Do you have 40-60 minutes a day to teach reading, writing, and word work? I do. I am a middle school English teacher. When I started teaching middle school, I wondered how I was going to include independent reading time. The answer: 15 minutes of no-nonsense reading a day.
I had a student once ask me, “Aren’t you supposed to be teaching me during this time?” At first I was horrified by this question. But then I understood the confusion. Independent reading is so enjoyable that it doesn’t feel like school work. In fact, for many students, it doesn’t feel like work at all. But it is! It’s very important work, and it’s my job to help students understand that one way readers become better readers is by reading on their own- and reading a lot! So to this student, I replied, “Do you play soccer during soccer practice? Do you play the piano during your piano lesson? Do you do math problems during math class? Yes? In reading and writing class, you need to read and write. You’re becoming a stronger reader by reading. Look at all the books you’ve read this year. You’ve grown so much as a reader!”
How does 15 minutes of independent reading help grow readers and change my class?
1) 15 minutes is enough time to hook a reluctant reader! Simply starting a book can be the hook they need! So many books disappear from my shelves during reading time. As they begin new books, they take them home to read, and bring them back to continue reading the next day. 15 minutes can make all the difference in the life of a reluctant reader. They have eyes on print for an hour and fifteen minutes a week during my class.
2) Talk and Write! Independent reading time provides opportunities, after students read, for students to talk and write about their reading. Students are bursting to share what they’re reading, recommend books to others, write about their thinking, and share new words they’re coming across.
3) Saves time! Who would have ever thought that 15 minutes could save me class time? But it does! My students are relaxed and quiet after independent reading. They are settled down and ready for learning. After reading, they listen more carefully to my minilessons and we move through material faster. I’ve actually gained back time!
4) Joy! My students love reading and they love coming to class. They read everything- graphic novels, picture books, poetry books, chapter books, and nonfiction. They’re happy. Reading brings so much joy to our classroom!
5) Growing readers. 15 minutes a day grows ALL readers- avid and reluctant. They’re moving forward as they practice reading. All the proof I need is in their reading assessments, where I see them move through the reading levels. I wish we could spend more time each day on independent reading. But even 15 minutes makes a difference!
Typically found wearing mismatched socks, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about doggy dinner options, and plopping down on the floor in bookstore aisles to find new reads. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop.
5 thoughts on “Even 15 Minutes a Day for Reading Makes a Difference”
If I was there right now, I’d absolutely give you the biggest hug, Dana. Whether middle school or elementary, we must stop viewing independent reading as something we do when there’s time. We MAKE room in the day for this critical practice because it matters – plain and simple! Thank you for being such a voice of reason at a time when we need to hear this message over and over and over again. Love your website! Love your message! Love you both!
Thank you so much, Mary! [HUG Back!] We must make room for independent reading no matter what! Nancie Atwell said it best, “A child sitting in a quiet room with a good book isn’t a flashy or marketable teaching method. It just happens to be the only way anyone became a reader.” #G2Great!
Love this! I moved to high school 3 years ago and we need independent reading time there too!
Thank you, Lynn! I appreciate your comment so much! I agree that middle and upper grades need independent reading time. It is my students’ favorite part of my class. Gives them ownership and a chance to practice the skills we’ve been teaching. So great to see them thrive as readers on their own. It’s not fancy looking, but it makes stronger readers!
I agree with you Dana but I have a few cautions
1. This will work well if the teacher like you is into reading , knows children literature appropriate to the age level of the kids and models reading at the same time. Without these conditions and especially if the teacher is not modelling the practice is less effective.
2. Be both cautious and observant of what is happening for the students with lower reading ability and lower motivation to read. I also had these kids sit next to me during these sessions.