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Reading Buddy Tip – Learning a New Word

Learning and Retaining New Words with the Whiteboard & Piggy Bank

A shared concern of many Reading Buddies is when their student misreads the same word on multiple occasions, sometimes even on the next page. For these new or challenging words students may need a lot of repetition with a word before retaining it in their long-term memory. Your best tool for this situation is the whiteboard. Use the whiteboard during your session to give students a chance to read the word, say it, write it, and think of a sentence using the word. Below is a systematic way you can use the whiteboard to give your student lots of practice manipulating a new word to better retain it for future use.

Steps for Learning a New Word:

  1. Write the word on the whiteboard as the student watches
  2. Hide the board and erase a letter. Ask: “what’s missing?” and have the student write in the missing letter. Repeat erasing more letters each time, until the whole world is erased.
  3. Have the student spell it for you as you re-write it.
  4. Have the student trace the word on the table (or in the air) with their finger.
  5. Have the student say the word as they write it on the whiteboard.
  6. Erase the word. Dictate a different familiar word for them to write.
  7. Dictate the new word again to see if they can retrieve the word.

Adapted from: Jan Richardson’s The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading

Once you have practiced a word with your student during a session you can write it in a Piggy Bank to review in subsequent sessions until they have mastered the word (again students need multiple encounters with words before successfully retaining them). Copies of the Piggy Bank can be found in the brightly colored folders behind your student folders in the trunk. Try reviewing the word each week and place a check mark each time the student can read/write the word without assistance. Once they have three check marks next to the word you can consider it mastered.

You want to limit the number of words you practice at a given time to between 5-10 words. More words than that may result in your student becoming confused or frustrated. When choosing words to practice, think about which words are more frequently occurring. For example, if your student missed the word “giraffe” but was also struggling with “who” you would want to review “who” because they are likely to need that in reading many different books.

Mary Flannigan

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