Hooray! Your students are reading sentences. It’s taken a lot of hard work, patience, and some really clever reading strategies to help your students get this far. But, what do you do when the strategies don’t work? Telling students the unknown word is NOT the answer. . . yet. It’s time for the Skippy Frog decoding strategy! The Skippy Frog decoding strategy is the perfect way to keep your students from hitting that reading wall and giving up when they come across a word they don’t know. I am so excited to share how I use the Skippy Frog decoding strategy with my students.
What Is The Skippy Frog Decoding Strategy?
The Skippy Frog decoding strategy is the perfect way to keep your kiddos from feeling frustrated and giving up when they come across a word in a sentence they just don’t know. While we want them to remember and try the other strategies first, sometimes they just can’t figure out the unknown word. That’s when it is important for them to “skip” over the word and just keep reading the sentence. That’s exactly what Skippy Frog is all about.
Nope, we aren’t teaching them to just skip words any time they don’t know a word. That wouldn’t help with comprehension at all. Instead we teach students to skip a word and read the rest of the sentence and then come back to the word. It’s that last part that is really important.
Skipping over the unfamiliar word will give students the opportunity to read on to find more context clues within the sentence. It’s not giving up or being “lazy”, it’s teaching your students that it’s okay to look beyond the word they don’t know to find clues to help them decode and read the word. Once they have read the entire sentence, they can then bounce back to the unfamiliar word and try it again. This time they have more context and can make an educated guess as to what the word might by. Students take their guess and then check to see if it lines up with the letters in the unknown word.
I choose to wait until I have introduced all of the other reading strategies like Eagle Eye, Chunky Monkey, Stretchy Snake, and Lips The Fish before introducing Skippy Frog. I encourage my students to try out the other strategies first when they come to an unfamiliar word in a sentence, THEN try Skippy Frog.
If the other strategies don’t work for this work then Skippy Frog comes to the rescue. Sometimes, even then students can’t figure out the word. Then it’s okay to tell them the word. But I never tell a word without using it as an opportunity to model at least one of the decoding strategies. This modeling part is what helps students learn to apply these strategies on their own.
TEACHER TIP: It’s also a good idea to teach these strategies to the parents of your students. This way as they read with their child at home they can support the reading strategies they are learning. Many parents might not understand why a child with skip a word and this can often lead to confusion or frustration when reading at home.
Skippy Frog Introduction
Start with Engagement
I begin introducing the Skippy Frog decoding strategy with a question. I ask my students, “Can you show me how a frog moves?” Of course, they all start hopping around the room, giggling and smiling from ear to ear.
When I finally get them settled, I ask them what it’s called when a from moves like that. Everyone shouts, “THEY HOP!” We spend a little time talking about how hopping allows a frog skips over land or water.
We do a quick review of our other reading strategies and then talk about a very real scenario. I explain that even when they use all their reading strategies, they still might not know a word. That’s when I connect the idea of hopping to reading. I explain that after trying everything else, they can hop over an unknown word. You better believe that I make a big deal out of the fact that we don’t just skip it forever. If we skipped every word we didn’t know we wouldn’t really understand the sentence.
Teaching Through Modeling
Next I explain and model the Skippy Frog strategy. I show my students how to try strategies and then skip over a word. Then after finishing the sentence we return to the word and try to figure it out. I will say the sentence again leaving a pause for the unknown word. Then as I pretend to think, I start to say some words that could fit into the sentence. As I say each word I use the sounds from the word to see if they match up with the letters. I will intentionally use some words that are wrong in order to demonstrate this. Here’s an example:
The excited girl sat on the white carousel horse.
As I read this sentence I will stop on the words ‘excited’ and ‘carousel.’ I will use the Lips the Fish and Stretchy Snake strategies to attempt to sound out the words unsuccessfully.
Next, I’ll use Eagle Eyes and ask the students what they see in the picture. This strategy will usually help us fill in the word ‘carousel.’ That leaves us with one remaining unknown word. After looking at the word and trying the Chunky Monkey strategy we will decide that we just can’t figure out this word.
That’s when I show them what it looks like to skip the word and read the rest of the sentence. To finish up I read the sentence pausing where the word excited is. Then I think and look at the picture and think some more. Finally I start giving ideas for words to describe the girl: happy, small, excited, nice, young. We start with the word ‘happy’ and see if we can make our knowledge of sounds match. No match. Then we move on to the word ‘small’ and again – no match.
But when we get to the word ‘excited’ we start to see the letters and sounds math. We celebrate that Skippy Frog helped us figure out the word.
Sum it Up!
I finish by telling my students that I want them to remember to hop like a frog and skip over unknown words if they need to when they are reading. We practice making the hopping motion with our fingers in the air a few times.
