Independent Reading: Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Project Core

This is the final post in the six part series on using AAC, Speak for Yourself, Project Core to promote emergent literacy. If you’re just joining in, you may want to start with the first post. 

The impetus for this series was a presentation by the Project Core team at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in January called Using Core Vocabulary In Emergent Literacy Instructional Routines.

This week, we’re talking about independent reading. Do you remember when we talked about independent writing and the goal was to have the children enjoy it and want to keep trying it because they feel successful? The goal with independent reading is really similar. However, there is one exciting and awesome exception…now they can apply the other emergent literacy skills you’ve been teaching them!

Here’s the Independent Reading Self-Evaluation form from the Project Core Implementation Resources:

What Are You Teaching With Independent Reading?

Little hands holding the Clara Cow Wraps Up Warm book from the piles.

When I think of independent reading, I picture our sustained silent reading (SSR) times in elementary school. Everyone is sitting silently with a book of his/her choosing. No talking allowed. That is NOT what independent reading looks like as an emergent literacy strategy. No one is expecting you to hand a child a copy of Harry Potter and watch as they sit and read it independently…not yet anyway!;-)

Here are some examples of things your child(ren) can be expected to learn as an  emergent independent reader.

To prepare to use this framework with a student, I gathered a collection of books that were appropriate for the age, interest, and attention span of my student. Choose some books that have repetition with variety. As a side note, all of these Project Core activities were done with the same little student. I wanted to have a consistent example throughout the posts. Plus she already loved books!

Learning to Predict Consistent Patterns

I excitedly entered the room and announced that we were having a “Reading Party!” Incidentally, if you want to do an activity that a child may be hesitant to try, adding the word “party” works wonders. It also works for adults. Think of all of the painting that gets done for free and silver jewelry and leggings that get sold under the guise of a “party.”

Anyway, I set two piles of books on the floor and let my four-year-old student go through them until she chose one. When she held it up, I said, “Great choice! Read it to me!” She looked at it and pointed to the word, “brown.” I said and modeled “brown.” Then I said, “You picked Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” She nodded and said, “Help read.” I read the first couple of pages, modeling “see” and “me.” On the third page, I stopped and looked at her expectantly after I said, “Yellow duck, yellow duck, what do you_____?” And she smiled and said “see.” I pointed to the word “see” in the book. Then I said, “I see a purple cat looking at _____.” I looked at her and she said, “me.” I pointed to the word “me” in the book.

As we went through the rest of the book, I’d point to those words on each page and she would say them. When the book was finished, I said, “You were reading words in that book!” And she beamed…and danced a little. She doesn’t know all of her letters. This little student didn’t sound out those words. She knew what to say when I pointed at the letter combination in a book.

Recognizing Combinations of Letters that “Match” (sight word recognition)…

She looked at the pile of books and excitedly picked up Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? She pointed to “brown” and nodded, then she said “brown” on her device. “YES!” I clapped. “It says ‘brown’ just like the Brown Bear book!” We read through part of it, until she closed it and said, “done.”

…And Also Have Meaning

When she looked at the choices, she pointed to the cow on the front of Clara Cow Wraps Up Warm and laughed. I said, “Oh my goodness, it’s a brown cow just like the Mr. Brown book!” She said, “moo” and handed it to me. In the book, Clara has a cold and all of her friends give her clothes to keep warm (all of the clothes have different textures which is engaging). She sneezes on almost every page. The author has the sneeze written very distinctively, as you can see in the picture.

A page from the Clara Cow Wraps Up Warm book showing the sneeze written with a combination of letter “Aaaaa-tishoo!”

The first few times I dramatically fake sneezed, I pointed to that combination of letters. As I was reading, she started pointing to them and saying “ah shoo!” I said, “You do the sneezes.” I stopped and pointed to the letters on each page, and she would pretend to sneeze. She’s learning that letter combinations have meanings.

Little index finger touching the “more” button of Speak for Yourself. The iPad mini is resting on the “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” book. The message window reads, “read more sticky sticky.’ She’s adding a final “more” to drive the point home. (She was referring to the “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” book.)

When you’re targeting independent reading, you’re teaching a child to enjoy books and giving them confidence that they will learn what those words say. You’re teaching them to pay attention to letters and the shape of words. They’re learning that they can look for ways to help read the book.

When you’re targeting independent reading, you are showing a child that she can cross the bridge from being a passive listener to an active reader. And you’re setting the larger, lifelong expectation for literacy.


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