10 Independent Reading Time Ideas

10 ideas to use during independent reading time when your students need re-energized and motivated!

Independent reading is a favorite time of the day in my classroom! My students love finding a cozy place to read and get lost in their books. As the year goes on, independent reading stamina grows and grows. One of my favorite parts of teaching students how to read is watching them grow into avid, lifelong readers who don’t want to close their books!

Except…every year, SPRING happens. At this point in the year, it never fails. My superstar readers get a little…restless when it comes to routine. When that “restless routine” feeling starts to creep into our classroom, I start adding in some surprises when it comes to independent reading time. These ideas never cease to boost student motivation, engagement, and energy! In this post, I’ll walk you through 10 ideas that are easy to implement, teacher-tested, and student-approved. Ready? Let’s go!

The following blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. This just means my blog receives a small compensation if you purchase any of these independent reading supplies using these links, but don’t worry- there is absolutely no extra cost to you! I hope you find the links helpful and convenient!

Flashlight Fridays

My students look forward to Flashlight Friday all week long! Every Friday, during independent reading time, I break out my mini flashlights or our finger lights for the students to use. I close all the blinds and turn off the main lights. They LOVE it! Flashlights and finger lights are such small tools, but they always create huge excitement when it’s time for independent reading. You can see a picture of our finger light Flashlight Friday in the main picture at the top of this blog post. Below are the links to the flashlights and finger lights that I use in my room.


Furry Friend Fluency Day

Announcing a Furry Friend Fluency Day always results in cheering from my first-graders! On these days, they get to bring a furry friend in from school to “read” to during independent reading. They can sit by their furry friend, whisper read to their furry friend, retell, summarize, etc. Furry friends must stay in their backpacks until it’s time for independent reading time and they must return to the backpacks right after reading time is over. If we have any mini-lessons at the carpet (pre-covid days and hopefully again soon!) the furry friends sit in their chairs and wait for them during the lesson.

Reading Reporters

Novelty items never fail when it comes to giving my independent readers an engagement boost! What’s more fun than reading to yourself with a pretend microphone?! Reading Reporters use reading microphones to read smoothly and with expression. During our mini-lessons, we discuss the idea that nonfiction readers use a “reporter voice” to read and deliver facts and information. My students LOVE to use their plastic microphones to be news reporters when they read nonfiction books independently! When they read their fiction books, they get to be storytellers with their microphones. The microphones I use in my classroom are linked below. I like them because they are cheap and easy to clean!

Rule-Breaking Bookworms

Are you feeling exhausted, yet you’re wanting to amp up the stamina and motivation during independent reading time? Explain to your students, “Today only, you get to be Rule-Breaking Bookworms! What can a Rule-Breaking Bookworm do? Rule-breaking Bookworms can sit ON TOP OF THEIR DESKS! They can even sit UNDERNEATH their desks. (Gasp!)” (Of course, you’ll want to go over safety rules and model how to get up, down, and how to sit on the desks.) Nevertheless, they will think Rule-Breaking Bookworm Day is the best independent reading time they’ve ever had!

Magic Carpet Reading Ride

You’ll need about 15 minutes prior to independent reading time in order to implement this idea. Ideally, you’ll also need an outdoor space on the ground that you can draw on with chalk. Tell the students that today, they will go on a magic carpet ride ANYWHERE they want. They can think of anything or anywhere they would like to read independently. You can throw out some ideas to get their creativity started: a pirate ship, under the sea, on a beach, in dinosaur land, on the moon, etc. “Where would you read if you could choose from anything or anywhere?” Then, students will draw a picture of their imaginary reading place with chalk outside and sit IN their chalk creation as they read independently! I’ve had students read with mermaids, on a unicorn, in a castle, etc. They think it is SO fun! Be sure to give them a time limit for drawing their creations, and then have them return the chalk before independent reading time begins.

If you don’t have space outside, you can also complete this idea using large pieces of construction paper or paper rolls and crayons. Students would simply draw on the paper and sit on or by their magic carpet ride destination.

