Fostering Independence – Part 2

A few days ago, we posted some ideas for fostering independence. Here are a few more ways to support children in becoming independent readers and writers:

6.)  Ask students what they would like to learn when starting a new unit in the content areas.  Katie recently began a unit on monarch butterflies and her kindergartners wanted to know what the caterpillars ate. They did a science experiment to investigate the answer to this question and read several books to verify their findings. Out of their conversations, many more questions came up that guided their unit on monarchs. Creating a “wonder wall” suggested by Georgia Heard and Jen McDonough, authors of A Place for Wonder , is one way to keep track of all the thinking that comes up when students are investigating a new topic. Many of their “wonderings” become topics for further reading or writing projects.

7.)  Model ways to get unstuck when you are stuck.  Demonstrations are powerful.  But keep in mind that not only do we have to demonstrate strategies, we also have to support students as they take them on independently. If students are going to own their repertoire of strategies for solving words and understanding text, then we must gradually release responsibility to them.  Be sure to scaffold students and not rescue them as Terry Thompson says in his article from Choice Literacy, Are You Scaffolding or Rescuing?

8.)  Allow time for students to talk during interactive read alouds.  Let them share their own thoughts, connections, wonderings, and inferences.  Teaching for comprehension means teaching children to think – but then we have to give them opportunities to actually do that thinking.  Peter Johnston once said, “thinking well together leads to thinking well alone.”

9.)  Use inquiry-based learning in the form of individual project learning.  Provide some time each day for interest-based learning.  In one second grade class a few kids are writing a play together; some are using the internet to find out more about gerbils; some are doing science experiments; another group is reading books by the same author; some are making a store for practicing making change; some are making a poster about Rosa Parks.

10.)  I’ll let our readers add an idea for the 10th way to get your students to own their learning.  What’s your idea?


  1. Katie spoke to our group earlier today and one thing she said that really stuck out for me was the need for us teachers to get out in-the-head thinking out of our heads and make it visible to our students. Modeling is key if we want our students to use a variety of strategies. We can’t assume that kids will know to do something just because we’ve told them about it or mentioned/modeled it once or twice. I really liked Katie’s idea of using the same book to teach a variety of strategies and skills also.
    We LOVED having Katie in today and our members were all impressed with her presentation.

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