By this time in kindergarten, my readers have come so far! While they are, of course, each on their own journey as readers, I am seeing them choose and read books independently, talk about books with partners, ask deep and interesting questions, and solve difficult words in books! This is all wonderfully exciting, as I am sure you know.
Also at this time, I am expecting that my kids are beginning to become comfortable using a handful of different reading strategies to help them solve unknown words. We have worked hard on these lessons together at school, and the kids have seen me use them, practiced using them with my help, and used them independently. They even have an anchor chart that they keep in their reading bag to remind themselves of these strategies during reading workshop. You are welcome to download our Reading Strategies Student Anchor Chart here.
I tell you this only because I want to be clear that this homework assignment is not a way to begin to teach young children to use strategies. In fact, I only use this homework after the kids have lots of experience with them.
Ok, disclaimer over. I send an assignment home at the conclusion of our reading workshop unit “Readers Use Strategies to Figure Out Unknown Words.” I ask the kids (with parent help) to make their own strategies poster. It is something that they will ultimately keep at home, and hopefully use as a reference tool at home when they are reading. I want them to understand that they can do this reading work wherever they are, and that it is helpful to have a reminder near them in places that they read.
I ask the kids to make the poster (which does not have to be poster size – regular paper size is fine!) in their own way. They are to include the strategies we know and use at school, but they should put them on the poster in a way that is meaningful to them. So, some kids might simply write the strategies out. Some might create picture symbols, redraw the pictures we use at school, use magazine cut outs, or come up with something completely different. I also encourage them to include other strategies they may know that we have not yet worked with in class.
I love the variety that comes in! Kids really make them their own, and this means they are more likely to actually use the chart at home. My picture may not effectively remind them of what to do, but hopefully their picture will. For example, I teach the strategy “read through the word,” to encourage my kids to start at the beginning of a word and read through to the end. One of my students included this strategy on his poster, but he said “slide through the word” and used a picture of a slide. What a great way to help himself remember what may have been unclear previously!
Once the kids bring in their posters, I have them take time to share them with the class. My favorite way to do this is to hold a bit of an “opening.” I have six kids at a time spread throughout the room and stand with their posters. Then the other kids walk from poster to poster and have conversations. They may let the “creator” explain their work, or they may make guesses as to which strategy is which. This is great because the poster creator is there to answer questions and explain their thinking! I then rotate and have new groups of kids share their work.
Finally, I laminate the posters and send them home. My hope is that the focus and attention we give to them at school makes them valuable to the kids. In my heart I know many of them have their posters up in their rooms at home, ready to use as they read.
If you are interested in trying this with your kids, you are welcome to download the Reading Poster Homework here. The first page in the download includes the strategies that I use with my kids. The second page is the same assignment, but I left the strategies bullet points empty. This way you can write in the wording that you use with your students. I hope this is helpful!
How do you help your students really own how to use their reading strategies?