5 Creative Activities and Strategies for Independent Reading in the Classroom
We want our students to be lifelong learners and readers. Encouraging independent reading in the classroom will help our students develop a love of reading that extends beyond the school day.
This blog will break down different strategies for independent reading as well as some of the benefits it can offer.
Why Is Independent Reading Important?
Independent reading can be any type of material, from nonfiction articles to fantasy chapter books, as long as it’s the student’s choice rather than an assignment.
Independent reading is crucial for building various skills from vocabulary development to comprehension. As teachers, it’s important to encourage students’ choice but it’s also their job to ensure the texts are appropriate for each student.
Benefits of Independent Reading
There are countless benefits of independent reading in the classroom, from improving mental health to building critical thinking skills.
However, in order for students to improve their reading skills and reap these benefits, they need to choose the right books to read. If a book is too hard (or too easy), students will not get the most out of independent reading.
- Increases Language Acquisition. According to researchers, independent reading can boost vocabulary acquisition as students are exposed to new words in meaningful contexts.
- Enhances Analytical and Critical Thinking. Problem-solving is integral to story-telling— and critical thinking. As students read, they can make inferences and predictions as they see characters solve problems.
- Strengthens Writing Skills. When students read, they are subconsciously taking in text structures, grammar, and language. Strong reading skills translate to strong writing skills.
- Improves Focus and Concentration. Independent reading improves focus, attention span, and concentration. As students read, their neural connections are strengthened, which impacts their ability to focus.
- Reduces Stress and Anxiety. Research shows that at least 6 minutes of reading can reduce anxiety levels by 60%, improving students’ mental health and well-being.
Creating a Classroom that Fosters Independent Reading
The key to implementing successful strategies for independent reading is creating an environment that encourages students to read and shows them that it’s enjoyable.
Below, we’ve shared some helpful ways teachers can create a classroom that fosters independent reading every day.
Build an Inclusive Library Reflecting Your Class
Offering a variety of materials in your classroom library ensures students of all abilities and reading levels have the opportunity to find something that works for them.
A class library should reflect your students and their interests. Try asking students what types of books or texts they’d like to read. These materials can include chapter books, poetry, graphic novels, comic books, picture books, and more!
Teachers can also encourage students to read more by creating an atmosphere where reading is enjoyable. Do this by dedicating an organized and comfortable space in the classroom for students to read during the school day.
Make Reading More Accessible
Strategies for independent reading will vary depending on your students’ needs. Struggling readers, English learners, or students with learning differences may need extra support to be able to truly benefit from independent reading time.
One strategy to make reading more accessible for all students is to include audiobooks and apps—which is also a great way to incorporate technology into the classroom.
There’s a wide variety of audiobooks and apps that have an assortment of genres and texts. Some even include interactive experiences and other unique features. Below, we’ve listed a few free audiobook platforms and apps that teachers can use for different grade levels.
Consider Reading Aloud to Your Class
Encouraging independent reading in the classroom doesn’t only have to be for the students’ benefit, it can be enjoyable for teachers too. Start reading aloud to your class for a few minutes every day. This can be in the morning, after lunch, or as they’re packing up to go home.
Teachers can choose books they enjoy as well as books the class enjoys. Doing this sets a good example for the students and will encourage them to find a love of reading on their own. In addition, reading aloud to students helps teach listening skills and builds classroom community.
Find Time for Independent Reading
One of the best strategies for independent reading is setting time aside during the school day. Evaluate how much independent reading time you’re giving your students, and see if you can find a way to increase it— even just a little.
What’s important is that whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly, students have a designated time cut out to read independently. This doesn’t need to be set in stone either, teachers can evaluate their schedules throughout the school year and see what’s feasible.
Let Your Students Choose
When students feel like they’re being heard, they tend to be more open to learning and experiences. Make sure you’re letting your students choose their own books from time to time. If they are reading something they enjoy, it’ll show them that reading isn’t a chore but entertaining.
This doesn’t mean you need to let students have free reign on reading materials. Consider showing students how to pick books that are right for them. This can be done in a number of ways, from having a short lesson to hanging a chart with book-choosing guidelines in the classroom.
5 Creative Activities for Independent Reading in the Classroom
As you incorporate independent reading in the classroom, you’ll need to find ways to keep students accountable without decreasing their motivation to read.
Here are some creative strategies for independent reading that you can use to make sure students are reading and comprehending their books — that won’t feel like a chore.
In some cases, students can even choose how they want to document their reading themselves.
1. Create a Reading Log
In their logs, students can record what they’re reading as well as their progress. It’s important to note that this strategy may not work for all students. While some may find it motivating, others feel it’s too forced.
To help students who may struggle with this approach, you can use incentives to encourage students. In addition, independent reading logs can be used as homework to strengthen home-school connections.
2. Start a Book Club
When discussing strategies for independent reading, starting a book club is a popular route to take. Consider coordinating with other grade-level teachers or classrooms to start clubs that get every student involved.
Students can choose what books they want to read from an already-approved list. Depending on the books they choose, teachers can break students into groups with the same interests.
Together, students will be able to discuss their likes, and dislikes, and even break down storylines. After each discussion, they can record their minutes and look back to see their progress throughout the week, month, or year.
3. Make a Blog or Vlog
Allow students to get creative with the books they’ve read by making a blog or vlog. Students can summarize their books independently by writing a post or creating a review video. This strategy can also assist in building other important skills such as writing and public speaking.
Some students may not feel comfortable with sharing their posts or videos, but others may be more than willing to show the class what they have learned. Doing this can help students gain confidence as well as come together as a community.
4. Write a Review for Goodreads
You can also use websites or apps, like Goodreads, to encourage independent reading. After students finish a book, they can write a review discussing why others should or shouldn’t read it.
Using a resource like Goodreads can have many benefits. Students can use this practice to track their reading and set reading challenges. In addition, they have the opportunity to find peer recommendations and join private discussion groups for specific books.
5. Incorporate Social Media
We’re living in the age of social media. Most older students are active or at least familiar with social media platforms— so you can use this to your advantage in the classroom.
There are a lot of resources available like Tweet Sheet or The Daring Librarian which mimic popular social media platforms but are safe to use in the classroom. Teachers can incorporate these into their lessons by having students post a review about a book they read.
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