Comfy Reading Spot Caveats: Mistakes to Avoid
In part of the country, teachers have just gotten out of school. In other parts, like mine, school has been out for a month already. While we all love our summer breaks, our minds are also filled with ideas and plans for the next school year. Teachers’ minds are always thinking! Many of us are already dreaming up ways to make the beginning of next year smoother, and how to help our students become more independent. We all want our classroom to feel like a community, and we want our kids to feel safe and comfortable. This extends to independent reading time, too. We want our students to become immersed in great books, and we want them to associate reading time with good feelings.
To that end, many teachers like to provide students with choices in where they read within the room. Comfy reading spots. But this can go awry quickly if we’re not careful. I want to share some “comfy spot” caveats so that you don’t become frustrated with independent reading time, and so that your students get the most from it.
Comfy Reading Spot Tips
My number one tip here is to wait a little longer than you might think is needed before releasing your kids to comfy spots around the room. Over the first few weeks of school…even the first month or so, consider keeping kids at their desks or tables for reading. This allows you to really see who’s engaged in their reading and who’s not. You’re also much better able to keep your eye on everyone while you move around the space to confer with kids to get to know them as readers. Importantly, they’re much less able to whisper and talk to each other…that comes later, when you teach them how to leverage peer partnerships. They are also less distracted, which is key as they build their stamina for longer periods of reading.
It’s up to you whether you assign spots around the room or allow your students to choose where they’ll read. You might decide to meet them in the middle and provide each student a couple of options to choose from. To help this go more smoothly, allow only a few kids at a time to make this transition, over a period of a week or more. This again ensures that you can keep your eyes on everyone, and it’s a way to test out whether that spot truly suits them.
For example, a child might think sitting on the floor near the door would be a great spot to read, but in reality over the course of a few days, you notice they are distracted every time people walk by, so they constantly lose focus. You would be able to help them find a better spot right away. This would be easy to miss if you weren’t able to watch them so closely.
This slow drip of releasing kids to comfy spots also helps to avoid the domino effect trap. You know the one: Johnny would be distracted if he was near Paul, but he also shouldn’t be near his best friend Emilio, and he needs a break from Damien, and Christina’s mom explicitly told you to never seat her next to Johnny…and you end up moving everyone around to accommodate Johnny…or finding no great place for him at all.
If kids begin to move around the room slowly, over a period of time, you are better able to establish how conferring and small groups will work while also keeping close tabs on the entire class.
Before you offer comfy reading spots to kids, it’s a good idea to think through logistics. Go through the motions in your mind or, better yet, actually physically do this. Imagine it through the mind and body of a child. Try out different spots in the room, as they’ll be during reading time. This means that if you plan to play quiet music, turn it on. Make the lighting match what you plan to do.
Then, move around the room, from a child’s perspective. Is every spot well-lit? Is there too much noise? Is it comfortable? If you think you’ll allow kids to lie down, actually try it. Is it possible to stay focused for a period of time while lying on your back under a desk, holding a book above your head? Is it possible to see well under that table in the corner? Are you, the teacher, able to confer with kids where they are?
Keep in mind that kids are not beholden to these spots. Just because they begin in designated spots does not mean they are permanent. It’s totally ok to move kids around! It’s actually even a good idea to totally switch them up a few times over the course of the year just to keep things fresh, like we do with seating arrangements.
One Last Comfy Spot Caveat
The key to ensuring that your students maintain your expectations with reading in comfy spots is your watchful eye. To that end, make sure that you don’t lose this visibility as you begin to incorporate more and more small group work during this time. Of course, you’ll position yourself so that you can keep an eye on everyone around the room, but this gets more difficult once kids have found all the nooks and crannies they like to get comfortable in. So, before meeting with a small group, take a look around the room. Better yet, take an actual walk around. Do it again when you finish with that group and before you start with another. You’ll have a much clearer picture of reading engagement, and your presence will be better felt by your students.
Want to brainstorm even more ways you can get independent reading time set up smoothly? I’m here to help! Just reach out for a coaching call. I’d love to support you!
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