Keeping Kids Accountable During Independent Reading – Part I


One of the most challenging aspects of reading workshop is making sure that every child is reading and to make sure they all are accountable for the thinking work (Part 2) that goes along with that reading.  This post is the first of a two part series on keeping your students accountable- making sure every child reads!

There is nothing more defeating than looking up from your guided reading lesson and seeing students staring out the window, playing with things on their desks, or worst of all disrupting other readers instead of reading themselves. So what do we do? We assign a worksheet, a reading log, or journal giving us confidence that we’re holding kids accountable and no one’s time is being wasted.

The problem is that in order for our students to become better readers, we know they need to read.  And they need to read A LOT.  Richard Allington’s team found that more effective teachers had students reading and writing for 50% of their day while least effective teachers had students reading as little as 10-15 mins during a 90 minute ELA block!

But what about those students who don’t read during independent reading time?  Here are 5 ways you can scaffold your most reluctant readers to keep them engaged during workshop.

Low Level Scaffolding:

  1. Stay Current on Children’s Lit –  Matching books to readers is one of the most difficult, yet most effective ways to get kids to want to read.  Students have a wide range of interests and reading levels, and it’s sometimes hard to find just the right book at just the right level.  Wide reading of current children’s literature can help.  Read the newest and most popular children’s books.  Read past award winners.  Read fiction and nonfiction.  Read everything you can get your hands on that your students might be interested in!  Your local children’s librarian is a good person to get to know.  She will have great suggestions for you.  Hooking kids on a book or series will make it easy for them to stay engaged and reading during workshop time.  Here are a couple great children’s lit blogs that highlight the best reads!  Watch, Connect, Read;   There’s a Book for That; Teach Mentor Texts (IMWAYR)
  2. Classroom Library – Reading a lot won’t help if the books aren’t available to kids!  Make sure to keep your classroom library stocked and current.  There are many ways to do that without breaking the bank.  Many schools will have funds for teachers to buy materials.  Talk to your principal to see what is available.  Or talk to your school librarian!  They are always looking for suggestions from teachers on which books to purchase.  Grant writing is also an option.  Many organizations will give teachers money to buy books, such as Donor’s Choose or The Book Love Foundation.   Book clubs, warehouse sales and garage sales are also great ways to grow your library.  

Moderate Level Scaffolding:

3.  Teach to Build Stamina – Some students just can’t sustain attention long enough during a silent reading block.  They start off well, but soon get distracted.  Students may need explicit instruction on how to stay on track for longer periods of time.  (Sample anchor chart)  Asking students to set increasing longer goals for themselves is also an effective way to increase stamina.  Allow students to chart progress to see their growth!  Here is an example of a class chart which could also be modified and used for individual charts.
reading stamina

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4.  Use Partner Reading – Partner reading is something that primary teachers use to get students to read for longer periods of time.  But it can be an effective scaffold in the older grades too.  Have students read independently for a period of time and then, to increase reading time, introduce partner reading.  Partners are assigned based on students’ reading levels so that they can read the same book.  Students should decide together if they want to read together chorally, take turns reading each page, or even each paragraph. Students should be encouraged to read on their own as long as they can.  This scaffolding should be lifted as students become more and more proficient.

partner reading

High Level Scaffolding:

5.  Audio Books:  Some students may require audiobooks to stay engaged during workshop time.  This is the highest level of scaffolding and should be used exclusively only if students truly can’t read on their own.  Ideally, students should be reading at their level for as long as they can.  When they can no longer sustain their reading, audiobooks can be used.  Audiobooks still expose students to vocabulary, language and complex ideas of books at their grade level, which may or may not be at their independent level!  Students can still do the thinking work around their book and participate in class and partner discussions.  

Getting students to read is so important.  There is a direct link between the number of words that they read and reading achievement!  Using the scaffolds above may help students on their way to engaged reading.

Click here for Part 2 – Keeping students accountable for the thinking work!


Allington, R.  The 6 Ts of Effective Elementary Reading Instruction.

One thought on “Keeping Kids Accountable During Independent Reading – Part I

  1. Pingback: Keeping Kids Accountable During Independent Reading – Part 2 | Teaching and Learning

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