As a teacher, one of the most daunting things can be silent reading time. You have 30+ students who are all reading different books at different speeds and levels. How on earth are you supposed to manage that? In this blog post, I’m going to share some tips that have worked in my class to help manage silent reading in the middle school classroom.
Choose an engaging book.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s so important! If your students are not interested in the book they’re reading, they’re not going to get much out of silent reading time. Be sure to read my post on helping students find Just Right Books!
Make Silent Reading time predictable
It is important for readers to have regular opportunities for silent reading. Make your schedule predictable for students. This may be done by setting aside a specific time each day for silent reading, or by allotting a certain number of pages that must be read each day.
The predictable schedule lets students know what to expect, they are more likely to remember their reading book. If opportunities for silent reading are infrequent, it can be difficult for students to remember what they are reading.
Set a purpose for reading time.
Students need to know why they are doing something in order to be engaged. When I tell my students we are going to have silent reading time, I also tell them what the purpose is. For example, “Today we are going to have 20 minutes of silent reading time so that you can all get a good start on your book club books.” This gives them a clear purpose and something to focus on during their reading time.
You could also ask students to look for specific things from your minilessons such as vocabulary words, figurative language, or character traits. By having a focus, they’ll be more likely to find what they’re looking for–and they’ll be less likely to get distracted.
Model expectations for silent reading. I don’t think it’s good practice to read every time my students are reading, but I do believe it is important, especially a the beginning when you’re establishing routines, to read with your students. Let your students see that you value reading.
After a few weeks of modeling silent reading expectations, I use silent reading time to conference with my students. This might involve checking in with them to see how they are doing with the book they are reading or to provide support as they encounter difficulties. I also use this time to give mini-lessons on reading strategies as needed.
Set a Timer
Some students need more structure and time limits in order to stay focused during silent reading time. Setting a timer can help keep them on task and ensure that they are reading for the entire time allotted. This is especially important for reluctant readers, who may need a little extra motivation to stay engaged.
Let ’em get comfy!
Comfort is important when it comes to reading. If a student is uncomfortable they will struggle to concentrate while reading. Provide space in the classroom that is comfortable for students to enjoy their silent reading. This can be done by allowing students to sit on the floor – many of my students choose to sit under their desks or in the special (teacher) rolly chair. I’ve seen some teachers provide pillows and blankets to add something special for reading time – these things are not allowed at my school but other teachers have had great success.
Let students browse the classroom library
A classroom library plays an important role during silent reading. When students can reach out and touch books whenever they want, they are able to explore different worlds and characters inside the books. This process of exploration is so important for young readers, and I am so grateful that I can provide my students with the opportunity to browse the classroom library.
A classroom library also makes it easier for students to abandon a book. If a student abandons a book they don’t like, they can quickly find another one and not waste time (or get distracted) by going to the school library.
Give students time to share.
Towards the end of silent reading time, give your students a few minutes to share something they read that they found interesting, funny, or just plain weird. This is a great way to wrap up and also gives you an opportunity if there’s anything you want to clarify before the dismissal bell rings!
Silent reading in middle school classrooms doesn’t have to be a nightmare! By incorporating some of the ideas outlined in the post, you can turn silent reading time into a fun, productive part of your day, one that students look forward to.
What are your tips for more effective independent reading in your class? Let’s continue the conversation in the free Facebook group!