Reading Strategies for All Seasons

by Lorene Reid

 

Since everyone doesn’t learn in the same way and at the same rate, it is important to have a number of reading strategies available to use with our students. Here are some examples of strategies that have worked well for me.

 

Phonics:

This first basic reading component deals with learning the letters of the alphabet and the sounds associated with them. Using flashcards is always helpful here. Also, using drill-and-practice in a "game" format gives students additional exposure to letters and their sounds. The Letter Road Race Game used at the reading clinic at the University of Texas helps students review the names of letters as they move their markers around a game board. In this game, students are shown letters on small flashcards. They are to name the letters until they reach the one found on the next space on the game board. When they correctly name the letter, they move their marker to that space. Taking turns, students move their markers around the track like race cars until one of the students reaches the final space. This student is the winner of the game. Using erasers that look like cars instead of plain markers adds to the fun. Blank game board templates that can be used for the Letter Road Race Game can be found on the Florida Center for Reading Research website at www.fcrr.org.

 

Phonemic Awareness:

 The second reading component deals with phonemes, the smallest units found in words, and the manipulation of these phonemes to make new words. Using Elkonin boxes or sound boxes is a great way to help students develop a strong sense of phonemic awareness. "Where’s that Sound?" is a "game" that helps students identify beginning, medial, and final sounds. Students use a placemat similar to a KWL chart with three sections marked off to indicate the position of the sounds: Beginning, Middle, and End. The student is presented with a set of picture cards. The teacher asks the student to identify one of the pictures, for example, a tiger. After the student correctly identifies the picture as a tiger, the teacher asks the student to indicate the position of one of the sounds found in "tiger." If the teacher asks for a beginning sound, the student places the picture in the beginning space on the placemat. If the teacher asks for an ending sound or a middle sound, the student would place the picture in the appropriate space also. Each time the student correctly identifies a picture, the teacher will make the sound of the beginning letter, medial, or final letter and the student will place the card in the appropriate space on the placemat. This strategy is found in a book called I’ve Dibel’d, Now What? by Susan L. Hall. The picture cards that were used for this strategy are from the website of the Florida Center for Reading Research.

 

 Fluency:

 The third basic reading component deals with reading with ease. Read Alouds promote reading fluency because the teacher provides modeling for the students. In fact, in some cases, the teacher is the only fluent reader that the student hears. Repeated reading of any kind is also beneficial. Repeated reading includes echo reading, reading with a partner, and Readers’ Theater. Each of these provides the opportunity for the student to read a text more than once. Choral reading is also beneficial especially with younger students.

 

Comprehension:

 The fourth basic reading component is comprehension. Basically, comprehension involves making meaning from text. Read Alouds provide opportunities to increase comprehension. One way to increase comprehension through Read Alouds is to stop periodically so students may summarize the text and predict what might happen next. Also, use of cooperative learning techniques such as Think-Pair-Share enhances comprehension by giving students the opportunity to share their ideas about the text in a non-threatening atmosphere. There are also several research-based interventions that increase comprehension. These include: Think Alouds, Reciprocal Questioning, and Reciprocal Teaching. Think Alouds are beneficial for students because with this intervention, the teacher models making connections with the text and demonstrates what comprehension looks like. Reciprocal Questioning is an intervention that allows students to take ownership of their reading and to formulate both efferent and aesthetic questions about the text. In the second phase of this intervention, the students ask the teacher these questions prior to answering the teacher’s questions. This research-based strategy provides a purpose for reading and engages students on a deeper level. Reciprocal Teaching provides a multiple-strategy format that gives students the tools they need to monitor comprehension. This intervention consists of four components: summarizing, clarifying, questioning, and predicting. Students assume one of the four roles (summarizer, clarifier, questioner, or predictor) and work as a team to mirror the things successful readers do naturally and without prompting. Through the exploration of the four components of this strategy, students learn to increase their comprehension of both narrative and expository texts.

 

Vocabulary:

 We know that individuals learn vocabulary through everyday experiences with oral and written language including conversations, being read to, and reading on their own. We also know that students can increase their vocabulary through explicit instruction as well. As teachers, we can help students develop "word consciousness" through reading and writing as well as through playing with words, analyzing words, and researching a word’s history. Consequently, we should encourage our students to participate in word study, not word memorization. We can do this by using Think Alouds to teach vocabulary and to model how we analyze words. We can also have our students construct vocabulary trees to learn words. On these drawings, we can show the base word on the tree trunk and the related words on the branches of the tree. We can also use graphic organizers to focus on a new word. Many graphic organizers available on the Internet include places for a synonym, an antonym, and a visual representation of the new word as well as a definition of the new word. This nonverbal, visual representation on the graphic organizer is particularly important because it helps students to remember the meaning of the word by visualizing it. Last, but now least, we can teach our students to ask themselves questions when they encounter a new word. These questions include the following: Does this word look like any other word I have seen before? Can I sound it out? Does the meaning that I give the word make sense when I reread the sentence that contains the word and the sentences before and after? By modeling how to answer these questions, by providing explicit vocabulary instruction, and by giving our students lots of practice with word study, we can positively impact their vocabulary development.

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