The youngest readers in Owen J. Roberts schools are donning capes and detective hats, showing their perseverance and determination for being “Super Readers” and “Word Detectives.” As part of the district’s English Language Arts kindergarten and first-grade curriculum, teachers tap into the power of play to help students imagine themselves as readers at a critical time in their reading development. Kindergartners learned to be super readers with a visit from OJR’s “Super Reader,” who helps students learn some emergent reading skills such as: pointer power, picture power, sound power and reread power. Recognizing that superheroes never give up in times of trouble, our readers learn that when we face trouble in our books we too can use super reading powers. First graders build on those super reading powers in a follow-up unit of study on becoming word detectives. Students are assigned a top secret mission from the Super-Secret Detective Agency (SSDA) each day of the unit, learning to solve words with the following skills: paying attention to the beginning of the word, looking out for vowel teams, using parts of words one knows, watching out for unusual words, and noticing and stopping to solve problems with words. One first grader wrote, “I learned the word ‘ridiculous.’ I broke down the word to figwre [sic] out the sounds. I looked at the picture to see if it made sense.” Students earn their official word detective certificates as a culminating celebration, distributed by the Chief Detective of the SSDA himself (see photo)!
Both units bring together research on how students develop as readers and the importance of using play for engaging students in learning to read. Using the power of play ultimately serves to transform students into the kind of reader they imagine themselves to be, while learning about the reading process at the same time, all in fun and joyful ways!