This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6. This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016 and continue through the school year.
One common thing I see with intermediate readers is the ability to read and decode words without knowing what they mean. I want readers to begin to have lots of strategies for figuring out the meaning of words they don't know so often, after some conferring on the topic of words in context, kids go off and track their thinking about unfamiliar words. In this conference, a student is sharing the words she did not know when she first got to them in her reading. Then she tried the strategies she knows and we chatted. On the sticky notes, she took her best guess at what the word meant after trying some things.
Our conference around these sticky notes were to find patterns in her strategies--what works some of the time? She discovered that sometimes, if you read on, the author gives you a clue about the meaning of the word. She also found that sometimes, there is a word that you know inside of a word (for example, trail was in trailing) and sometimes, the way the sentence is worded gives you a little clue.
The goal of this work is not to figure out all of the correct definitions of the words she didn't know. Instead it is to help her become aware of her process. I want her to recognize when she gets to an unfamiliar word. I want her to get into the habit of stopping and thinking instead of merely reading on. And I also want her to begin to own and practice some strategies that readers use when this happens. Of course we'll move on from there but these things must be in place for her to own this part of her reading life.
(Our new edition of Still Learning to Read was released in August! You can order it online at Stenhouse! You can follow the conversation using the hashtag #SLTRead.)