In order to decode students need to practice and get good at breaking unknown words into smaller chunks. When I listen to my class read, I keep paper or sticky notes close by. I use them to jot down notes on what I am seeing as students read. I am looking for reading miscues. During one of our history lessons I was able to observe and listen to how my students were decoding. I noticed that six of them were not using chunking to help them figure out words. This was enough for me to have them as a small group to help them practice the strategy.
To begin I need them all to have their "just right" book to read from. When students read from their book they can immediately find success in decoding of the text that is most relevant to them. I give them each two sticky notes and explain the rules for what they are going to do as they read. I like introducing the steps as rules, like a game, it makes the task sound way more fun.
First, they are going to read from their book and I will give them time to do this. As they are reading I want them to write down two tricky words that they immediately notice is going to require some work to read. One word needs to be written on each sticky note. I ask for two because in the amount of time I give some can easily find two, but another student might only find one. It really depends on the text. Asking for two words will usually give us enough to practice with as a group.
They are now ready to read and record.
In about five minutes or when you notice most of the group has at least one or two words you can ask for their attention. I ask them to get their sticky note ready and explain that the next fun part of this game is to figure out their word. I then ask the group how we might be able to figure this out. the first response is sounding it out, so I model with a word that is large, like practically, and ask if using only our sounds separately will help us quickly. I use the word quickly and explain that sounds are a good start, but with large words might not be the quickest or easiest.
As soon as I get the statement out, one of my students is all over it. She asks if it would be faster to use chunks. Instead of just confirming what she says, I ask for feedback from the group. They agree with her that this might be easiest. Mow that they have chosen what we are going to do (wink,wink) I ask if we should get to work trying to figure out these words. So ask one student to use a white board and write their word. I highly recommend to use colored Expo markers. It makes separating words into chunks easier to see and more fun.
I have the student write their word on the white board and then ask them to stand back, like art, and look hard trying to find any pieces, blends, or smaller words that we can separate the word into. If needed the group can help, but usually standing back helps a lot and they get right to work. Once separated the group works on using the created chunks to help figure out the word.
The last piece I ask of them is that once we have figured out the word, they find the word again in their reading. They then read the sentence that contained the word to the group and we determine if it makes sense and sounds right. If it does we give a silent double clap and move to the next word.
It is now important to follow up and check in with how well they are practicing and using the strategy. You can not just go on the student's word so you need a product. I give each student about five sticky notes to use to track the words they successfully decoded using chunking. I ask that each student write the word they decoded and the page number that it was on. This way when I check in with each student I can choose a couple of the words and ask them to "show off" what they did.