Tag Archives: Instructional Strategies

Crunch and Munch Words!

8 Oct
Crunch and Munch Words! | A word attack strategy for breaking apart words and decoding multi-syllable words. Includes reading strategy lesson ideas, graphic organizer, and free printables for the Crunch and Munch strategy.
Crunch and Munch Words! | A word attack strategy for breaking apart words and decoding multi-syllable words. Includes reading strategy lesson ideas, graphic organizer, and free printables for the Crunch and Munch strategy.

Do your students get stuck on multi-syllable words?

Do they tend to leave off word endings?

Do your students take the time to read through the WHOLE word?

“Crunch & Munch” is a great strategy for helping students decode challenging words, especially words with tricky prefixes and suffixes. I find that my younger students, who understand and use the basic decoding strategies (e.g., Beanie Baby strategies), transition to more challenging words and then get STUCK… again. They either give up or end up guessing using whatever few visual clues they can attend to quickly. Too often, the students are not visually monitoring and don’t take the time to read the words all the way through. For my older students, they know their decoding strategies too, but still get stuck on challenging content area vocabulary words, where you can’t just skip or plug in a similar word (I don’t blame them… some of those words are TOUGH!). “Crunch & Munch” is perfect for the students getting stuck, and even those who are NOT getting stuck but are just leaving off simple endings all. the. time. (i.e., -s, -ing, -ed, etc.). Those kids sometimes frustrate me because I know they’re capable of reading with accuracy, but this strategy helps them be more careful and helps them pay attention to all those silly endings. 🙂

What is the “Crunch & Munch” Decoding Strategy?

I can’t take credit for the idea behind “Crunch & Munch”! My wonderful and very creative colleague, Mrs. Jennifer Kam, came up with the idea of students munching words like a caterpillar eating a leaf. I absolutely loved the concept, and with her permission, decided to share my modified version with all of you!

“Crunch & Munch” is a strategy that basically breaks words down into their parts. Students can look at syllables and word chunks, or they can break it down even further and look at specific sounds and blends, like consonant clusters, beginning blends, and variant vowels. How you use introduce this strategy is up to you!

The idea is for students to not just read words in “one bite” but to slowly munch through each sound, blending the sounds together as they look at each word part. It helps them see the whole word and actually read the whole word. Leaving off endings can sometimes change the meaning of the whole sentence, and we want to break the habits of those students who do that. We also want to break the habits of those students who rely too heavily on a few visual cues and don’t cross-check their words! This strategy can be used as part of the monitoring process.

How Do Students Use “Crunch & Munch”?

To break down the words into parts, students can use sound boxes, such as the one below, or can just use their fingers to isolate sounds.

Here is an example of a challenge word that’s ready to be crunched and munched!

You can even start with the sound boxes and transition to the finger isolations when you see that students are able to break up words and blend the parts more easily. I call their pointer finger a “cover up finger,” and I emphasize how it’s a simple reading tool that’s always with them! Of course, I don’t want them using it for EVERY word… just the ones they get stuck on. It’s a perfect, “just-in-case” tool to whip out appropriately and as needed. 🙂

Although the strategy may slow them down at first, the goal is for students to train their eyes to read the word the WHOLE way through, for accuracy and to support their comprehension. With practice, the speed will pick up and the strategy will be part of the internal reading process that takes place in their heads. You’ll be able to tell when students can do this independently and naturally with their eyes, and at that point, the students don’t need to stop every time they get stuck, to write out the word or isolate sounds.

This “Crunch & Munch” strategy can be added to student “toolboxes” as they are exposed to new grade-level words throughout the year. Introduce it as a whole-group mini-lesson, or use it with your students in small groups. Of course, not all students will need this strategy, but it’s a great tool for them to add to their “toolboxes,” just in case.

Getting Started with “Crunch & Munch”!

When I first taught this to one of my 3rd grade Response to Intervention (RtI) decoding groups, I modeled it with Leo Lionni’s Fish Is Fish book!

I previewed and selected which words I wanted to model ahead of time and then showed them the decoding process of “Crunch & Munch” using a step-by-step think-aloud. I modeled stopping at each challenge word and breaking the word down into its parts, using my finger to isolate each chunk. For the first half of the book, I recorded all the words and word parts on my graphic organizer and just let the students actively listen and watch. For the second half of the book, we crunched and munched the challenging words together as a group! We recorded the remaining challenge words and their word parts on a shared graphic organizer (on chart paper using the same template), which they then used as a reference when they tried the strategy in pairs and independently. The “I Try… We Try… You Try!” model works great in getting the students started with this new strategy!

If you’re interested in using the Fish Is Fish book during the modeling stage, some of the words I selected for my remedial students were:

  • inseparable
  • triumphantly
  • discovered
  • argued
  • full-fledged
  • excitedly
  • extraordinary
  • mysteriously
  • impatiently
  • marvelous
  • feebly
  • weightless
  • luminous

To help introduce this strategy to your students, consider downloading the two-page freebie below. Your FREE download includes a Strategy Poster and a Graphic Organizer for students to use while breaking-up “Crunch & Munch” words into their respective word parts!

(Note: Make sure you have the most up-to-date version of Adobe and aren’t opening as a “Preview” on your Macs. A lot of readers have been having issues opening my files due to these issues!)

(Download your FREE two-page sample here or by clicking the images above!)

