In an effort to improve my students' reading and comprehension, I've been trying to teach them some strategies that I used in my grad school clinic.
One technique I use to help with their decoding is to help them find smaller words "hiding" in bigger words. For example, in the word "caterpillar," they can find the smaller words "cat" or "pill." I have several students who use the strategy independently. They run to my desk proudly during DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time to show me the hidden words that helped them read a big word. Last week, I taught the -ar sound, and we read a book called Barnyard Dance! (by Sandra Boynton, who is a favorite author/illustrator in our class). One of my students raised her hand and said, "Miss M, I see a small word in barnyard!" I encouraged her to share it with the class. She came to the front of the room. "If you cover the end of the word," she demonstrates with her hand, "it just spells b-a-r, bar. You know, like Sometimes your dad goes to the bar." It made me smile... but I imagine her dad wouldn't be so thrilled to hear that she shared his extracurricular activities with the class! (Note to parents: Your children will repeat EVERYTHING they hear you say at home. Trust me.)
I also teach them the Making Connections strategy to aid their comprehension. When they read a story, I ask them if it reminds them of another story (a text-to-text connection), something that happened to them (text-to-self connection), or something that happened in the world (text-to-world connection). They've gotten really good at finding these connections, and will often interupt me during a read-aloud to say, "Oooh! Junie B. Jones is putting on a play just like Tacky the Penguin did in that other book we read! That's a text-to-text!" While we were reading The Gingerbread Man, one of my dearies said to me, "Miss M! This book remembers me of when I made Christmas cookies with my mom!" Gotta love first graders. :)
It's these little everyday things that help me get through the big, bad things.