Making Room for Independent Reading: When

If you’re not already on board with the value of independent reading, hop on over to part one of this series.  To be completely honest, if I had to choose between all whole group instruction or all independent reading and conferring with the teacher, it would be independent reading.  It’s that important.  It’s important not just to my teacher heart but is also supported by reading professionals and research over the last several decades.

When are you going to squeeze this into your day?  Instructional minutes are precious gold to teachers.  How can you make the magic happen?

Making room for independent reading: how to find time to make room for the most important component of your literacy block.


Don’t squeeze it in.  Plan your time for independent reading first, and then make everything else work around it.  Making independent reading the cornerstone of your literacy block.  If you truly believe, as Donalyn Miller says, that, “No exercise gives more instructional bang for your buck than reading,” then making space for independent reading should be your first priority.


Once you make space for independent reading, where can you shave off some minutes from your other instructional segments?  If you’re using whole group and/or small group reading, reduce the number of minutes in each by 5-10.  It’s not that those aren’t valuable,  but you’re adding a top tier instructional tool, so it’s okay to cut back in those other areas.


Stop thinking about how many minutes each part of your day should take and start thinking in percentages.  What percentage of your literacy block should be writing?  Independent reading?  Whole class instruction?  Small groups?  Once you assign each part of your block a percentage, use that to figure out how many minutes it gets.

You may find you’re giving something more minutes than it’s worth.  For years I used a Daily Oral Language model for grammar and punctuation.  Then I realized by the time I taught this well, it was taking up way too much time for what it brought to students.  I switched to mentor sentences to teach this and to make space for independent reading.  Mentor Sentences is a faster and more effective way to teach grammar and punctuation AND addresses craft, also.

Want to learn more about mentor sentences?  Check out Ideas by Jivey for tons of resources and how to’s.  She has posts on her blog, webinars, Facebook live lessons, and there’s even a Facebook support group.


Are you taking whole class bathroom breaks? Give that time to independent reading.  Yes, I know they’re still going to need to use the restroom.  Here are my simple rules:
You can read more here about how I let anybody go to the restroom {almost} whenever they want without it being a disaster.


Make a schedule and stick to it.  One of the best purchases I ever made for myself was one I thought was for my students.  I bought a Time Timer for my class because I loved the idea of a visual cue for passing time since most of my kids had a poor concept of time.
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Turns out, while it was wonderful for them, it’s greatest value was keeping me on track.  I’m a rambler (especially in guided reading lessons.  Seriously, the worst.)  Having the Time Timer helped keep me conscientious of the time, and I stopped cutting into my other lessons so much to keep up.  There are smaller versions, too, but I found this to be the best for whole class use.

How do you make room for independent reading?  Any tips for finding those extra precious minutes?

You can read the other two parts here:

Making Room for Independent Reading-Part 1: Why

Making Room for Independent Reading-Part 3: How