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Teaching Tip: Self-Monitoring Using Known Words

Self-Monitoring Using Known Words

Michele Dufresne

Each of my four tips this month has focused on helping children who are at the beginning stages of reading and writing begin to develop a repertoire of words they know. Hopefully your students are starting to develop a core of words they recognize in books and can write in stories. 

Having a few useful words you immediately recognize can be your first step to strategic activity. It is important that students learn to check on the accuracy of their reading. We call this self-monitoring. For beginning readers, having a few words in their books that they know well can help them know whether or not they are reading correctly. They might not know all the words, but if their finger is under the word they know and they are saying that word, they will gain confidence that they are on track and reading correctly. Marie Clay calls these known words “islands of certainty.”

To encourage self-monitoring in the early stages using known words:

1. Select books that have one or more words the student knows well, along with some new challenges.

2. Ask the student to point to each word as he or she reads and make sure that when he or she says the word that he or she is also seeing the word on the page.

3. If the student stops or hesitates, ask, “Why did you stop?” or “What did you notice?”

4. After the student reads, cover up the known word and ask, “What would you expect to see at the beginning of this word?” Uncover it and ask, “Were you right?”

5. After the student reads a sentence, ask, “Did it look right and make sense?” or “Were you right? How do you know?” With these questions, your goal is to send the message that students should be thinking about whether their reading was accurate.

Michèle Dufresne is author of many Pioneer Valley Books  early readers (including the Bella and Rosie series), Word Solvers (Heinemann), and an early literacy and literacy intervention consultant.

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