The Ultimate Goal is Independence

So many of us talk about wanting students to be independent, to be lifelong readers and writers, to choose to read and write on their own time, and so on.  But we have to remember that such independence won’t happen unless we foster it in every single grade level, every single year. Here are 5 of 10 ways to get students to own their own learning as readers and writers (we’ll post the second 5 next week, so remember to check back):

1.)  Independent Reading Time – giving time each day for students to read books of their own choosing is crucial. Share stories of who you are as a reader.  Treat all students as readers, not just the “top” students in your room.  All readers chose what they like, tell others about the books they read, have favorites, keep lists and piles of ‘someday books’, and talk about books and authors.

2.)  Writer’s Workshop – allow for topic choice.  Teach students how writers get ideas. Support them as they create their own possible list of topics. Read aloud to them and show them how authors write about different topics and things they know a lot about. Even if you are using the Calkins’ Units of Study, you can still give choice under the genre you are studying, such as small moments, how-to writing, etc.

3.)  Goal Setting in Reading – We suggest brainstorming possible goals with the students, especially if they don’t have much experience with goal setting.  With the teacher’s guidance, the goals will reflect ways of improving as a reader rather than just a number or level goal. Some of the following were brainstormed in a 4th grade class: I’m working on making my reading sound smoother; I want to try a book that is not a series book; I’m working on rereading the whole sentence if I’m stuck on a word; I want to understand what I read better; I want to read a book in a new genre; I want to read more hours in a week; I’m working on sounding more fluent when I read out loud. Stephen Layne says, “I believe that goal setting can be tremendously motivating –when the people setting the goals are the same people who will be working to make them successful.” He also suggests we nudge kids to set a goal that will “stretch you in some way” and “one that is attainable but will also push you a bit.”

4.)   Goal Setting in Writing – Students can also make their own goals in writing. These will come from what you teach.  If you only stress punctuation, spelling and subject/verb agreement, their goals will reflect that.  But, if your lessons include good leads, good endings, staying on topic, writing descriptively, writing persuasively, developing characters, creating powerful titles, exploding a moment, slowing down the scene to build suspense, incorporating dialogue into your stories, writing free verse poetry, writing engaging non fiction, and so on, then students’ goals will reflect your work with them.

5.)  Show, support, and encourage self-monitoring in reading.  There are so many aspects of reading that we want children to self-monitor for.  We want them monitoring for 1:1 match, for solving words by using a balance of meaning, structural, and phonetic information, for comprehension, for fluency, and so on.  Self-monitoring means ‘checking on yourself’ all the time.  When we get children to be good checkers, they are responsible for their own understanding of texts.

We’ll list more ways to foster independence in a few days, so start thinking of others to add!  We’d love to hear from you.


  1. Pingback: Fostering Independence – Part 2 « Catching Readers Before They Fall

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