The Perfect Way To Practice Using Reading Strategies Simultaneously!

Looking for ways to practice using reading strategies with your students? This Super Sentence Showdown Game is the perfect reading strategy practice!

     Hi Friends! Today I want to share with you one of my favorite ways to practice reading strategies with my students. Now, first of all, let me start off by saying...I KNOW that the BEST way to practice using reading strategies is to ACTUALLY READ!!! And I am here to tell you, to be successful as a teacher of firsties, you MUST, MUST, MUST give those babies LOTS of time and opportunity to read independently so that they can practice what you are teaching them.
     However, I also know from doing this for A BAZILLION-TRILLION years (have you looked at my picture?) that firsties need "controlled practice" as well. By controlled practice, I mean things like guided reading, shared reading, conferencing, partner work, games etc. so that they can be held accountable for what they are doing, and so that you as the teacher can make some observations about what it is they need next as learners. This game I want to share with you today is one of those "controlled practice" situations that my students and I LOVE doing together!

Looking for ways to practice using reading strategies with your students? This Super Sentence Showdown Game is the perfect reading strategy practice!

     So I call this game The Super Sentence Showdown. (You may know it by another name. I read about it in a book many years ago and have just modified it to work with my students.) What I LOVE about it is that the kids have to use several reading strategies simultaneously to figure out the missing words in the sentence, and they have to use teamwork to do it. (So, a child who isn't quite "getting" the whole reading strategy thing yet, is getting to see other kids in action, and everyone is benefitting from listening to the way others problem solve and think!) In this game, students need to use prior knowledge of their world, prior knowledge of how language is commonly used, as well as teamwork and cooperation to form meaningful sentences. The goal is to improve reading abilities in students, particularly their ability to use prior knowledge, to monitor and to self correct while reading.
Looking for ways to practice using reading strategies with your students? This Super Sentence Showdown Game is the perfect reading strategy practice!
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     So this is how we play. I divide the class into two teams. I try to make the teams even in terms of ability..but that is a secret, so don't tell the kids! I then choose a Team Captain for each team. The Team Captain is going to be in charge of being the "spokesperson" for the group. (I do this to avoid someone on the team shouting out a word like "pizza" that has nothing to do with the sentence, causing the team to lose their turn, and then that someone having no one to play with at recess because they had no self control!) Now I need to be clear here...the Captain does not get to make all the decisions and do all the answering alone. So be careful to choose someone who isn't a control-freak, or you will spend the entire game taking care of that issue! The Captain needs to listen to the suggestions of the team, and then share those answers out.
     Each team gets 3 "free-letter cards" to be used at their discretion.(Free-letter cards are used during the game to reveal a letter in an unknown word. Only one free-letter card can be used during a turn.)

Looking for ways to practice using reading strategies with your students? This Super Sentence Showdown Game is the perfect reading strategy practice!      

Now to start the game, I show the students a sentence I have prepared with all but one word missing. (NOTE: The length of the blanks match the length of the missing words. This is to remind students that when decoding unknown words while reading, the length of the word is a clue that can be used to help figure out the unknown word. (i.e. it would be silly to guess “dinosaur” for a word with only three letters.)  

Looking for ways to practice using reading strategies with your students? This Super Sentence Showdown Game is the perfect reading strategy practice!
                Next, I engage students in conversation about the one word revealed. (This is a step you will repeat at the beginning of each round.) The word revealed should always be a high-content word, so children can guess related words and topics that might be hidden in the sentence. For example, you would say, "We know this sentence has the word teacher in it. What other words might you expect to find in a sentence with the word teacher in it?" Students might offer suggestions such as class, students, school, lesson, etc. Remind students that this is the same thing we do when we get a new book to read. We get our mind ready to read by thinking about what the book might be about. 
            On their turn, each team will begin by selecting a number corresponding to the word they would like revealed. (Each team can only have one word revealed per turn.) Choosing a word to be revealed is a strategic decision. I gain a great deal of knowledge from listening in on the decision making of the students. I pay close attention to which students reread the sentence, which students make sensible predictions, and which students are able to use prior knowledge of how the English language works to guide their decision making. It is important to remind the team to work together to make a decision, but only the captain does the talking for the group.
              After I reveal the requested word, I remind the team of their three choices:
1. The team can now collaborate and make a guess at a missing word in the sentence. (i.e. "We think number one is "the".) Again, only the captain makes the request.
2. The team can use a free-letter card to assist with their guess of a missing word. (i.e. "We want to use a free-letter card for number two.")
3. The team can pass. (i.e. "We don't have a guess, so we want to pass our turn.")

     A team's turn continues until they guess incorrectly or they pass. Each time they guess correctly, they earn points toward their score.
2 POINTS- For every word guessed correctly without any letters being revealed.
1 POINT- For every word guessed correctly after a free-letter card was used on that word.
              (Regardless of which team used the free-letter card.)
10 POINTS- For guessing the entire sentence.

Looking for ways to practice using reading strategies with your students? This Super Sentence Showdown Game is the perfect reading strategy practice!
Here is an example of how a round may go:
The first team asks for word number three to be revealed, so the board now looks like this:

___ ___ important ___ ______ ______ ____ teacher _____ __________ .

Most students will now be able to guess that the word in the number-two spot is is. Some may suggest the, because it would be possible to say "the important __" in a sentence. They also will probably be able to guess that the number-seven word is the. If the team guesses correctly they will score two points per correct word, and the board will look like this:

___ is important ___ ______ ______ the teacher ______ __________.

Strategic players might now suggest using a free-letter card to get a hint at word number four. Supplied with a t, they will probably guess to, scoring one additional point. (There is no limit as to how many points a team can score in a round. Sometimes they get on a role and figure out the entire sentence. That is ok. Let the other team go first in the next round. Remember...We WANT them to be able to do this!)

   The game continues until the entire sentence is complete. The captain of the winning team reads the
entire sentence back to the group to win.

It is important to listen when the teacher is talking.

   The game moves quickly because with each turn a complete word is revealed, offering significant
clues to the players. I always encourage rereading as the main strategy for making good predictions in
this game. This reinforces for the students the importance to continually read for meaning.
     As the year goes on and students grow as readers, I make the sentences more complex and the
content richer. It is especially fun to include content we are learning in our science, health
and social studies lessons. I also encourage the students to suggest sentences themselves, either
original ones or ones lifted from the books they are reading.   
     If you would like to try playing Super Sentence Showdown with your students I have created some FREEBIES you can use to help keep the game organized and fun! Click on the picture below to pick up these FREEBIES!

     I have also created an entire set of 50 prepared sentences and projectable gameboard pages you can use for a NO PREP, cut and go version of the game. I like this, because I don't have to take the time to come up with the sentences for each round of play, and I don't have to take time to prepare the charts each time. I keep the sentences together on a ring, and then add the new ones the students suggest to the blank cards included. I have also included the directions  with the sentence cards, so if a question comes up, you can look right there in your stack of cards for the answer! You can click on any of the pictures below for the entire Super Sentence Showdown Game.


  1. This looks like so much fun! I'm sure your students love it, and what a great way to practice so many strategies in a fun way!



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