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Reading/Decoding Strategies {free!}

Sunday afternoon.  While the past 8 or so Sundays I really haven't even noticed that it was Sunday, I have a feeling that is all about to change.  This is my LAST Sunday to think that way, as I go back to work THIS Thursday {insert little sobs and sad faces}.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my summer, even if it did FLY by.  While I spent the first half preparing for the I Teach 1st conference and other professional development conferences, the last couple of weeks have been somewhat relaxing! 

With school coming very soon,  I, (like most of you!) have been up at school preparing my classroom and setting up everything making sure it is ready for all the new kindergartners that will be walking through the doors in two weeks.    Although setting up the classroom is important, I can't help but plan and think of the content and activities that will be coming to life in a few weeks!  One of these things.... READING! 

I know... I know.... Kindergartners do not start the year off reading (for the most part!).... BUT, if we don't hit the ground running pretty soon after DAY 1.... I'm losing precious time to turn these sweet babies into readers!

While many strategies, activities, and ideas are floating around classrooms everywhere, there is something about the famous animal decoding strategies that absolutely stick with young readers.  After presenting a few PD sessions on reading and literacy, I have found that MANY teachers are unaware of these precious little strategies.... so I decided to write this post so that we can dive a little deeper into these wonderful strategies for new readers!

These reading strategies are typically called "Decoding Reading Strategies" as they are used for helping our new and young readers into decoding unfamiliar words.  

Many teachers that I have spoke with over the past year during conferences had absolutely NO idea what these were or had ever heard of them.
I felt the need to share :)

Throughout my ten years of teaching, I have seen a HUGE variety of readers, from brand new, right on target, and advanced!  One thing many of these readers have in common is they often guess unfamiliar words, don't even try, and often give up while trying to read unfamiliar text. 

These decoding strategies offer a variety of ways to help our young readers determine what these words are.  

Let's break it down!

"Lips the Fish"

This is one of the first strategies that I introduce during small reading groups.  
I do NOT recommend throwing all of the strategies out at one time.  Just like any other content that we teach, we do it gradually and in small steps!
These strategies are no different :)

I usually focus on the strategy for a while, allowing students to really grasp just what the strategy is wanting them to do with the text.  After focusing on the strategy for a few group sessions, I will then introduce the next strategy.  

Along with Lips the Fish, I also introduce "Eagle Eye" as one of the first strategies.  

"Eagle Eye" is teaching students to look at the pictures for clues to help them read the unfamiliar word. I introduce this as one of the first decoding strategies as well, because often with our new readers, many of the books are very predictable with little text, usually allowing the pictures to match the text.  

Meet "Stretchy Snake". 

This is also a great strategy to introduce as one of the first strategies when students have mastered their letter sounds.  
Stretchy Snake will have students sounding out and stretching out the sounds within the word, then blending the sounds back together. 

"Chunky Monkey" is one of my favorites... and not because he is so darn cute!  

I love when students are reading an unfamiliar word and use this strategy.  Chunky Monkey allows for students to find familiar words within the unknown word to help them decode.  Students get so excited when I remind them to use "Chunky Monkey" and they find the familiar word!  

"Flippy the Dolphin" is geared for our readers who have mastered letter sounds and are a little more aware of the different sounds that vowels can make, as opposed to just the short vowel sounds.  

Flippy has students flipping the vowel sound to see if it makes the word make sense.  

I like to eat "cake".   (Say the word cake with a short /a/ sound and a long /a/ sound).  Which vowel sound makes sense?  

Often our students will see a vowel and read the short vowel sound first, unless they have a comfortable understanding of vowel patterns.  

"Trying Lion" ....sometimes seen as "Tryin' Lion"
reminds our students to keep trying.  
Often our students will say "I don't know" and they give up.  This strategy tells our students to keep trying and try to find a word that makes sense, without giving up or asking for help. 

Last, but certainly not least, 

"Skippy Frog"

Sometimes our students will sit on a word for far too long, leading to frustration!  
Skippy Frog will allow our students to "skip" over the word and continue reading the remaining text in the sentence.  After students finish reading the sentence, they can determine if other words from the sentence or text gave clues to figuring out the unknown word.  If not, I will often assist my students and then they can re-read the sentence using the correct word.

I use these strategies daily in my small reading groups and really encourage my students to learn the picture/name and strategy to help them become successful independent readers.

Do you send home reading book bags or book folders with your students?  

I send home books with my students (the same books that we focus on in small groups), which gives them the opportunity to share and practice their skills with family at home!

Included in these folders, parents will find these same strategies in a bookmark form!

Often as teachers, we practice and preach in the classroom, but fail to give our parents the same information, leading to confusion at home when parents are working with their children. 

These bookmarks allow for parents to also be aware of the reading strategies that we practice in the classroom, giving a consistent pattern and routine for my students.

While I have the posters on the wall (as they are introduced!), I also print the same strategies and place them on Popsicle sticks, putting them into a bucket!  This is great to use during small groups!

So... if you are NOT using these decoding strategies (which are proven through research to aide in reading with new readers!), I highly suggest you look into them for your students!

This is the set that I will be using this year.... and they are FREE :)

Feel free to use the posters, bookmarks, strategy sticks, or pick your favorites!

Just click on the picture below :)

Just remember...

DO NOT introduce all of the strategies at the same time.  It's overwhelming, and you will probably find that your students will struggle with remembering them while reading!

DO introduce them 1-2 at a time and really allowing time for your students to focus on them while using them with text.

It really helps when students are reading and come to an unknown word and I can simply say "Eagle Eye" and students will understand the strategy, implement the strategy, and successful read the word!

Just give it time.... you will see a difference!

Happy Teaching :)

Jessica Travis
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