Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Using Literacy Frames to Aid Guided Reading

This is a guest post by Richard Giso, an occasional contributor to our blog. Click here to see his earlier posts, and check back here on our Classroom Literacy blog frequently to see if he's got a new post up! You could also check out his blog, called Mr. Giso's Room to Read, in which he writes about fun classroom activities, behavior management, and classroom management.

Using Literacy Frames

In one of my favorite professional books (Linda Hoyt's book Revisit, Reflect, Retell) the author suggests using "literacy frames" to serve as a visual for children to really look closely at a word that happens to give them trouble.

We often tell children to "sound it out" when they come across a new or troublesome word, as long as it's not a sight word with irregular spellings. Many times we instruct readers to look for patterns in words such as "chunks" and "word families." We may even see if the children can find what I call a "baby alert"; this is a smaller, "baby" word found in a larger word such as seeing the word "cat-" in the larger word "catcher." Also, it's always a great idea to encourage children to use what they know about phonics. Can they find a blend (cl-), digraph (-th), ending (-ing), etc.?

The literacy frames let readers interact with unknown words by first framing the word in its entirety, then honing in on the parts of the word that the children can decode. It works because it's concrete! As they sound it out, they maneuver the frame.

In the classroom, I call these valuable tools our "word framers." I have a box of dozens of them in my guided reading supply shelf. Each time we read in guided reading, students take one. Also, students know they can get up and get a word framer whenever they wish throughout the day. I have sent these home with parents to use with at-home reading, and I have used them in reading clinics, tutoring, teacher training and in interventions. They work really well! I have a large-sized word framer [see top photograph] for me to use when modeling how to use the word framers by reading a big book or a chart.

Let's look at an example. Say a student comes to the word "away" in the text and is unfamiliar with the word. To help the student be successful in reading it, we must show the student how to dissect this word. The literacy frame works by framing perhaps the "-ay." The student may say "I know this says /ay/ because I know the word 'day,'" and would frame the "-ay.” A child may also frame the first letter "a" and note that it either has a long or short sound. In addition, the child may frame the word-part "way" and read that first, thus verbalizing that placing an "a" in front of "way" results in "away." By maneuvering the frame, the child fully understands word attack strategies in a much more hands-on manner.

To make the frames, fold a long, thin piece of cardstock in half. Cut and save a rectangular strip from the middle. Then staple together the open ends of the large piece. Slip the cut-out piece in and staple the other end as pictured. Enjoy!


I'm a proud teacher with over 15 years of teaching experience. I began my teaching career as a fourth grade teacher at the Bates Elementary School in Salem, Massachusetts. Since then, I have taught fourth grade for eight years. From there, I moved to a job as a reading coach under the Reading First grant. Having missed my true passion—having a classroom of my own—I returned to teaching as a first grade teacher for the next five years.

Now I've moved to the Carlton Innovation School, also in Salem, Massachusetts, where I am ready to begin my first year as a member of a team of four teachers that teach grades one and two. In addition, I teach undergraduate and graduate students at Salem State University. My courses involve literacy, children's literature, and elementary education. My educational interests include early literacy, effective reading interventions, and positive classroom climates.