Reading Strategies!

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.

Class sign

If you would like to download this book here is a link:

Reading strategies cover

Reading Strategies Book

pictures of strategies

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:

one page

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!


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rosemary
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 21:19:56

    I love your reading strategies and other ideas you have posted. Your puppet is so cute. I’ve tried to find one like it, but the only ones I find have the big noses. Have you had your Mulligan puppet for a long time – it may be out of stock.
    Just wondering.
    Thanks again,


    • Rosemary
      Mar 02, 2011 @ 20:33:26

      Thanks for your response again and so quick. That is exactly what I needed to know (but when I saw the picture, it had a “handling” stick attached to the arm). So now I finally found one and ordered it. Of course I have to have exactly what you have on your blog. It is totally accurate for kinders.
      Thanks for all your help, and great ideas.


  2. dbsenk
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 21:38:05

    Thanks Rosemary. I didn’t know that they weren’t on the Folkmanis website any more, I have had them for quite a few years. I did find both the boy and girl on though. They may still be offered on other sites that have older Folkmanis stock. A friend of mine got a lot of good puppets on ebay too!


  3. Rosemary
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 07:26:25

    I’ll try to find it because your puppet is so cute and perfect for my classroom. I did see 2 larger girl and boy puppets – about 25″ tall, but thought they were too big. Just looking for the hand puppet. I’m working on it, but if you have an “item #” you could pass on that might help.


    • dbsenk
      Mar 02, 2011 @ 07:34:18

      I think you probably saw the ones I have, they are big – I put both of my hands into their arms and had them sit on my lap, they are probably about 25 inches tall. I love using them because you can do so much with your hands. They can scratch their head, raise one finger, point at people, and hold things. When I want to move their head – like to look into their backpack or purse, I put a finger into their mouth and pull their head down. They really are fun. They can also shake hands and give hugs!


  4. Rosemary
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 22:13:17

    One more thing – I did find out that both boy and girl puppets were discontinued last December. So now, you just have to search and try to find them. While I wait for mine to be delivered, I’ll be getting the other items and hopefully start to use it next week.
    Thanks again,


  5. Rosemary
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 16:17:48

    Hello again,
    I got news today that the order is placed has been canceled as they don’t have it. You own a very popular girl puppet.
    Two places I’ve emailed are looking for it, and I am hopeful. But don’t know if and when I will get one. Very disappointing as is was a wonderful idea you shared, and I know my kinders would really benefit from it. I’ll keep searching.


  6. tracie
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 21:17:25

    find a person who sews. someone who makes dolls could make wonderful puppets. one of a kind. the best loved.


    • Rosemary
      Oct 05, 2011 @ 14:36:15

      Hi Tracie, that was my next project, to find someone. But all of a sudden one of the places I had contacted said they had the one I wanted and they did send it. Perfect, now she is with me and working hard helping kinders with strategies. Love it!


  7. Shelley
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 09:24:24

    Just found your website last weekend. I implemented the a puppet this week called “Rachael” the ravenous reader with your ideas. I teach struggling kindergarteners and have tried many things but yours WORKS!!! i was so excited to see my children reduced their stress with reading and use the strategies! You are a blessing. Thank you so much for sharing.


  8. dbsenk
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 13:12:43

    Thank you so much for writing Shelley! You made my day! I hope you and your kids love your puppet as much as I did!


  9. mykahsmom13
    Oct 24, 2014 @ 04:45:34

    Reblogged this on Kindergarten with Ms. Erwin & Ms. Braham and commented:
    Parents, please read. There are some amazing reading strategies here that you can try at home. Especially for our SK (senior kindergarten) students since next year they’ll be in Grade 1 😊


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