We all have it, those moments during the day where are classrooms are still. The students are attending to a task, the adults are quiet and for that one small moment, maybe 15 seconds, we can take a breath.
What would you do if you could block out 15-25 minutes everyday just for that? Time to take a step back and just breathe. Think about all of the things you could get done. Think about the skills you would be instilling in your students. Keep reading to see how I am able to achieve 15 minutes of peace in my classroom each day. **Disclaimer: I love my students and staff, the rest of the day is amazing. There is just something about this 15 minutes that calms me down.
A few years ago I attended a training about Emergent Literacy for students with significant needs (you can read more about that here
). During part of the training the presenter spoke about self selected reading. At that time I thought to myself, actually I stated it to those around me, how the heck am I supposed to get my students reading independently? They struggle to attend to tasks with a lot of engagement and prompting let alone tasks that require them to engage themselves. But the more I looked into it and the more I practiced it with my students I realized it wasn’t so much about them “reading” independently but more about them selecting their own reading materials and exploring them. When I made this switch I realized how valuable this skill is.
So, how is it done? The first thing I would suggest is getting reading materials that all of your students are able to access. You can choose traditional books, big books, adapted books
or online material (Raz-Kids and Tar Heel reader are our favs). If you are struggling to build your library due to cost (lets face it, books are expensive and kids handling them tend to make their lifespan much shorter) consider hitting up garage sales, your local library, family/friends or my favorite a retired/retiring teacher. Don’t think you need to have a Pinterest worthy library to get started. As long as you have at least 3-5 books for each student you are golden.
Once you have your books, set up an area that is dedicated to self-selecting reading. This allows your students to gain an understanding of what the space and materials are used for. You can have a large or small space depending on how your classroom is designed. I would suggest that the space is inviting and offers many seating options (my district is all about Next-Gen and flexible learning spaces/seating) so students are comfortable and feel like they have a voice and choice of everything during this time. This is what my space looks like this year. I don’t have traditional style seating in my classroom for whole group instruction so I have a lot of bean bags and easy to move chairs that we/the kids can use if necessary so please don’t mind the mess :).
Here is what our book selection area looks like, I have it marked as the “Self Selected Reading” area so the students know (grab that here
). I also make sure to have our Rules posted (grab those here
), a chart that lets the students/adults know what level the kids can pick from (grab that here
) and I have a visual that shows the different options the kids have during Self Selected Reading time (grab that here
As you can see the section on the right has leveled bins. I wasn’t expecting some of my readers to be reading above an F so please excuse the miss matched labels 😬. What I did differently this year was make sure to have both upper and lowercase letters on the label as some of my students can only identify uppercase at this time. I have also put the same label on the bottom right corner of the book. I also have a section on the left for adapted book bins. These are not leveled and I allow any of my students to read these as they are a great way for the kids to stay engaged.
This year I am really diving into the ULS (Unique Learning System) curriculum for reading. I wanted a way to display the supplemental reading materials to go along with each unit so I got this book display. I have taught students/adults that these books all have a red dot on the corner (red to match the display stand) and to look for the level. If the level is above their reading level I still encourage them to select a book from here (as it goes along with our unit) but they will need to ask an adult for help.
So now that you have a space and materials it’s time to get the kids reading. Plan out a block in your day for self selected reading. I currently have 15 minutes and put it at the end of my reading block. Be intentional about this time and teach/model exactly what you want the students to do. You can even consider reading each day with them. Grab your favorite book, pull up a comfy cozy and indulge. I personally use this time to get materials ready for the next lesson, conference with students and pull students for a quick lesson (still allowing time for them to do some self-selected reading).
**This is a Google Image. I do not take credit or own this photo.
This will consider some mind shifting. You will have to be okay with kids self-selecting and attending/exploring vs. independent reading. You will have to be okay with kids waving the adapted book you just spent time laminating and assembling. As time goes on the kids will learn. I have students with significant cognitive, behavioral and physical needs and we do this. You can do this!!! One of my students took part in this everyday last year. It wasn’t clicking and he needed a lot of support but this year, he is able to look, open and even point and vocalize while looking at the book independently 😁.
My biggest piece of advice is to let you know it takes time. This is not going to look pretty the first day, month maybe even a year. But, think about how valuable this is. If your students develop this skill they will be able to visit and be socially accepted in a library, coffee shop etc. There parents/care givers could throw in a load of laundry or use the bathroom without having to worry about what their child is doing.
So take a step back, implement self selected reading and take a moment to breathe!!!!
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