By the way… Do you like my caterpillar clipart? 🙂 It’s very simple and awkward looking, but represents my first attempt at clipart using Art Studio on my iPad! I’m hoping to do more of my own clipart in the future, but I need a little practice with the stylus pen first!


Looking for additional materials for teaching this strategy?

I took the concept one step farther and created a packet of supplemental materials to support instruction of this great word-attack strategy. I have posters, an instructional poem, and various other graphic organizers in this strategy pack available at my TpT store (View the thumbnail preview of all 32 pages here!)


Happy Teaching!

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Building-Up My Toolbox: Self-Monitoring Strategies

10 Oct

This year, I’m working with a challenging group of second and third-graders who are NOT consistently monitoring their reading and comprehension. Some fail to fix-up their meaning-changing miscues, others aren’t stopping to check for understanding, and many aren’t doing EITHER! I’ve been racking my brain to try and come up with different ways to get the students to notice (in their heads!) that something doesn’t sound right, look right, or make sense.

If only I could climb into their brains and turn on that magic switch!

Of course, I always teach an abundance of decoding and comprehension fix-up strategies, as well as the “Big Three” monitoring questions that students should ask themselves while reading, but it doesn’t guarantee that they’re monitoring their reading independently or consistently. A month ago, I noticed they needed another strategy to go with these monitoring questions and the strategies I’ve been trying… and I needed a few more tools in my toolbox!

A sample reference poster I use with my students!

(NOTE: This “Big Three” monitoring questions poster is displayed on the wall behind my teaching table and a copy is placed in their take-home folders. I also have bookmarks to reinforce self-checking for their take-home book-in-a-bags.)

Trying out new tools…

So far, I’ve introduced Click & Clunk, which is a great strategy using small cards to silently signal when they “click” and understand something, or hit a “clunk” and get stuck. However, in order to effectively use this strategy, students need to pay attention and ask themselves the “Big Three” throughout their reading… and not all of them are doing that yet. I’ve modeled, we’ve practiced. I’ve re-modeled, we’ve practiced. It’s still not “clicking.” Maybe in time it will, but when I do my weekly progress monitoring, so many of them are still reading with significant meaning-changing miscues (some of which I can’t believe they don’t notice!).

A presentation I use to teach Click & Clunk (with the cards!).

With the older reading students, I’ve used INSERT – a wonderful comprehension monitoring strategy from Read. Write. Think. Essentially, this strategy involves “inserting your thinking” by placing coded sticky notes or codes in the margins when what you read is: (1) something you already know, (2) something new, (3) something that changed your thinking, or (4) something that is confusing. You can also mark important facts and ideas. This is a great tool to use in conjunction with  Click & Clunk, but I don’t feel the second graders are quite ready to use complex codes and symbols to mark their understanding and thinking.

However, it did get me thinking…

The students love anything having to do with sticky notes, and the older students responded well to placing sticky notes in the margins and “marking up the text,” so… perhaps using sticky notes was my key to unlocking their thinking and monitoring skills! It’s tactile and the students actually have to stop and think to do it.

In an attempt to modify INSERT, I came up with “Show Me Your Thinking!” where I just gave students “happy face” and “sad face” stickies. They didn’t reflect on their knowledge and learning, but instead on their understanding of words, phrases, and pages… similar to Click & Clunk. Each student had to place a “happy face” next to the paragraph they understood (Click!), and a “sad face”  next to the ones they were confused by (Clunk!). This worked even better for the Reading A-Z books that we printed since they could write in the margins and circle/underline their confusions!

Taking it one step further…

Another intervention I later implemented involved a four-step process: (1)  reading to a stopping point (2) recalling text read (3) reflecting on understanding of text, and (4) summarizing understanding of the section. This intervention was an extension to Linda Hoyt’s strategy “I Remember” (Revisit, Reflect, Retell, 2009).

Students in my groups learned Hoyt’s strategy of “I Remember” earlier in the year for practice with story recall and retell. With this strategy, students created stopping points to think back and recall information they just read, and used specific sentence starters to retell what they read. The strategy supports comprehension and reinforces self-monitoring but I added a layer to dig deeper into the process of monitoring our comprehension. For the next step in the process, I asked students to apply the “I Remember” strategy, but to also reflect on their understanding and put it into words. Students were asked to share what they remembered reading and understanding (clicks!) and what they remembered getting stuck on (clunks!). This took the “Show Me Your Thinking!” strategy one step further, as students were asked to put their understanding and confusions into their own words to summarize their thinking. Their “I Remembers…” were recorded on sticky notes or shared with thinking partners. Using Hoyt’s strategy as inspiration, I wrote the following sentence stems on craft sticks for the students to use:

So far, the combination of all three strategies has been working wonders! We’ve been practicing monitoring our comprehension for over 4 weeks now, and I am impressed with the progress that is being made. The students are better able to identify exact points of confusion and exact points of understanding, though some of the second-graders still need significant guidance. The tactile piece of sticky notes or recording in the margins seems more interactive with the text than flipping a Click/Clunk card, and the students seem more engaged. We still use the Click & Clunk cards to indicate when they are stuck on decoding a word, but I have them use “Show Me Your Thinking!” for their comprehension.

What’s next…

My next goal is to build independence with this strategy and have the students internalize the thinking process involved. I eventually want to take away the popsicle sticks and the sticky notes to make the process more automatic. I also would like to see the students bridge this strategy to the classroom and other content-area work. Ambitious for one year? Perhaps… but eventually we’ll get there!

What tools do YOU use for teaching self-monitoring strategies?

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