This is the time of year where things should be “clicking” for my first graders, but I still have a few struggling with reading. They do ok with sight words and spelling tests, but when it is a new reading passage they have a very hard time reading it. They are not remembering their blends and digraphs that we work on in small groups/ individual conferences. What would you recommend?






Perhaps they still need some strengthening of other strategies in addition to the accuracy ones you are working on. Do they still need to work on using the pictures–do words and pictures match. Here’s a way I’ve used to try to connect making meaning and accuracy. (Note: may or may not be done on one day, depending on book and kids.)
We spend a lot of time on pre-reading. We spend more time looking deeply into the illustrations and having conversations about them than I might spend with most kiddos. I keep a white board handy, and after we discuss a couple of pages, I ask the kids to tell me what words they might expect to see in the text based on what we learned from the pictures. We make a list as we go through the book.
Then, as we get into the actual reading, they are more aware of looking for the words they listed–kind of becomes a game. We check them off as we find them, using tally marks if words are found more than once.
After we finish, we talk about words we should have included, or words that were synonyms or gave the same meaning as words we had listed.
As time allows, or on another day, we may pick a word or two from our list to discuss features (like the blends and digraphs you mentioned). We might talk about other words they know that have those same sounds in them.
You can certainly adapt my ideas to meet your needs, but I think the key concept here it to not rely only on one strategy, but to help the kids make connections with various strategies they’ve used, and how those strategies are always a part of reading.
Try it out, and let me know what you think.

Donna Slipher-Jones

I have found that the more time my students spend on reading to self the better they are at reading this time of year. I have taught first grade for many years and my classroom library is overflowing with books for beginning readers. Dr. Seuss books really give students practice to read and build fluency. They feel confident because they are reading such long books. Students need to have books that they want to read and not just passages and books that we need to use to check their rate and fluency and that are part of a curriculum.


You are so right–the more kids read books of choice, the stronger they become as readers. We just need to review and model strategies during mini-lesson and conferring time to help them be more successful during read to self.

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