Successful Tips for Using the Beanie Baby Decoding Strategies

The Reading Roundup - Beanie Baby Reading Strategies Tips

The Beanie Baby Reading Strategies have made a tremendous impact on my students' ability to successfully decode unknown words independently. If you didn't see Part 1 of my post in which I introduce the strategies, check it out here.

Since I have found these strategies to be highly effective with my students, I want to share my tips with you to hopefully help your students find the same success!

The Reading Roundup - Beanie Baby Reading Strategies Posters
The Reading Roundup - Beanie Baby Reading Strategies Tips

Steps for Introducing the Beanie Baby Reading Strategies
With all of the strategies, I use the following steps to introduce and practice the strategy.
1.     Model the strategy on a shared book or in the guided reading book for your lesson.
2.     Display the corresponding poster to use as a reference. (See picture above)
3.     Practice the strategy together.
4.     Encourage students to try it on their own while they read the guided reading book.
5.     Place the Beanie Babies on the guided reading table as the students read independently as a reminder of the strategies. (See picture above)
6.     Prompt students when they get stuck on a word to practice identifying which strategy they think would help. Support students as they attempt to use the strategy. Make sure they physically grab the Beanie Baby that they want to try using because it helps them take ownership of the strategy.
7.     After the students have finished reading the book, highlight the students who used the decoding strategies. Explain to the group how the student used the strategy to successfully decode the unknown word. Eventually through enough modeling, the students will be able to explain it themselves. I also like to hand students the Beanie Babies that represent the strategies they used. It is a tactile reminder of the strategies, but it also acts as a reward for students as they get excited to hold the Beanie Babies.

The Reading Roundup - Beanie Baby Reading Strategies Tips

Other Helpful Tips for Implementation
  • I sent out emails to my parents asking if they had any of the Beanie Babies at home. Luckily, I was able to get all of them that way! You may also want to check out Amazon, Ebay, or thrift stores to find yours. Having the actual Beanie Babies is a key factor to their effectiveness.
  • The key is having a tool for the students to physically manipulate when they are stuck on a word. Even if you can't find the actual Beanie Babies, I strongly recommend having something to represent each strategy. (Another option are the strategy sticks as show above).This adds a hands on approach that helps students take more ownership of the strategy, thus enabling them to independently implement the strategy. 
  • Once I've began introducing the strategies, I begin each guided reading lesson with a quick review. I ask the students to tell me what they are going to do if they get stuck on a word. They must tell me the strategy and not just the name of the Beanie Baby. Once they've identified a strategy, I toss them the corresponding Beanie Baby. This simple warm up activity gets them excited to read and helps build their confidence that they will be able to figure out any unknown words they encounter.
  • It is important to constantly have students verbalize the strategies to youThey must tell you the decoding strategy and NOT just the name of the Beanie Baby. For example - they should say "I can stretch out the word" and not "Stretchy Snake." When they get stuck on a word, ask them to explain what they can try. If a student has successfully implemented the strategies to decode an unknown word, ask him/her to explain what they did. By having them orally explain the strategy to you, they begin to internalize it more. 
  • The Beanie Babies are just a scaffold. Once my students can verbally explain to me the strategies and independently implement them, I no longer use the actual Beanie Babies. The posters remain up all year for students to refer to, but as a result of our extensive work practicing the strategies at the beginning of the year they rarely need to refer to the posters. 

Make sure you check out Part 1 of this post to get a more in depth introduction to all of the Beanie Baby Decoding Strategies! Click here to read Part 1!

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The Reading Roundup - Beanie Baby Reading Strategies Tips

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