ABC Reading Strategy: Not Just a Brainstorm Strategy
Good reading strategies effectively help students engage with a text. A great reading strategy is not only engaging but is also flexible. It connects the reader to the text and can be used in a variety of ways. Our school system has placed a lot of emphasis on using before, during, and after reading strategies. “Before” reading strategies activate prior knowledge before diving right into the lesson or text. “During” activities help students stay focused during the lesson. They help them make connections and monitor understanding. “After” reading strategies provide students with the opportunity to reflect, summarize, and respond to the text or to the learning. One of my favorite reading strategies to increase student learning is the ABC Reading Strategy.
The ABC Reading Strategy, or ABC Brainstorm, is one of my favorite reading strategies not only because it is very engaging for students, but also because it can easily be incorporated into almost any lesson with very little prep. This strategy is usually referred to as the ABC Brainstorm. It is designed to be a before activity to activate prior knowledge about a topic that is going to be studied. The idea is to give students the topic that is going to be studied and have students list all of the letters of the alphabet down the side of the paper, leaving room to write a word or a phrase related the the topic that begins with each letter. This works well to give students a minute or two to write as many words and phrases on their own. Then let them pair up or get with a group to complete the missing letters.While the ABC Brainstorm was designed to use as a before activity, I personally prefer using this strategy during, or after reading.
Before Reading Strategy
As a before reading strategy, students can activate prior knowledge about a topic and build knowledge through discussion before reading. Simply present a topic for students to brainstorm. Perhaps students will be reading about Pythons in the Everglades. To activate prior knowledge and prepare for this study, a teacher might have students to list animals and other information that students know about the Everglades. Using each letter of the alphabet, students will list words or phrases related to the Everglades. It is important to let students know that it is okay if they don’t use all letters. After a few minutes of writing, allow students to share in small groups and combine ideas to fill in empty spaces on their own papers.
During Reading Strategy
An ABC chart can also be used as a during reading strategy to help students engage with a text. While reading about garbage in the oceans, students may use an ABC chart to identify important facts and details in the text as they read. Students may write words, phrases, or sentences from the text. (This can be your discretion.) Using the ABC strategy in this way helps students connect and interact with the text while monitor understanding.
After Reading Strategy
Using the ABC Reading Strategy as an after reading strategy allows students to reflect on the content of a lesson. Students may use an ABC chart to help them summarize important facts and information learned in a lesson. Using the same format as above, students simply list all of the letters of the alphabet down a page. Students can then write important facts and information that they learned about the topic beginning with each letter of the alphabet.
Alternative Ideas for Using the ABC Reading Strategy
For even more flexibility, this activity can be changed up to meet the needs of your students. Over the years I have found that giving elementary students the entire alphabet can be overwhelming. For this reason, I prefer to only give part of the alphabet. For example, I may only give my students the letters A-F, or G-N (any group of letters will work). This can help make this strategy a little more manageable for students and less overwhelming. You may even assign different groups or tables in your classroom different groups of letters of the alphabet. For example, table 1 may have A-F. Table 2 may get G-L. Table 3 is assigned M-Q, and so on.
Another way to change up this strategy is to complete this as a whole group. Create an ABC anchor chart and let the entire class contribute to its completion. I used purchased letters from the dollar store to create this anchor chart above. Add a title and the letters, then laminate. This anchor chart could be used over and over again by simply using a dry erase marker. This could be set up as a station activity, or it could be done as a whole group discussion.
Why this Strategy is Beneficial
In order to use the ABC strategy, students must be able to determine the most important events and/or summarize the events in their own words. This is not an easy task for many fourth or fifth graders. It is immediately evident when using this strategy which students need to be pulled for small group instruction to help with determining important events, summarizing, and putting information into their own words. This strategy also requires some thought process to be able to write about the text or lesson that was studied.
ABC Reading Strategy is a great way to generate thoughts as a brainstorming activity as well as a wonderful way to evaluate learning as an after reading activity. If you have not tried this strategy, I encourage you to add it to your lessons today. It is a simple and very effective strategy to incorporate into your lessons.
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