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Yes, I’m a third grade teacher. Yes, I listen to children reading all day long – and I love it! Teaching reading is my favorite part of the whole school day. I sit down one-on-one with each of my students and listen to the reading adventure they are taking that day. I coach them with new strategies to help them become even better readers. The growth they make from the beginning of the year to the end of the year is amazing! Knowing that I helped them make those strides is what makes me love my job. So why did I hate reading with my own kindergartener?
Every night we have the same routine. The kids get baths, brush teeth, and read with me in their rooms before bed. We always had a great time reading stories together. J would sit on my lap, and we would bouncy, bouncy, bounce from one lily pad to the next with Come Along, Daisy! I would put on my furry blue mitts and make him laugh like crazy as we read Tickle Monster. Then, one night it all changed.
J brought home a book from school (Danny and the Dinosaur, which I love by the way). He was supposed to practice reading it to me. Up until this point, we had worked on letter sounds and sight words. He would fill in the sight words for me as we read books together, but this was the first book he was reading by himself. We sat on the end of the bed like we always did. He opened the book and started, “One d – ah – yuh, dahyuh D – ah – n -n -yuh wh -e -n -t to the m – uh – s – eh – uh – m.”
My teacher voice kicked in, “Does that make sense?” He looked at me like I was crazy. We went back and fixed up that sentence and worked on the next one. J was getting frustrated with me for correcting him. I was getting frustrated because we had just spent 15 minutes on 14 words on one page of the book. There were still 63 more pages to go. Since we were both exhausted from the long day, we called it quits there for the night. I tucked him in, kissed him good-night, and left the room feeling like the worst mommy in the world. How could I help hundreds of third graders with their reading, but it was torture reading with my own child? That’s when I realized I had to approach the situation as a teacher, not as a mom.
The Changes I Made When Reading with My Kindergartener
I thought about what I do during reading conferences with my students. I listen first for one thing they can improve in their reading. Then, we choose one goal to focus on that will help them read even better. Maybe if I tried this with J it would help. I just wasn’t even sure where to start. There were so many things that needed work. How could I choose just one? I thought back to my days of student teaching in first grade and realized that I needed to start with very basic skills. I made a list of a few strategies I thought might work.
- Use picture clues – The next night before we even tried to read the words, we took a picture walk. I had J tell me everything he saw in the pictures and what he thought was happening. That way he had an idea of what the story would be about before he read any words. We also practiced looking at the picture for clues when he came to a word he didn’t know. For example, when we got to the word “elephants” he was able to look at the picture and read it.
- Flip the Sound – As I thought back to Danny and the Dinosaur, I realized that J was using the wrong vowel sound in a lot of his words. D – ah – yuh (day) could have been fixed just by using the long “a” sound instead of the short “a” sound. This strategy would also help with “museum.” When I teach my third graders this strategy, I move away from saying the words “flip the sound” to flipping my hand from palm-up to palm-down. When they are stuck on a word that doesn’t sound right, I make that motion, and they fix it. J is even starting to use this strategy independently. The other night we were reading a Scooby Doo book, and he came to the word “hoping.” At first he said “hopping,” but he realized it didn’t make sense. He flipped the sound and corrected it himself.
- Ask the Three Questions – When I was in college, the professors taught us three important questions good readers ask themselves. Does it look right? Does it sound right? Does it make sense? By third grade a large number of my students are already trained to ask themselves these questions. I’m starting to introduce them to J now so he will eventually be able to self-correct his reading. Sometimes he comes to a word, looks at the first letter, and guesses at the word. When he was reading Little Red Caboose, he said “Little Red Car” as the title because he saw the train car in the picture. I asked, “Does that look right?” He realized that the word was longer than car and tried to sound it out. “Does it sound right” would be used when he says the sounds, but they aren’t a real word. At this point, he will just keep reading. His next goal is to start asking himself these questions and self-correcting his own reading.
- Look to the experts – When I’m conferring with my students, I always use other resources to help me choose the best goal for my them. The Daily Five Cafe Menu is what I’ve used in years past to help students set personal goals. This summer I’ve been reading The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo, and it has some other awesome strategies for readers of all ages. Every strategy tells exactly what reading level it’s appropriate for and how to model it for the child. The book begins with strategies for emergent readers and goes all the way through fifth grade (and possibly beyond that). It is an awesome resource! I’ve already used it with J, and I can’t wait to use it in my classroom this year.
Now when I sit on the edge of J’s bed at night, I look forward to listening to how much he’s improved as a reader. I can’t wait to show him new strategies to get even better. He’s enjoying reading and will enter first grade armed with some new reading strategies to help him succeed.