One of the most important things for an emergent reader to learn is to check that what they read makes sense, looks right, and sounds right. This is called self-monitoring. Often the teacher does the monitoring for the student, but it is critical that students learn to check themselves.
One of the first ways that students begin to self-monitor is matching a finger up to words. When they don’t find enough words or they see too many, you may notice them going back and rereading to match the book’s words to their own. That is self-monitoring, and it’s important to praise this behavior. Try saying I like the way you went back to make that match! or something similar.
To be able to self-monitor, a student needs some footholds in the text. They don’t need to know every word, but it is very important that they begin to learn some. Children often learn to recognize their name early in their reading. That’s why I like to use level A and B BookBuilder Online stories, which can be personalized to include familiar names. A student’s name can provide that necessary foothold in print.
Students also need to use the first letter of a word. They can cross-check the letter sound with the image on the page. Is that picture a pony or a horse? It starts with a p-p-p sound, so the word must be pony!
I have lots of fun spending time with my four-and-a-half-year-old grandson Jaxson, who is in the very earliest stages of learning to read. His mother asked me, “Isn’t he just memorizing the stories?” Yes, a lot of Jaxson’s reading is memorized, but along the way he’s beginning to learn things about print. By arranging opportunities, he learns more each time we read together. Take a look at this video where he reads one of Pioneer Valley Books’ titles, Dad Is at Work.
Jaxson has read quite a few stories with the word dad and I have encouraged him to make dad (using a model) with magnetic letters several times. After reading the book, we wrote a short story about his dad on a sentence strip. Jaxson wrote most of the first letters in each word. His story is My dad is a dad. (A bit of behind-the-scenes trivia: Jaxson’s dad is my son Nick, who appears in many of classic Pioneer Valley Books stories such as The Pie and The Little Cousins Visit. Nick created the BookBuilder program and currently acts as the company’s IT Manager in addition to his all-important role as Dad!)
After writing the story on the sentence strip, I cut it up and had Jaxson put it back together. In the video, watch Jaxson read the book to Papa and then put the cut-up sentence together again. See how Jaxson uses the word dad to self-monitor.
As you work with emergent readers, consider how you might create opportunities for students to learn to self-monitor. Here are a few ideas:
1. Teach students a few very useful sight words they can use as footholds in the print. Make sure to use books where they will see those words again and again.
2. Encourage students to cross-check the initial sound with the picture. How did you know it says pony and not horse?
3. Praise students for noticing when something isn’t right, not just for getting it right!
Thanks for reading another one of my teaching tips!