Let’s Be Silent Readers!

Growing Independence and Fluency

Kristin Neely

Rationale: In order for students to become fluent, independent readers, they must master the concept of reading silently. Silent reading increases literature comprehension as the student practices advanced decoding and semantics skills. It is also a good way to increase reader motivation as the reader learns to associate the silent reading time as a positive part of his or her day. This lesson will provide students with positive silent reading practice.

 Materials: A decent selection of level-appropriate children’s literature with subjects that appeal to various interests like Stellaluna by Janell Cannon, Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein), a book of the teacher’s choice, assessment checklist, chalkboard, chalk, the sentence “The blue car had a flat tire” written on the board, and individual charts for each student with the words: who, what, when, where, why, and how printed along the top, a notebook or other place to write observations.


1.       Have the children select a book from the classroom library and return to their seats. Tell them: “I want everyone to make sure to pick out a book they will enjoy reading. One way of knowing if a book is right for you is the ‘two finger test.’ Look at the first page of the book you pick and try to read it. If you come to a word that you do not know, hold up one finger. Keep reading. If you come to another word that you do not know hold up another finger. If you are holding two or more fingers up by the time you are at the end of the page, you might want to find a less difficult book to read.”


  1. Remind the children of how to use cross checking to figure out hard words as they read. “What should you do if you are reading and come to a word that you do not know?” [Allow time for a few responses.] “When we find a word we don’t understand in a story, we can try cross checking the word to see what would make sense in the sentence. Take a look at the word and see if using some of the letters, you can make a guess as to what the word might be. Now, reread the sentence using the guessed word. Does it make sense or not? Let’s try one together! I’m going to try to figure out a word that most of us already know for practice.”


  1. Show the sentence on the board to the students and pretend to struggle with it. “The blue c-c-c…..hmm…..what could this word be? I see an a in the middle of two consonants so it must make the /a/ sound. I also see a c at the beginning that probably makes the /k/ sound. If I add /k/ to /a/ I get a /ka/. Hmm, that sounds like the word ‘cat’ so I’ll try that word first. ‘The blue cat had a flat tire.’ Wait a second, cats aren’t blue. Cats also have feet and not tires. I don’t think I guessed the right word. Let me try again. Hmm, now I see that there is an r at the end of the word. If I add /k/, /a/, and /r/, I get the word ‘car!’ Now I’m going to try my sentence again. ‘The blue car had a flat tire.’ This makes sense to me. Does it make sense to you? Looks like we came up with the right word!”


  1. Explain to the students why silent reading is important. “Has anyone ever been to the library with a parent or friend?” [Allow time for answers.] “What’s the rule at the library? Everyone must be quiet, right? I have a question. How do people read at the library if they have to be quiet?” [Allow for student suggestions and adjust answer accordingly.] “When you go visit a library or other quiet places like a museum or hospital, people expect you to do things with as little noise as possible. I know that earlier we read many things out loud in order to hear the ways that the letters fit together to make words and how the words fit into sentences. Now, since we all have become so great at reading out loud, we need to see if we can do the same thing only without saying a single word. I am going to show you a very easy way to try it.”


  1. Model the lesson for the students and then allow them to try it with you. At this point, the teacher shows the children the book she has chosen to read. “I will read the first sentence in my normal speaking voice.” [reads sentence] “Let’s see if we can all use our normal speaking voices together to try out our car sentence from earlier.” [With the class, read through the sentence in a normal voice.] “On the second sentence, I am going to use my whisper voice.” [reads sentence] “Again, using our car sentence, let’s try out our whisper voices together.” [With the class, read through the sentence in a whisper voice.] “For the third sentence, I am still going to move my lips as I read the words, but I am not going to make any sound.” [demonstrates lip movements] Have the class try this action on the practice sentence as done before. “Finally, on the fourth sentence, I’m going to read the sentence without moving my lips or making a sound. It can be a bit tricky, but with practice it becomes really easy.” [demonstrates silent reading to class] Again, have the class try this action on the practice sentence as done before. I know this may take some practice for us to get used to reading silently, but I know you can all do it well!


  1. Remind students of your expectations and allow them to move to a comfortable spot to try reading silently to themselves. You might remind them that sitting around the room is a privilege that can be lost by not following the directions or inappropriately distracting others.


  1. Allow the students a predetermined amount of time to practice (15 – 20 minutes should be sufficient.) During this time, sit at your desk and silently read your book as a model of the behavior you expect. Your time should be divided between allowing the children to see you silently read, and watching them on an individual basis to make notations as to the behaviors you observe.


  1. When the time is over, have the students return to their seats. Distribute the question charts. Explain to the children that now they are to fill in the chart as best they can. They probably will not have entries for every column, but they should attempt to fill in as many as possible.


Assessment: Assessment comes in two forms for this activity. The first assessment is during the silent reading time when you make notes on your observations. You might consider creating a checklist before the lesson that outlines the steps to silent reading process you have the children attempt. Your checklist may have “student is reading with only mouth movements” or “student is silently reading.”  This way, your observations can be made quickly and efficiently. The second assessment is of comprehension. The question charts the children fill out will give you a general idea of the amount of information the children were able to take in during the given time. Remember that 15 – 20 minutes may not be long enough for some of your readers to finish their stories so keep that in mind as you review the children's work. The more details included on the charts, the better the student was able to comprehend the activity.











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