Because I am all over the place with my life, I suppose my blog will reflect that as well. Today, because my mind is on my work, my blog will also be about my job – teaching.
I am a teacher…and I struggle constantly with ways to become a better teacher. I am constantly reinventing the way I teach things each year, hoping to refine my methods.
This year, I have come up with some really concrete strategies for students to help themselves while they read. A huge frustration I have is when parents and teachers guide children waaaaaay too much. It is great that they can read a story if you are right there telling them to “look at that word again” or “try that one more time.” But, you aren’t always there and eventually they have to learn some strong strategies for what to do when you aren’t.
If you want to help your child become a better reader (improve their word attack/decoding skills as well as their reading comprehension skills), here are some steps that you can try:
Step #1: Reading Detectives – As students are reading independently, they first need to acknowledge and recognize when they come across a word that they do not know. Too many students fly by the words as they read and don’t pay attention to errors or the words that they don’t know. One way to combat this is to make it FUN for them to point out the words that they don’t know. I do this by calling them “Reading Detectives” and encourage them to search out any “mystery” or unknown words. They LOVE the idea of being detectives and solving the mystery of the unknown words. They are only able to decode or determine the meaning of unknown words if they first admit that they don’t know what they are!
Step #2: Students need concrete tips on what to do when they come to a word that they can’t decode. The most common errors I see in my 2nd grade students is that they take the easy way out – make a guess based on the first letter of the word…and then just keep going. I have created strategy cards for them to use independently. We introduce the tips on the card together first and then they are required to keep them nearby whenever they are reading alone. Here is a pic of the card that we use for you to see more clearly:
Step #2: Students also go through a phase where they get so good at decoding that they don’t pay attention to comprehension. They feel so confident that they can decode the words on the page that they think, “I’m a good reader” and don’t take the time to stop and think about what the words mean. Students need REAL strategies for what to do when they come to a word that they can read, but don’t know the meaning of. If I prod my students with questions and get them talking about a story, sure…they can usually go back and find the answer for me. But, again, how often are students reading without a grown up right there to do a Quick Check for comprehension? All the time! Or, at the very least, they should be!! Students in 2nd grade should definitely be independent readers, relying more on themselves for comprehension than on their parents. Below I have included a pic of the strategy card that I use with my students that, once we go over it whole group, they are expected to use independently.
These are definitely tips for teachers…the importance of helping students to develop their independent reading skills…but are also great for parents to use at home with their children!!! Any teachers out there, if you have any additional tips for how to help students read independently, please post below!