Silent Reading - What is it?
The Diary of a First Grade Teacher

Silent reading is not only reading with your lips closed, it's also understanding what you have read. It's a term students need to know and a behavior they should learn.

So, at the appropriate time in the school year, to help the kiddos understand it, we practice reading silently.

As you might imagine, some students have a hard time learning how to do this! And there can be several reasons why.


In the beginning, it’s simply a problem for them to read with their lips closed.

Silent Reading in the Classroom

Once again, today, I explained to my class what “silent reading” is …

Amy nodded, indicating she understood. “Teacher, you know what else? You can TALK silently, too.”

Her face brightened as she told me about her revelation ... “And, guess what! Nobody can hear you, but ‘cept God!”

Reading Test

During the reading test today I noticed that Amy was looking around everywhere, everywhere but at her test.

Quietly, I asked her, “Are you reading?”

“Yes, Ma’am," she nodded, "I’m reading, but 'cept my mouth's not lippin’ it.”

Sound it Out

Often a first grader will ask, “What’s this word?”

I usually answer in one of two ways … If it’s a SIGHT WORD, I simply give them the answer. But if the word can be pronounced phonetically, I always say, “Let me help you sound it out."

Today, Weesie was prepared for my standard response …

“Teacher, what’s this word? And I already SOUNDED it out and SOUNDED it out!” Her shoulders slumped in total defeat. “But I NEVER EVER COULD spit it out.

Tip of Your Tongue

Later, Ben asked me what a word was …

“And, I already sounded it out,” he said, dryly.

I believed he knew the word, so I teased him. “Isn’t that word right there on the tip of your tongue?”

“It might be,” he grumbled, miserably, “but I done pushed and pushed, and it WILL NOT come out!”

Noisy Classroom

Because of the rain the first graders have been inside for the past two weeks. Naturally, they have grown restless! So today, there was way too much classroom noise during reading.

Even though the blue reading group was seated at the reading table right with me, with the rain and all, I was unable to hear the kiddos read.

The other students – at their desks – were supposed to be reading silently.

But since silent reading is a skill most of them haven’t yet mastered, what they do is whisper read … Something they create naturally on their own.

WHO WAS THAT making all of that noise?

As my eyes scanned the classroom, I discovered the sources. There were two of them …

Tommy and Joe Joe were practically hollering as they read.

I went and whispered to Tommy, first. “Please, you must read quietly so I can hear the blue group read."

He glared at me.

"Just read the way your mother does … with your mouth closed.”

Frowning, he looked at me as if I were looney. “My momma don’t read with her mouth closed,” he boomed. “She reads LOUD. LOUDER THAN MY OL' MAN!”

Suddenly, Joe Joe stood and stomped his foot. “Sh-h! I wish all you young-uns would SHUT UP! I'm trying to read!”

“Sh-hhhhh,” I whispered, pointing to his seat. “Sit. And read silently, with your lips closed.”

“Aaaaargh!” he protested. “Teacher, you KNOW I can’t hear what I’m saying …‘less I LIP IT!”

* * *

Yep, learning to read silently is really difficult for the firsties ... But I must say that whenever they're practicing it, they are SOOO CUTE!

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