Supporting Independent Learning

By Heather Morris

Donald Graves has said, “It is the learners’ perception of who they are and what they can do that has the greatest effect on what they can learn.”  This is at the forefront of my mind as I make decisions in the classroom. Everyone has a movie playing in their mind; a movie that tells us who we are, what we are capable of, and what we will do each day. Teachers help students to ‘write’ scripts that put them in the position of power and control over their learning. One way that we can support students’ “perception of who they are and what they can do” is to build environments that cultivate and nurture independent learning.

A classroom environment where students are engaging in inquiry, setting goals for themselves, and reflecting on the choices they are making empowers students to be in control of their learning.

Students engage in… … which supports independence within the Language and Literacy Framework.
  • Explore genres before writing
  • Engage in units of study around punctuation/vocabulary
  • Discuss texts in Literature Study
  • Share thinking about reading, i.e. in Reader’s Notebook letters
Goal setting ➢    Readers’ Workshop

  • Reflect on what I do understand as a reader
  • Make a plan around what to work on as a reader
  • Keep a ‘books I want to read’ list

➢    Writers’ Workshop

  • Reflect on what I understand as a writer
  • Make a plan around what to work on as a writer
  • Think about and record what I learned as a writer
  • Select independent reading texts
  • Decide what to share in reading letters
  • Choose writing topics
  • Make decisions about genres to write in
  • Words selected from the Word Study principle


These are just some of the ways that classroom environments support independent learning.

Consider your expectations around the questions below and encourage your students to think about these questions as well:

  • What about our classroom supports me with being an independent learner?
  • How does it feel when I am writing independently?
  • How does it feel when I am reading independently?
  • What goals do I have for myself and how am I working towards achieving them?
  • What do I feel confident about in my learning? reading? writing?
  • What are some areas that I am working on now in reading? writing?

As you look around the classroom, think about the learners sitting in front of you. What do you have in place already that has fostered student independence? Think of what else could be put in place to further promote their sense of independence. We invite you to share your comments and ideas below.

comments powered by Disqus