Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Steps to Practice Self-Regulation Strategies with Emergent Readers, Part 1

By Gaynell R. Jamison, Reading Specialist, Guest Blogger

Self-regulation in reading is the ability to self-monitor during the reading act. It requires the student to take action and become engaged with the text or perform in some way. According to Singer and Bashir (1999), self-regulation is defined as a set of behaviors that is used to guide, monitor and direct one’s performance with flexibility. It is imperative that students develop self-regulation strategies to ensure success in task performance.

According to research by Schunk and Zimmerman (1998), self-regulation is a process that can be taught. Teaching these processes could lead to increased student motivation as well as achievement (Schunk and Zimmerman, 1998). In this two-part blog post, I'll describe how you can successfully teach and practice self-regulation strategies with emergent readers using Joy Cowley books. 

Personal Experience with Realizing the Value of Observation

During my first week of training as a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, we began to study the theory and work of Marie Clay. As the week progressed we were given a task to complete and I will never forget that assignment. During our lunch break, we were to select a person to watch during the entire lunch break for thirty minutes. We had to take mental notes of every action and observe any and all interactions.

Upon returning to class, our job was to write down everything that we observed. That was one of the most profound assignments that I have ever embarked upon during my teaching career. Clay tells us that sometimes as teachers we must step back from teaching and our preconceived notions. We at some point must quiet ourselves and observe students as they work. The term that Clay promoted was attend . We must notice what students are attending to as they do reading work.

Her work stressed the importance of following the child and noticing what is being attended to and what is being ignored. As we constantly ask, "What does the child already know?" we must continuously work from a tentative framework of thinking and learning, according to Clay (2005).

This learning of working from the known versus the unknown was definitely a new mindset for me. Typically the educational system worked from the deficit model of teaching. The framework for that model was mostly based upon the thinking of being guided by what the child does not know. A strictly skills-based approach.

Clay’s work stressed the importance of self-regulation and building a self-extending system when children are learning to read. The need for self-regulation occurs at every stage and age of our lives from infancy to adulthood, until we no longer exist. Many life situations and circumstances call for self-regulation. How we address it and attend to it is what makes the difference.

When students enter the halls of academic learning, they bring with them a bag of tools and skills in the form of life experiences. Some have been sharpened and used extensively based upon exposure and some lay dormant and need to be pruned and then sharpened for maximum capacity.

From day one it is imperative to teach for self-regulation to whether kids are emergent readers or striving readers. According to Schunk and Zimmerman (2007), self-regulation is based upon these three components: attending, retaining and producing. Students must first learn to attend or pay attention, next they must retain or remember the information and then finally they must produce or use what they know or retained.

This is what good readers do. They have internalized a system of self-regulating and self-monitoring during the reading act that leads to knowing when something is not right and make successful attempts to self-correct.

Helping Emergent Readers Practice Self-Regulation

Children must be provided with lots of opportunities to put into practice tips and strategies for self-regulation with reading. This means that they must read daily. They must understand some basic principles and concepts about the reading act. They must have some early behaviors under control, such as directionality (left to right, top to bottom and return sweep) and one-to-one matching. All of these behaviors and more can be put into practice with the narrative text Rabbit Bedtime .

In this level D fiction book for kids, Little Rabbit can’t sleep, but Mr. Rabbit and Mrs. Rabbit are sound asleep in their bedroom. Little Rabbit leaves his bedroom and goes to their bedroom and jumps in the middle of their bed. He wakes them up, which means Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit can’t sleep. However, Little Rabbit is finally able to rest comfortably and falls asleep.

This text allows the teacher to observe whether or not the reader has control of directionality. The reader will be able to demonstrate the following: knowing the starting point, moving from left to right across text, return sweep when the reader gets to the end of a line, moving from top to bottom, and one-to-one matching.

Stay tuned for more the upcoming second part of this two-part series written to help you teach self-regulation strategies with emergent readers!

Gaynell R. Jamison is a reading specialist, children’s author, early childhood trainer, and pre-K director with 38 years of experience in education. She has studied extensively in the field of literacy with a specialty in teaching reading and administering reading programs as a former Reading Recovery Teacher and Reading Recovery Teacher Leader. She has served on two national committees for leveling books for Reading Recovery. She has a passion for children’s literature with an interest in early and emergent literacy acquisition and teaching young learners to become readers.