by: Arnold Entz


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We often conceptualize reading as one smooth entity which we somehow just learned as we grew up. As teachers we quickly realize that reading is much more complex when we are forced to describe how we learned to read or when asked to teach others how to read. How does one go about teaching someone to read? Can we narrow reading down into separate parts which we can focus on when teaching reading to children who are just beginning. Are there specific skills we can teach novel readers to help them become great readers?
In this wiki, I want to look at what we mean by emergent readers and what are some strategies that we can help these emergent readers become efficient, voracious readers for life.

Emergent Reading Stage

When students are just learning to read during the early grades, (K -3) they are referred to as emergent readers. It is at this time that students start working with many of the various components that will be necessary for them to read and comprehend the text.
"The Emergent stage is a time when students mimic good readers as they experiment with the forms and functions of print. Emergent readers are busy learning about the foundational elements of literacy, such as directionality, the distinctive features of print, concept of word/spacing, and how all of these properties correlate with oral language to produce meaning" -Connie Juel, Stanford University.

Emergent readers:
  • understand print carries message
  • display directional movement: left to right, top to bottom, return sweep
  • match voice to print with one-to-one matching by finger pointing
  • locate some known words and unknown words
  • use picture clues to help tell the story and to help decode unknown words
  • recognize the difference between a letter and a word
  • may invent text, using the pictures or tell the story from memory
  • begin to use pattern and repetition of text to read
  • use oral language/story structure to make connection to print
  • use some letter sounds (beginning/ending)
  • begin to use known, high frequency words to monitor reading

Excerpt from


Good readers use various skills to assist them in reading fluently, quickly, accurately, meaningfully, and to comprehend what they are reading. To help emergent readers become great readers, it is helpful to provide them with the same set of skills which good readers use often without even thinking about it. To teach these strategies it is important to realize that reading can be broken down into various sub skills which can then be focused on individually. The strategies posted below attempt to provide assistance in these various sub skills.

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Picture Context Clues

Picture clues are one of the earliest methods that emerging readers use to create meaning within a text. They are helpful because young readers in kindergarten and early grade one do not know how to read words yet and use the pictures to help them.
1. The teacher gathers the students around in a group on the carpet for reading time. It is best to select a book that has great pictures and not too many words to go with the picture.
2. Before opening the book the teacher asks the students to look at the book cover and tell her what they see. The teacher asks questions about the pictures on the book and relates them to the children's personal lives by asking what they know about the pictures or the people in the picture.
3.The teacher then does a 'picture walk' through the book and has the students comment on what they see in the pictures on each page, what is happening, and what might happen next.
4. After the second time through, the teacher would then read the words or the story and discuss with the students how their interpretation of the picture matches up to the real story.
-Using picture clues helps the students form a general meaning, but as they get older they become better readers, they depend less on the pictures and more on the words for an accurate understanding of texts.


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One of the skills that great readers use, and which is important for emergent readers to engage in as well, is predicting.
1. As teachers, we want to encourage young readers to make predictions before and during the reading process. These predictions are based on previous knowledge about a subject and their experiences with other texts. The teacher models how to make predictions during a group reading so that students can see and hear what it is like.
2. By using the title of the book, and the pictures if they are available, students can begin to predict what the story will be about. The teacher encourages students to ask questions like: Based on what I know about this subject, I think think this book will be about......Based on the title and the picture, this story might involve.......I predict that this story will include......
3. During the reading process, as well, students make predictions based on what has happened already. Because I know this character has acted like this, I predict that he will do this.... I think the next part of the story will be.....From what I know, I would predict that.....

