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Your Guide to a Successful First Week of Independent Reading in 1st Grade

first week of independent reading

The first week of independent reading in 1st grade can feel so overwhelming… “What should I teach first?”, “How do I get the kids into a routine?”, “When do I give them partners?”, “Where should they sit?” The questions seem endless. Don’t worry though– this guide will help you set up routines and expectations that will help you make the most of independent reading all year long!

Introduction to the First Week of Independent Reading

The first week of school is all about understanding expectations and learning routines. The same is true for reading! Your focus should be getting students “ready to read”.


Does Independent Reading Align with Science of Reading Research? 

Many educators and experts worry that with Science of Reading students spend too much time doing isolated work without enough time to apply their skills. Giving students time to read independently helps them practice these important skills. As you learn more about your students’ interests and academic abilities, you can select texts that best fit their needs.

By ensuring they read a variety of books that interest them and others that are filled with a helpful mixture of words near their reading level, you can ensure they will enjoy reading as they practice and learn about orthographic mapping in real-life situations (aka independent reading!).

Science of Reading emphasizes systematic phonics, decoding skills, and reading comprehension strategies. These skills can ALL be easily integrated into your existing routines!

The benefits of integrating Science of Reading into independent reading include:

  • Ability to apply decoding skills
  • Improved reading fluency
  • Greater comprehension
  • Stronger foundation for young readers

Lesson Plans for the First Week of Independent Reading

During the first week of reading, cover these 7 topics:

  • Readers choose a Smart Spot to read their books.
  • Readers do their best to always do real reading.
  • Readers choose “just right” books.
  • Readers share their books with partners.
  • Readers use strategies to solve words.
  • Readers plan and track their reading.
  • Readers practice reading!

Remember, building enthusiasm and excitement for reading is just as important as the lessons! Many students don’t yet see themselves as “readers” so you’ll need to work to build their confidence. Squeeze lots of fun activities into the week so kids see how much fun reading can be.

Download your FREE copy of lesson plans for the First Week of Independent Reading then keep reading to see each day’s lesson in action!


FREE First Week of Independent Reading Lesson Plans! 📚

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Lesson 1: Choose a Smart Spot to read books.

Build students’ confidence in reading as you teach them how to choose an appropriate place to read during independent reading time.

First, read “Madeline Finn and the Library Dog” by Lisa Papp. You can also listen to this cute story about a reluctant reader who learns to love reading too!

Next, teach your students about the classroom library and various reading spots around your classroom. 

*If you’re not confident in your library yet, learn how to design and organize your classroom library to match your curriculum AND make your students want to read!

Finish the first day by assessing your students’ feelings about reading. Do this by observing their attitudes, making a class graph, or using this fun coloring sheet to identify everyone’s initial feelings about reading.

Lesson 2: Stay focused during reading.

On the second day of independent reading, teach your students how to stay focused during reading. Encourage them to always do real reading.

Start with a large group activity to help students learn the difference between REAL reading and FAKE reading.

Next, practice reading independently. As students read, assess their favorite types of books.

Lesson 3: Choose “just right” books.

In the third lesson, teach students to sort books by “too hard”, “too easy”, and “just right”. 


A book that’s “just right” for one student, may be “too hard” or “too easy” for another student– and that’s okay! Discuss why it’s important to choose a book that is “just right” for them.


After you’ve given them clear examples, practice selecting books that fit into these categories. 

Share some of your favorite books with your students to introduce new titles and increase excitement for reading!

Lesson 4: Read with a partner.

Part of independent reading is reading with a peer. Partner reading begins to establish a community of readers who can help each other!

Teach students the expectations of partner reading by using the partner reading poem.

Then, practice reading with a partner! You can pair the students off yourself or encourage everyone to pair up on their own. Partners can be permanent for the entire school year or just for a short season.

Lesson 5: Use strategies to solve words.

Next, focus on strategies students can use to read tricky words.

Create an Independent Reading Strategies anchor chart to teach expectations and promote independence. Then, practice decoding tricky words with your students using these strategies.

Lesson 6: Make a plan for reading.

Next, teach students how to make a plan for reading. 

They can stack their reading materials with decoding cards to make reading independently more successful. As students learn to utilize these materials together, you will watch their confidence in reading soar!

Research has shown that children learn to read by decoding. That means breaking down words into individual sounds (phonemes) and blending them back together. When building reading fluency, practice and repetition is extremely important! 

Next, encourage students to practice following their plan as they read.

Then, make reading dogs with your students in preparation for tomorrow’s lesson!

Lesson 7: Engage in independent and partner reading.

On the final day, students engage in both independent and partner reading. 

Make reading more fun by “reading with a dog”. Students can use the dog craft they made the day before, or they can read with a plush dog.

After you’ve clearly established expectations for reading, you can begin to work with small groups to teach new skills and target areas of need while other students are reading independently or in pairs.


Celebrate with Your Students!

Finally, CELEBRATE the end of your first week of independent reading with a reading reward!

Easily prepare Ruff Ruff Reading snack mix for your students to enjoy. Then, send home personalized certificates and reading dog crafts. Anytime you send home something positive like this, you’re working to build a positive home-school connection with families!

Don’t forget to grab your FREE lesson plans & this Back to School Reading Activities set to make your first week of independent reading a breeze! 

Your students are lucky to have a teacher who works so hard to build and establish routines that will make everyone successful this year!

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Emily Yerty

I’m a teacher who believes in creating a classroom kids love and activities that keep them engaged all day!

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FREE First Week of Independent Reading Lesson Plans! 📚

Get your FREE lessons plans for the First Week of Independent Reading here! Leave your email below and we’ll send your copy right away!