Independent Reading: A look in a kindergarten classroom

2014-12-17 11.45.29Independent reading time is a key component of any reader’s workshop. It looks different at every grade level. What’s important is that we have a time, daily, for kids to read by themselves or with a partner, to choose what they read, and to have time to talk about what they are reading. In my kindergarten classroom, we have book boxes and a book box time every day.  Every child has their own box. Inside the box is a variety of books. There is a Ziplock bag with their “just-right” books. In the bag there are guided reading books, paper books that we have read together as shared reading charts throughout the week, ABC charts, name books, cut apart sentences from guided reading groups and ABC books. Children know that they are to read their baggie books first. There are also “look books” – books they can read the pictures or retell the story. They can choose 5-7 “look books” to put in their book box. These are library books, books from our classroom library and favorites that have been read aloud. This might be a super cool book on snakes, a Pete the Cat book we’ve read out loud several times, a Mo Willems or Todd Parr book from our author study or any good book they find on our shelves. Finally, each child has a poem and song binder that is full of poems and songs we’ve read together as shared reading pieces. Our book box time is social, full of energy and full of engaged kindergarten readers – reading the words, reading the pictures, retelling the books, making decisions as readers and talking about books. Children choose a cozy nook to read, they decide if they are reading by themselves, with a partner or with a group, and they choose what they read – just like readers do. Here is a glimpse into our book box time. Enjoy!

A Home Connection for Shared Reading

Illustrating the Poetry and Song Notebook

Illustrating the Poetry and Song Notebook

Every week we do a lot of shared reading in our kindergarten classroom. I typically choose two new songs or poems and one or two new mini-books each week, in addition to a big book or two. The purpose of shared reading is to make texts accessible to all children, allowing them to experience what it feels like to be a proficient reader. It is a time for us to teach about the reading process and serves as a gateway to guided reading and independent reading. A focus for a shared reading lesson at this time of the year, could include, but is not limited to the following:

*concepts about print such as voice-to-print match, left-to-right reading with return sweep, reading the left page before the right, and punctuation and what it means for the reader

*using meaning, structure and visual information to solve words and comprehend

*searching and gathering information to support word solving or comprehension

*word work and word study analogies

I feel that it’s important for families to see the shared reading we do each week and to give their child a chance to read the poem, song or book to them at home. One way that works quite well is to send home a weekly Poetry and Song Notebook. This is a 3-ring binder where children keep copies of all the poems, songs and mini-books we read each week. Every Friday we pass out copies of our shared reading and give the children a few minutes to illustrate them. They are then put in the binder and sent home for the weekend. We stress the importance of bringing these binders back to school on Monday, since they are kept in the child’s individual book box and are familiar texts that children can read independently during our reader’s workshop. I take photos of the actual charts, (thanks to a great suggestion by my teammate Sam), and put those in the binders. Here are a few examples.

Our charts are stored here for children to read during Reader's Workshop

Our charts are stored here for children to read during Reader’s Workshop

The opening letter and first song in our notebooks

The opening letter and first song in our notebooks

The charts are photographed so children see what we read in class

The charts are photographed so children see what we read in class – this is a mini-book we did after The Kissing Hand

King and Queen of the Day

K 13th week 022Our latest shared writing experience is with the King or Queen of the Day. Each day a different child is chosen to be King or Queen. They get to wear a crown and get their picture taken. Then the class interviews them – asking them a few questions about things they like. I did a lot of modeling at the start, talking about what a question is and what kind of questions could help us learn more about each other. For example, we talked about how the question “what is your favorite animal?” has an answer, while the question “what is your favorite zebra?” doesn’t really have an answer  – and how “I like zebras.” isn’t a question. (huge concept for kinders!) The conversations about what is a question and what is a question that can be answered are great learning experiences and help me see who needs more support with this stage of their oral language development. And of course, we continue these conversations daily! After experiencing 18 interviews, I am hopeful that my kindergarteners will have a much deeper understanding of what a question is and how to ask someone a question to find out more about them.

I do the writing on a large chart as the children conduct the interview and negotiate the text together. We count the number of words first and rehearse what I should write on the chart. I have the kids help me write the words orally, especially the names. I show them how there needs to be a space between each word, and that each line is a sentence. I use language like:

-what letter comes first?

-what letter is next?

-what is the last letter?

-how do I write “like” – can you look on the word wall?

-what letter do you think “zebra” begins with?

-how many words are in this sentence?

-I need to make sure and start “Hulk” with a capital letter because it’s a name, just like Joshua

The interviews are daily opportunities to teach many of our phonics skills within a meaningful context. And the kids LOVE being the King or Queen of the Day!

Name bottles

Name bottles



After the interview, the King or Queen makes a name bottle. These are baby soda bottles from Steve Spangler Science. We put letter beads that spell the child’s first name in the bottle along with some glitter and sparkles. I fill it with water and close the lid tightly. As we make name bottles for everyone in the class, this becomes a game where kids can try to figure out the name in the bottle and match it to a name strip.

The last step in our King and Queen of the Day routine is to find pictures to match the words in the sentences and laminate the chart. We re-read the previous day’s charts before we do a new interview. This is a great shared reading experience, and the kids love to revisit the charts. After all the kids have had a chance to be interviewed, the charts are put together into a large class book. This is a favorite book to read throughout the year.

Shared writing chart after an interview.

Shared writing chart after an interview.