Skippy Frog Anchor Chart
After this, it is time to use what we learned to create the the Skippy Frog anchor chart. Since I have already taught and modeled the strategy I do some questioning and have the students do the explaining and teaching as we put this anchor chart together. We start with our happy frog front and center on the paper. Using a visual image to represent the strategy really helps students to remember what to do when they come to a tricky word.
Next, I read the Skippy Frog rhyme. The rhyme helps students to understand the strategy and remember it. Then we add the a little diagram of how to apply the strategy to our anchor chart. Finally, I end with having a couple of students explain the strategy just so I can check for understanding.
Now, it is time for some group practice. We begin by looking at some sentences with some words they aren’t familiar with. We use the laminated Skippy Frog sentence strips to reading and using the Skippy Frog strategy.
There are two sets of sentence strips for us to use with the anchor chart. One set has a blank space for a tricky word. I also have laminated and cut out word cards for students to choose from to complete the sentence. The other set includes the entire sentence for students to identify and decode the tricky word.
I like to start by introducing the word cards to the class. These are going to be words they aren’t familiar with yet, and that’s okay. I remind them that they will know the words soon, and that the Skippy Frog strategy will help them. After reading the words, we look at the sentences with the blank spaces.
I ask for student volunteers to help me find the correct missing word. They come up to the anchor chart and help me read the sentence. They use their fingers to point to each word. When we come to the missing word, we “skip” over it with our fingers and keep going. Next, we look at the word choices and see if any of the other words in the sentence can help us decide which word fits. It’s like solving a puzzle, and the kids really love figuring out the missing words.
More Guided Practice
I use the second set of sentence cards when my students are feeling a little more confident. We read the sentence together and skip over the tricky word with our fingers. Then we come back to the tricky word and see if we know it based on the context clues from the rest of the sentence.
We continue to practice this strategy until the students have an understanding of how to apply it on their own.
My students love completing this anchor chart as a class. We hang it up in the classroom with our other ready strategy charts for the duration of the year. Students will refer back to these strategies all.year.long as they are building their reading skills.
Skippy Frog Practice Pages
Once we have done some practice as a group, it’s time for some individual practice. These Skippy Frog practice pages are a great way for students to practice skipping a word, continuing on reading the sentence to find clues, and then skipping back to find the missing word.
With two worksheet choices, I can diferentiate or scaffold the learning for my students. One set of worksheets gives students word choices to cut and paste into the sentences. The other requires students to come up with their own words to finish the sentences.
These pages also get students writing by having students fill in the blanks in the sentences. This is a great way to reinforce the writing of sight words and letter formation.
Student Reading Tool
Next, I have my students make their own Skippy Frog hand tool. These hand tools are so great for students. They help remind them to skip over a word they don’t know.
My students love cutting out their won Skippy Frog pointer to use as they are reading. Students keep these Skippy Frog hand tools in their book boxes to use as one of their reading strategy tools throughout the rest of the school year.
Students practice their new strategy by choosing a reading book and using their Skippy Frog hand tool to help them read through the book. I remind them to skip over words they don’t know and continue reading the sentence. Then they come back to the word to see if the rest of the sentence helped them figure out the word they didn’t know.
Skippy Frog Center Games
Once the students have had some fun using their Skippy Frog hand tools to read some of their favorite books, it’s time for Skippy Frog clip cards and matching cards. These activities are perfect for centers and a great way for students to practice this strategy.
These activities are easy to prep and store. I put these activities together using a small pencil box or zip-loc bag. Inside the pencil boxes, I put the cards, and a few clothespins. It’s easy to add to center stations or for students to grab and take to their desks for independent practice.
Each clip card includes a picture clue, a sentence stem, and three possible words to finish the sentence. Students will read the sentence, use the picture clue and find the missing word. When they are done they will put a clothes pin on the right word. A great and easy way to connect reading with some fine motor practice!
Each card in the matching set includes a sentence with a missing word. Students then look at the picture cards with a word and match the picture/word card to the correct sentence.
Review Craft Activity
We finish up our fun week with a Skippy Frog craft activity. The students love crafts and this is a great way to get them excited about a review. They are excited to know they can read some really tricky words with the help of the Skippy Frog decoding strategy.
Students will use our leveled readers and the Skippy Frog hand tool to read sentences and find words they don’t know. When they find one, they use the Skippy Frog strategy to help them figure out the word.
Then they add the word and a drawing to their craft activity. The students are so proud to show all the “big words” they can read.
I hang these up in my classroom or send them home with students to share with their families.
Grab Your Anchor Chart & Activities Set
You can grab the Skippy Frog Decoding Strategy Anchor Chart And Activities in the Emily Education store. With these intentional activities your students will be using their new reading strategy in no time!
If you are loving Skippy Frog and the other reading strategies, then grab them all in this Reading Strategy Bundle. You’ll have everything you need to teach your emergent readers how to read!
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