Launching Read to Self

Last year was my first year to teach 1st grade, ever. I was a little nervous going in, well, you know what it feels like when you change grades! Anyway, I committed to using the CAFE model for reading workshop and searched blogs for tips on getting started. It was really helpful for me, so today I'm linking up with Mrs. Foxwell from First Grade in Foxwell Forest to share how I've come to launch "Read to Self".

I had a lot of success with the CAFE because it helped me to be more organized and systematic in my teaching. Most of all I love the CAFE wall because it allows me to review and reinforce previously taught skills, and it becomes a HUGE anchor chart for my students encouraging them to be metacognitive; they refer to it often during read to self time, and also at the close of reading workshop when we reflect on which strategies were the most helpful to them.

My most helpful tip I can give right from the start is: make the Daily 5 and CAFE your own by adapting it to fit your needs, style and schedule. The Sisters encourage teachers to do this, and logically so. Personally, I use anywhere from 2-4 components of the Daily 5 at any given time, and I only do two rotations a day because my schedule is varies so much to accommodate specialist' classes. Don't worry

On to the launch! Before the first day of school, I review each students' work file and DRA folder. Using that information, I stock their book box with about 10 leveled readers and 5 "choice" books. These are on various topics of interest. 15 books may seem like a lot, but for a beginning first grader it's not- many are still reading the pictures so I want to avoid hearing, "I've read all my books!" on the second or third day of read to self!

So, book boxes are my chosen storage option mostly because they are cheap and readily available here in Bangladesh. I really like for my students to personalize them with a simple white piece of construction paper that they label with their name, and then decorate and color. It's unique to each child and reinforces ownership.

I take my time teaching reading workshop procedures during the first four weeks of school, and I start read to self (and only that 1 component) from the first day. Gradually, I add in some of the other Daily 5 activities as students gain control over the ones I've already taught.

To teach my students the steps in preparing for read to self, I count off on my fingers and recite four short and simple directions:
1) book box,
2) pillow,
3) sit, and
4) wait (to start our stamina timer together!)
We repeat it out loud a few times, and it quickly sticks in their memory after a week or two. We are usually on the carpet as we've just finished the mini-lesson, so I dismiss a row of kids at one time so there's no traffic jam in the room! I help them find spots and get their things quickly. I also verbally praise those who are following directions to reinforce good habits. Monitoring them closely during those first few weeks saves me from having to waste time later on in the year correcting those kids who dawdle or misbehave. Once students get this routine down, it begins to "flow" on its own for the rest of the school year allowing us to jump right into reading workshop without wasting much time.

On the first day I start teaching the 3 ways to read by sharing the first 2, reading the pictures and reading the words. I like to use a leveled reader (say 10/12 or F/G) for this because if the text structure and picture support. I use a level 10/12 knowing that many students in my class are not yet at that level, so they will appreciate reading the pictures, and some children will be at or past that level, but still need to be reminded of how valuable reading the pictures is.

This year I used The Fox and the Snail, level F, which is a reader from Sundance. (I'm not an affiliate.) It's similar to The Tortoise and the Hare, so chances are they have schema that will allow them readily comprehend. The pictures also lend themselves to inferring, so that helps me explain how I'm modeling "reading the pictures." 

I either cover the text with slips of paper and paperclips, or I just use my hands. After reading the pictures I go back and read the words. We confirm our inferences and then I invite the students to get prepared for read to self! 

I save the third way to read, retelling, for tomorrow. I don't want to introduce too much too fast. And yes, I retell with the same book, The Fox and the Snail, because I want students to really understand that good readers reread and revisit books multiple times- not just one and done!

I agree wholeheartedly with the Sisters on this one- starting at 3 mins. may seem too brief, but it pays off in the end. Last year, I made the mistake of adding time more quickly than 1 minute a day, and it resulted in us stopping and going back a little bit. Set backs aren't fun! Taking it slowly helps the students adjust and gives you valuable observation time. Even in 5 short minutes, you will notice things about your kids' behaviors and reading habits.

The first strategy I teach is for comprehension, check for understanding. I think this is one of the most helpful strategies- my students "get it" and start applying it right away. When I introduce check for understanding, I model for students how they can hold up 3 fingers like a <w> in sign language; one hand is for the "who", the other hand is for the "what"> This kinesthetic cue helps a lot of kids take to the strategy quickly. After about a two weeks when it's time to introduce read to someone, I hand out some cool check for understanding bookmarks that look just like the strategy card that I post on the CAFE wall. Of course, the kids love the novelty of having their own bookmark, and it helps them to remember to check their comprehension when reading with a buddy.

If you'd like a copy, go to my facebook fan page to download it! I hope this post helps you launch read to self in your classroom! Thanks for stopping by!

Signature photo ScreenShot2013-04-26at54143PM.png


  1. Thanks Karli. It is the last week of term 3 in Australia so I am planning on starting Daily 5 next term. I appreciate your advice.
    Mrs Stowe's Kinder Cottage


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