Hoola Hoop Reading

Does your gym have hoola hoops? Ask your physical education teacher if you can borrow them! Either take them outside with your students’ book bins, reserve the gym, or spread out around your classroom (if space allows). Students can sit inside their hoola hoop to read! Sometimes the simplest novelty item is all it takes for them to get excited for independent reading time!

Bubblegum Bookworms

This one may or may not work, depending on school rules, your students, and your own feelings on bubblegum ha! Giving students a piece of bubblegum to chew on during independent reading, or even a few mints, can feel like a super-special independent reading day to them! It can also decrease hyperactivity during independent reading time and increase a students’ ability to focus while reading.

Playground Reading

If the weather is nice, have a Playground Reading Day! During independent reading, students can sit anywhere on the playground they’d like. This works best, of course, when you have the playground reserved to yourself. If you have a grassy area, the simple act of getting OUT of the classroom and reading outside in the fresh air can work wonders for student concentration. My students LOVE when they get to sit on the bridge of the playground, at the top of the slide, or under the monkey bars! Of course, our rules are that we are reading on the playground during the entire independent reading time and NOT playing. (However, at the end of our independent reading time, an extra 5-10 minutes of playtime is always a hit!)

Magic Wand Word Wizards

Magic Wands can actually be magical when it comes to independent reading engagement! There are many ways to use them. For kindergarten readers, using a magic wand during reading time will keep students pointing to the words as they read. First and second graders can use their magic wands to be what we call “word wizards.” As my first graders read, they “zap” a word in the text with their magic wand depending on our focus for the day. Some days, they zap interesting words. Other days, they zap tricky words and keep a list of their tricky words in their notebooks. The magic wands that I use are listed below.

My magic wand disclosure: They ARE on the larger side. I don’t mind that because my students love the idea of the magic wands. However, if you want something thinner and smaller for your students to point with, these Star Wands on Amazon are also really cute and fun!

Bonus Independent Reading Idea!

This Read and Think resource will have your students responding to books during independent reading time and small group reading!

The ideas above are perfect for “special edition” days! If you’re looking for a way to help your students stay engaged during independent resource on a daily basis, meet your new best friend, Read and Think! My Read and Think Comprehension resource helps readers think, respond, and monitor their understanding while they read.

Each comprehension symbol provides visual reminders for students to stop and jot down their thoughts as they read. Students will respond to the books they read with these six symbols:

  • I predict… (making predictions)
  • I wonder… (asking questions)
  • I notice… (noticing details in the illustrations or photographs)
  • ___ feels… (identifying character feels, emotions, and character changes)
  • The lesson is… (thinking about the lesson or moral of the story)
  • This part makes me think… (making connections)

Miss DeCarbo's Read and Think resource includes model lessons and materials that make stopping and jotting while independently reading easy and engaging for beginning readers!

Each strategy symbol, includes a model, whole-group lesson plan that you can use when you introduce the symbol to your students. Independent reading bookmarks, posters, graphic organizers, and sticky note templates are included, too!

If you have wanted your students to start responding to what they read on their own during independent, whole-group, or small-group reading but have not been sure where to start, this resource is for YOU! Learn more about the Read and Think resource by clicking HERE!

Make Independent Reading Fun!

If you or your students are starting to feel restless with your daily routine, or you just need to re-energize your readers a bit, these ideas should do the trick! For me, the ideas in this post provide opportunities to make our independent reading time memorable and FUN! You see, it’s okay to break routine once in awhile. Novelty helps our brains stay engaged and activated for learning! (If you are wanting some major breaks in your reading routine, check out my Restaurant Retell blog post or my Compare and Contrast Construction Day ideas!)

Have fun, and leave me a comment below to let me know which idea you’re going to try first!

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Try out these fun and motivating ideas when your independent reading time needs a little extra engagement and energy!

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One Comment

  1. Thank you! I have your bookmarks but have not used them as I am trying to figure out a way for my online kiddos to use them. I have in person students too and am going to introduce to them. I love all the ideas and like the tip about microphones and “reporter voice”!
    Flashlight Friday will be my first choice

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