errors.

So for each error they make, or for each word they do not know, they hold up 1 finger.

Here is the rule:
1 fingers/error = the book is too easy
2 fingers/errors = the book is easy
3 fingers/errors = the book is JUST RIGHT
4 fingers/errors = the book is hard
5 fingers/errors = the book is too hard

So just like Goldilocks, teach your kids to 'taste' books by doing a quick scan and just flipping thru the book and taking a glance.  They can read the first 1-2 pages to figure out their error count on their fingers.  Once they have found 3-5 just right books, they can store those books in their bag for independent reading.

Strategy #3: Teach your class the habit of keeping 5-7 books in their Independent Reading Bag

So the class knows how to choose a 'just right book' and the get the '5-Finger Rule' but what now??!! 

At this point, you need to teach them to keep their independent reading books in a bag.  This could be a canvas bag, it could be a 'Book Nook' made out of a large cereal box that they cover and decorate at home, or any suitable way you want for them to store their books.

I highly recommend that they keep 3-5 just right books in there, and then they could keep a couple of books that are hard or even 'too hard' for the simple reason that if they have higher leveled books of interest to them in their bag, then they will look through these books and learn from the illustrations.

If they are looking at these books, they will see the words, and this will give them opportunity to sound out new words and start to read them.  So it is a good idea for your kids to appropriately challenge themselves like this.

Strategy #4: Teach your class to build stamina so that they can read their selected books quietly for 10-30 minutes depending on their age.

Build Reading Stamina Chart Spanish and English
Need the charts?  Get them for free by clicking here.

So once you have read Goldilocks, and explained the 5-Finger Rule to your kids, they need to learn how to read independently, for real!  You will need to train them to be quiet and read.  This takes time.  I recommend that you start on day one of training your class by telling the group that independent reading time is also silent reading time.

Go on to tell them that everyone must be absolutely quiet when reading.  Use a timer with seconds and minutes on it.  As soon as you say "Go!" the class must be absolutely quiet and read their books.  As soon as even just one person says something to another kid (distracting them), then speak to the class and tell them that you need to start the timer all over again because someone was talking.  

This may seem harsh, but it will really get your class on board.  They will all want to be quiet and see that chart increase their number of quiet minutes until you reach your desired goal.  Usually 10-15 minutes is good in K-1, and in second grade I would aim for 30 minutes of independent reading time.  

If you stick to this plan and build your class' silent and independent reading stamina, you will see AMAZING results in their reading levels!!  Those levels will sky-rocket, and you will be so happy!

Do you need these charts?  Click here to download!

Strategy #5: Follow these steps to get on track

Ricitos de Oro book selection
Do you need a simple resource to get you started?  I've got you covered!  Click here or click the image above to go right to all you need to get your routine going!  This resource is mostly in Spanish for your dual classroom, and there are some posters in English included.  You will even receive a printable story for Ricitos in Spanish!

You definitely need a schedule of how to talk to your class about selecting books from the classroom library that are just right, about their independent reading book bag, and about the actual time spent in class reading independently. 

Here are some steps you can take one day at a time that will take you from no routine to a great independent reading routine that has worked wonders for me in my classroom:
  1. Introduce 3 different ways to read a book
  2. Discuss how to hold a book and the right way to turn a page, then model by reading Ricitos (Goldilocks in Spanish).  
  3. Go over the Ricitos book and model the 3 ways to read a book
    1. Point out all the different items that were 'just right' for Ricitos
    2. Talk about which one of the three ways your students can read best
    3. Put the posters up in your reading area to remind the students of their reading skills
  4. Discuss the '5-Finger Rule' and put it up in the library as well
  5. Introduce Independent Reading Book Bags to the class and discuss the proper care and storage for the bag and the books
  6. Start with your 'Day 1' of Building Reading Stamina.  Remember to stick to your principles about no talking during the independent reading time.
  7. Once you started with Day 1 of building stamina, keep going with day 2 for at least 10 days to get the stamina up and watch your kids' reading skill bloom!
So at the end of the day, every classroom teacher wants and needs their kids to improve their reading scores.  Once you get your routing rolling, independent reading will get your kids' reading levels up for sure.  Give it a try!  This routine combined with this resource has worked wonders for me, and I always use the Ricitos example because most kids are familiar with the story already.  I hope this post and resource help get you and your class started on a solid independent reading routine!

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