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Independent Reading: An Effective Way to Motivate Students

encourage independent reading in your classroom with book interviews

Do you struggle with independent reading in your classroom? During my first few years of teaching, I was really conflicted about ways to encourage all of my students to read independently. My school had spent a lot of money on a computer-based reading quiz program and intrinsic motivators. And yet, I didn’t see this huge investment pay off. Some students were motived by points and prizes. However, many of the students who needed to be reading the most were not buying into it.

Then a colleague told me about “book interviews,” and it was a game changer. No computers, quizzes, points, or prizes—just good ole’ one-on-one human interaction. Imagine that! So, what are book interviews? Simply put, a teacher, aid, or volunteer interviews students about books they have read. CAUTION: Don’t underestimate book interviews based on this simple explanation. Book interviews are POWERFUL!

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, EVERYTHING you see in the blog post for reading interviews is FREE. Just click here to get the goods.

How do book interviews work?

  1. Organize a book interview binder. This binder will hold step-by-step instructions for conducting an interview, interview questions, and the “Student Record Sheets.” I print the questions on cardstock, laminate them, and store them in a pocket at the front of the binder. Each student will have her/her own “Student Record Sheet.” Organize the “Student Record Sheets” in alphabetical order based on the students’ last names.
  2. Print the “Book Interview Sign-up” sheet and place it on a clipboard. Students should have access to the clipboard at all time so that they can sign up whenever they complete a book. I kept mine on a wall near our classroom library.
  3. Designate a time for book interviews based on what works for your schedule. I recommend reserving at least three 30-minute blocks a week. This can occur during your independent reading time, guided reading centers, or writer’s workshop. The important thing is to be consistent.
  4. Decide who will do the interviews. Are you able to? Do you have an instructional assistant or a parent volunteer that could conduct the interviews? Interviewers DO NOT have to read the book to participate; if you are attempting to enlist volunteers for this, make sure you clearly communicate this as many family members will (understandably) shy away from volunteering if they think they have to read the books too.
  5. Start interviewing. Follow the “Book Interview Procedures,” which are in the front of the binder. Easy, right?

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Why I love book interviews.

  1. Students relish the one-on-one attention they get. This is especially true if their teacher is interviewing them. However, they still love the opportunity to chat with another adult about the book. The fact that someone is showing sincere interest in the student and what he/she has read is a BIG deal—kids love it.
  2. Book interviews allow for informal and constant assessment. By asking questions and listening to students’ responses, you will learn so much about your students. This process also assesses oral reading fluency, which can easily fall by the wayside in upper grades and middle school.
  3. You can monitor students’ reading selections and can help pair them with appropriate books. Book interviews are the perfect “check-ins” to see what your students are reading.
  4. Book interviews are fun! I love listening to students talk about what they are reading. Their insight and thoughtful responses to the questions never cease to impress me.
  5. Book interviews build confidence and instill a sense of pride. Students are much more comfortable answering questions in a one-to-one setting. They feel a sense of confidence that can quickly vanish when called upon in a whole-group (or even small group) setting. When students receive positive feedback during a book interview, they beam with pride (Hello, motivation!).

Are you ready to give Book Interviews a shot? Click on the image below for everything you need.
Encourage and monitor students' independent reading with book interviews.

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