Word Recognition

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In order to read quicker and with more fluency, readers can not try sound out all the words but must be able to recognize them as they are. Only about a third of the English language can be sounded out according to the rules so it is essential for students to learn the skill of recognizing words at a glance.
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Flash Cards - One way for students to recognize words by sight is to have them work with flashcards.
1. To keep the activity meaningful, words are selected from texts which students are currently reading or discussing.
2. Explain to the students that this activity will make them recognize words quicker and become better readers.
3. Students pair up and one says the word when the other student 'flashes' it.
4. Students may take the words home to practice with their parents and/or siblings as well.
- To add extra motivation, a scoring chart may be made so that the child can record his/her improvement. Also to add engagement, the teacher can have the student select from a preselected word bank which words he/she wants to work on.
(Judy Willis, p 52-53)

Book rereads - In order to become better at recognizing words, students must be exposed to the same text repeatedly. The exercise is not to memorize but to recognize.
1. The teacher gives the students a bag in which there are various books at their reading level.
2. For the next few days when it is silent reading time, students read only these books, rereading them when they have rotated through all of them.
3. After a certain period the teacher switches up the books with a new set and the process is repeated.

Colour coding - A very engaging way for students to learn to to recognize sight words is to color code them. Once again to make this meaningful, students must understand that these words are from texts or part of their everyday speech.
1. An example of this may be to color code the days of the week, or the months of the year.
2. On the calendar, every day has its separate color.
3. When the teacher writes or uses the word 'Sunday' or other days within a text, it is the same color as on the calender.

Student Partner Reading

external image Partner+reading+001.jpgI read/You read - A great method for helping emergent readers is to have them read in partners.
1. For this exercise two students in the class get together and read. If their reading level is different, they will read books at the at the lowest reading level.
2.The student with the highest level goes first and reads a page or two.
3.The other student then rereads what the first student has just read.
- Weaker readers who do not know certain words are helped by listening to their partner and and imitate their reading. Stronger students may get extra motivation in showing the other students their reading ability.

Comprehension Check
1. One student holds a card that says "check for comprehension" while the other student reads.
2. When the reader has finished one page, the person with the card asks his/her partner two questions. Who is this story about? What is this story about?
4.The reader responds and then asks the cardholder "Did I summarize that correctly?". If yes, they are ready to move on. If no, the cardholder explains what needs to be added or fixed.
4. For the next page, the card holder hands the card to the reader and this time it is his/her turn to read and the other student asks the question. This continues throughout the whole book.

Phonological Activities

In order for emergent readers to become great readers, they have to become efficient at sounding out the words. Focusing on phonics will help students read more fluently and quickly.

Blending Sounds
1. The teacher gives the students an elastic band or another type of stretchy band.
2. The teacher writes a few CVC words on the board for the students to see.
3. As the students sound out each letter, they stretch the band for each one.
4. When all the sounds have been said, the students release the tension on the band by bringing together their hands.At the same time the students say the full word, blending all the sounds together.
(Boushey, Gail. Moser, Joan. The CAFE p.173)

Flip the Sound
1. When student says a word incorrectly, the teacher points out which sound in the word was incorrect.
2. The teacher says " I will try flipping that sound" and incorporates a motion where she turns her hand from palms-up to palms-down and says the new sound. For example, if student said the short e sound, the teacher would say the long e sound.
3. The next time the student makes a mistake with the sound of a word, it is his/her turn to try flipping the sound and see if the word makes sense with the new sound.
(Boushey, Gail. Moser, Joan. The CAFE p. 174 )

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1. The teacher picks out a books with nursery rhymes or other easy rhymes and explains to the student what rhyming means.
2. The teacher reads out loud the first line and then keeps reading till she comes to a word in the the text that rhymes and pauses
3. The student calls out the rhyming word.
4. Students may also read aloud to themselves or take turns reading and calling out rhyming words with their peers.

Strategies' link to Alberta POS

Division 1
SLO 2.2 Use Strategies and Clues
SLO 2.3 Respond to Text
SLO 2.4 Understand Forms, Elements, and Techniques
SLO 4.2 Attend to Conventions (specifically the phonological activities)
SLO 5.1 Respect Others and Strengthen Community
SLO 5.1 Work within a Group

Resources for Teaching Reading

Boushey, Gail. Moser, Joan. The Cafe Book: Engaging all Students in Daily Literacy Assessment & Instruction. Portland: Stenhouse, 2009.
Boushey, Gail, Moser, Joan. The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independance in the Elementary Grades. Portland, Stenhouse, 2006.
Willis, Judy. Teaching the Brain to READ: Strategies for Improving Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2008.