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Independent Reading in the Reading Workshop Model

Independent Reading

Today we are going to talk about what we believe is the most important part of the Reading Workshop Model: Independent Reading!

Do your students read independently in class? …Every day? …For an extended amount of time? Do they have a purpose while they read?

The answer is…they should. Let’s dive in and talk about what true independent reading looks like and how to get your students to be expert independent readers.

Independent Reading

What is Independent Reading?

Let’s start with what Independent Reading is not. Independent Reading is not just “silent reading.” Independent Reading is guided by previous instruction. Think “Mini-Lessons.” What to know more about Mini-Lessons? We have a Mini-Lesson blog post just for you! Students are given a focus and a purpose for reading. Students think about their purpose while reading. They are preparing to write and share what they learned during reading. What about the teacher’s role? The teacher is not reading their own book during this time or checking off items off of our never-ending To Do List. Instead, the teacher is engaged in conferring with students or running small groups.

Why is Independent Reading Critical? 

We have all heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” When it comes to reading, nothing could be more true. Students learn best by doing! Give them the time to read. Make it the number one priority in your classroom. It is not a filler activity. It is not something you do for 15 minutes after recess. Independent Reading is not the first thing that you cut from your day when it gets busy.

When Does Independent Reading Happen? 

During the workshop time. It is important that Independent Reading is between 35-45 minutes including time to write about what they are reading.

Where Does Independent Reading Happen?

In the classroom, while the teacher is conferring and running small groups.

How Do I Fit Independent Reading Into My Day?

You will set your schedule. Our Suggestion: Get Started! Here is how we implement Independent Reading: Enter the classroom and quickly teach a mini-lesson on a reading strategy, skill, behavior, etc. Then give students a purpose (a prompt, question, activity) to complete while reading. Release students to independently read with the purpose in mind. Pull small groups or confer with individual students.

Independent Reading Bookmarks FREEBIE

Simple Steps to Start Implementing TODAY:

1. When you have students independently read, give them a purpose based on what they learned during the mini-lesson. For example, if your mini-lesson was on Character Traits, students will identify the main character’s traits. Need more ideas like this? Our Characters, Setting, and Events Bundle is full of ready-to-use lessons!

2. Have students record their responses in a spiral notebook that is called a reader’s notebook. Students can use this to work on their focus and purpose daily. For example, they will write the traits down in their reader’s notebook and support their answer with text evidence.

3. Make Independent Reading a priority. Nothing can take it away… NOTHING!

4. Extend the amount of time students read each day by building their stamina. How do students build stamina? Let’s say you want your students to read for 30 min. You monitor your class’ real reading time and slowly increase the time each day until they reach their goal. Track progress using our freebie in our Growing Resource Library!

Independent Reading Freebie

5. While students are reading, pop around the room and have students read a page to you. This is an informal conference, which is a great way to get started with conferring. Want to learn more about Reading Conferences? We have a blog post just for you! CLICK HERE!

Looking for Resources to Help During Independent Reading?

Sentence Frames for Key Ideas and Details

Characters, Setting and Events Bundle



    • I absolutely love independent reading because that’s where I really see my kids fall in love with reading. I think I need to get better at holding them accountable during that time.

  • I want to be able to use resources during independent reading that will give students a purpose for reading. I want to learn how to keep a mini-lesson mini. I always seem to run over on time! I would love to already have the resource planned out so I can focus my energy on implementing true independent reading!

  • I struggle with making the students accountable for their independent reading.

  • I struggle with making sure students have good fit books and can sustain their independent reading time.

  • Building stamina is where I get frustrated with my 3rd graders. Tips for those hardest students to engage would be lovely! I think that independent reading is the most effective way to teach comprehension strategies.

  • I have been working hard to develop my reading block. Giving students that independent reading time has been a priority. I am trying to increase my collection of read alouds so I can do more mini lessons with authentic texts!

  • Independent reading is my non-negotiable! Students need this time to practice the skill of reading. Holding students accountable for their reading is probably my biggest struggle.

  • I love my independent reading time in my classroom. It is awesome to see all my kids reading around the room, engaged in their own book!

  • I love your ideas to implement independent reading into my classroom!

  • I love reading and I try right away to instill this with my students in the fall. I love to see their passion for reading grow and see them all bloom as readers! I adore reading really great children’s books (picture/story and chapter books!) to my students and to have meaningful conversations with them. Thanks for sharing so much information here – easy and straightforward steps!

  • I struggle with holding kids accountable with their independent reading. Most of the time they read and then we move on.

  • My students struggle with reading on grade level but they love books. I realize I need to give my students time to read independently from something they chose to read. I need to make sure there is time each day set aside for them to read quietly as well as let them see me read quietly from a ‘fun’ book too.

  • I struggle during independent reading time. I work with students with special needs and they all are 3 or more grade levels below their grade placement in reading. They don’t want “baby books”, but can’t read the ones they want. I allow them to check out at least one “looking at” book from my classroom library. This seems to work for most of them. They have a very difficult time with reading stamina.

  • Awesome giveaway! I have had my Amazon cart full of books, so the $$ would be great to make it happen! Thanks!

  • Meeting with students in small groups is the best way to get to know them as readers – it’s a struggle sometimes to keep others engaged and on task when they are NOT the ones meeting with me. Always looking for better ways to handle that!

  • I love that students are given so much time to just read. They learn to build a passion and love for reading.

  • I struggle with fitting everything in every day, so I need to look at a different schedule next year. I really like the idea of independent reading, but struggle with the day-to-day roll out.

  • Independent reading time is one of my favorite parts of the day. Students are free to read what they choose, they are able to build stamina, and they put into practice the many skills they have learned in class.

  • I struggle with my students reading independenty and staying on task during this time.

  • I struggle with getting all readers reading instead of flipping pages.

  • I love independent reading time in the classroom! I love to see the kids reading books they want to read.

    • I love independent reading time in the classroom because students are getting the chance to practice what they are learning with books they want to read!

  • One our most favorite times of our day, we all read choice books, then chat about them after. I don’t conference during this time. I’m the only adult they know who reads, so I model what good reading looks like.

    • It’s in our Freebie Resource Library. If you’re signed up for our newsletters, you have the password


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