Independent and Digital Learning

Materials and activities appropriate to each reading level keep students engaged in meaningful learning while you work with small groups.

Independent learning

For many teachers, the most challenging part of small-group instruction is managing the rest of the class. How do you keep the other students on task while you are focused on a small group? If you haven’t seen it with your own eyes, you might even doubt it’s possible. With JillE Literacy, it is!


As you look around the classroom, you notice walls full of print, with examples of poetry and shared writing, lists of words, schedule and classroom management charts, and student work on prominent display. You hear a hum of activity and a mingling of student and teacher voices. 

Students are scattered throughout the room, working independently in various learning centers. Some are reading on their own, while others are busily conferring with partners and small groups. Where is the teacher? Not hovering or watching students like a hawk. Instead, she is sitting at a table in the corner, leading a small reading group.

The teacher’s eyes move from one child to the next, listening and observing as they read, occasionally looking at her own book and chiming in with a question or two. Every so often, she glances around the room to make sure everything is running smoothly before turning her attention back to her group. 

After completing the lesson, the teacher dismisses the small group and gives the class a two-minute wrap-up signal. As she jots a few notes on an observation record, students finish their activities and begin to put away supplies. With another signal, the class comes together on a large rug. The teacher has a seat, takes a book from the shelf, and begins: “Today I brought a new book to read aloud…” 

It is clear that the students have practiced this routine many times and know it well. The teacher knows that consistent daily routines provide students with clear expectations and a sense of security. As a result, the routines flow almost effortlessly between shared, small-group, and independent reading, learning centers, and reading aloud.

Extension activities for reading and writing

A useful management strategy that helps students apply the skills they have learned during small-group instruction is to select one or more follow-up activities for students to complete after their small-group lesson, while you work with other groups. 

In JillE Literacy, every small-group text includes a number of extension activities, blackline masters, and graphic organizers that students can complete independently, with a partner, or in small groups. 

These activities, included on the last page of the Take & Teach Lesson, provide a variety of ways for students to respond to the text and practice essential skills, including:

  • Vocabulary & language
  • Speaking & listening
  • Understanding text
  • Understanding visuals
  • Creative arts
  • Research
  • Writing

Starting at reading level K, additional partner and individual learning activities are included in the final pages of the books themselves. These Partner Talk and Going Solo activities help students work together to build language and comprehension skills, then transfer those skills to independent writing. 

Independent and peer reading

The goal of independent reading is for students to practice applying the reading skills they have learned. For this practice to be productive, the books need to be at their independent reading level and engaging enough to hold their interest. JillE Literacy resources can help on both counts, with appropriate materials for the diversity of reading levels found in most classrooms.

For Beginning Readers (Levels A-C)

Create individual or group book boxes that contain familiar texts students have read during small group instruction, as well as some student-created books.

For Progressing Readers (Levels D-J)

Add some unseen texts one level below each student’s instructional level so they are reading a combination of familiar and unfamiliar texts.

For Advancing Readers (Levels K+)

Create a diverse library of reading materials that students can choose from. Post a bank of suggested activities for students to complete after reading.

Another option for advancing readers is peer reading. During peer reading, students practice and apply the skills and strategies learned in small groups, but on their own in student-directed small groups. This instructional strategy, also known as reciprocal teaching, gives students both the freedom they crave and the empowerment they need to blossom into great readers. Step-by-step guidance for how to implement independent and peer reading is included in the JillE Literacy Teacher’s Handbook.

Purposeful learning centers

Learning centers are at once a useful classroom management strategy and an important instructional approach in the JillE Literacy classroom. In learning centers, students work on their own or in small groups on purposeful learning activities. These centers are not “busy work.” Instead, they provide students with daily opportunities to practice and apply the skills they have learned. At the same time, learning centers provide teachers with the time and opportunity to meet with reading groups, listen to individual students read, or gather assessment data, knowing that the other students are engaged in meaningful independent learning

Download Support for Learning Centers

Digital learning

The complete library of JillE Literacy resources is now available digitally on Ed, My Friend in Learning to support classroom, lab-based, and at-home learning.

  • The Shared Books, Poems, and Read Aloud Books feature audio recordings for reading along and building reading fluency. 
  • The digital Leveled Books are available in Take & Teach versions (with teaching notes) and student versions (without notes). 
  • The digital platform also features teacher-only materials such as the Teacher’s Handbook and Take & Teach Lessons, as well as printable resources and activities.

Need more information or support for digital learning?

Visit the online help pages for step-by-step instructions and answers to many frequently asked questions. 

Only JillE Literacy offers high-quality, engaging texts combined with the built-in teaching support that makes it easy to teach and reinforce essential skills in context.

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