My Kindergartners loved learning and using big words. One that we used a lot was the word strategies! I think it is important to help children think about their own thinking, when I wanted them to tell me how they came up with an idea I asked them to tell me their strategy. I used the term every day when we did a story problem about our lunch count – one child would tell the story problem: “On Wednesday 5 people are buying grilled cheese sandwiches and 3 people are buying chicken nuggets. How many people are buying lunch all together?” Another child would volunteer – “8,” then I would ask “What strategy did you use to figure that out?” They might answer “I kept the 5 in my head and counted 3 more.”
We talked about math strategies and problem solving strategies, we used strategies in science when we investigated and did experiments. I loved it when someone raised their hand to tell me that they were using a strategy! We learned lots of strategies for reading and writing too! In the second half of the year almost all the children were confident with letters and sounds, they recognized quite a few sight words, understood rhymes and word families, and were able to segment and blend letter sounds. Then I wanted to give them more concrete tools for reading. We had been using and talking about most of these reading strategies through the year, but I wanted to find a way to help them remember and use these strategies while they were reading. So of course I had to use a puppet!
This is Grace Mulligan. I loved this Folkmanis puppet because you can put your hands into her arms, the hands fit like gloves, so you can hold things and gesture really easily. I also own her brother (Calvin) who came to visit when we were learning a new sight word.
This is Grace Mulligan’s purse. It is just a child’s purse that I bought at Walmart. I usually shop for stuff like this at dollar stores and discount stores, but you can get great props for puppets at Build-A-Bear too!
I am not good at using special, unique voices for my puppets – all my girls sounded very much the same, but that never seemed to bother my kids. When Grace Mulligan came to visit she told the children that she LOVED reading, and that she heard they were great readers too! She was going to share some reading strategies to help them and she had one of her reading strategies right in her purse! She would ask if they wanted to see it, and of course they all said they did.
She would pull out a pair of child sized sunglasses and put them on. Then she would tell the children that these glasses helped her remember to LOOK AT THE PICTURE! She asked the class if they knew why it was important to look at the picture in a book, and kids would volunteer that looking at the picture might help them figure out the words.
The next day Grace Mulligan would visit again, she would pull out the glasses and ask the children if they remembered the strategy she had talked about the day before. The glasses helped the children remember the strategy to Look at the picture. Then she shared another strategy.
She would pull out a real lipstick and without opening the lipstick case, she’d rub it on her mouth to GET HER MOUTH READY. She would remind the children that the first letter gave them important information about a word, and they could get their mouth ready to read by using their mouth to form the first sound. We would practice with something that happened to be in the pocket chart – getting our mouth ready and emphasizing the beginning sound of each word.
The next day Grace Mulligan would show the glasses and lipstick, and review the strategies. Then she pulled a slinky out of her purse.
You could easily use a rubber band, too. Grace Mulligan used the slinky to talk about stretching out the sounds, as she pulled on the slinky to stretch it out.
The next tool that Grace Mulligan brought was a jump rope. I took a child’s jumprope and cut it short, then retied the ends under the handles, so it would fit more easily into her purse.
I liked introducing these strategies one at a time because it gave us lots of time to practice and review all the strategies. We had already been talking about these techniques but the toys Grace Mulligan brought really helped them remember. The jumprope was a reminder to skip over (or jump over) a word that they couldn’t figure out, and read the rest of the sentence. We talked about how you would try different strategies, like looking at the picture, getting your mouth ready, and stretching out the sounds; but if you couldn’t figure the word out you could skip over it and read the rest of the sentence to try to figure it out.
I took a few liberties with the next strategy.
Grace Mulligan pulled out a bunch of pennies to talk about how the sentence needs to make “cents.” I was looking for a concrete way to remind kids of this important strategy – and it was the best I could do! And you know what – it worked! When the children saw the pennies they knew that the sentence needs to make sense.
The last strategy that Grace Mulligan talked about was “Catching the pattern.”
I found this little catcher’s mitt at a dollar store – along with other accessories for a bear they sold. We had been noticing patterns in books since the beginning of the year, and this mitt reminded them to catch the pattern, if there was one in a book.
We made a book to remind the children about these strategies, and also to help parents know how to prompt their children and help them at home. I chose to wait until after Grace Mulligan came and introduced all the strategies to make the book, it was another chance to go over each one and review it. As I said, the children had been exposed to all these ideas through the year, but the toys that Grace brought matched the terms we were using, and really helped the children remember the strategies, and use them more often – and they made it fun!
Here is the book we made, we did one page a day.
The children added the sunglasses to this page, and colored it. We practiced pretending we didn’t know the word cat, and looking at the picture to figure it out.
The children glued on the lipstick, we really exaggerated W-w-w-will y-y-y-you p-p-p-play w-w-w-with m-m-me?
Again we exaggerated the sounds: p-o-p-s-i-k-l.
I just realized that this page would not work for anyone who isn’t teaching in Michigan! I was trying to write a simple sentence with one word that would be hard for the children to figure out. The kids glued on the jump rope and we read the page by skipping over the word Michigan.
Then we uncovered the word and tried it out to see if the word Michigan fit.
I tried to show the kind of mistake a child might make in reading, and how they could tell it was wrong because it doesn’t make sense.
And on this page the children “caught the pattern,” and glued on the catcher’s mitt.
I tried to find lots of opportunities to practice these strategies in all the reading we were doing in class too – pocket charts, read alouds, etc. I would talk about my own thinking and tell them I was using a strategy.
After we had learned all these strategies I posted this reminder.
Here is a copy you can print.
If you would like to download this book here is a link:
I put 2 of the same book page on each paper so I could copy and collate them on our xerox machine, then I just had to cut the books in half and staple them for the kids.
I also made a whole sheet of each of Grace Mulligan’s tools so I could just cut them apart for the children to glue on each day. If you chose to do the entire book in one day you might use the link above that had all the tools on one page.
Here is another chart that I found online somewhere – I am so sorry I can’t give credit for it to the author, but this helped me when I was trying to decide how to present these strategies to my class:
There is also a really helpful and fun post that I found online that uses Beanie Babies to teach reading strategies. I found it by searching for emergent reading strategies about 5 years ago. It was written by a 1st grade teacher who used a different Beanie Baby animal to represent each strategy – his strategies were a little different for his 1st graders. Some of the 1st grade teachers in my building adapted this and used a different puppet for each strategy, and that worked great too!