Tryin' Lion Strategy for Early Readers - Guided Readers
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Tryin’ Lion Strategy for Early Readers

Are you wondering how to successfully teach decoding strategies to your Early readers?  Skippy the Frog and Tryin’ Lion are the final strategies you should teach your students. I covered Skippy Frog in a previous post; but If you’re ready to teach the Tryin’ Lion decoding strategy to the students in your classroom, stay with me for some helpful tips.  

Once Early readers have learned to use all the other strategies, it’s time to introduce our persistent & tenacious friend, “Tryin’ Lion.” Students in your Early level group are usually reading somewhere between levels D through G. As Emergent readers they learned to look at the pictures for clues to help solve unknown words. Now as they’ve progressed and are learning to read longer sentences, they’re getting familiar with structure and syntax, learning how words are put together in sentences and paragraphs. Tryin’ Lion uses both both the Meaning and Structure cueing systems to evaluate the words students substitute.

Last But Not Least….Tryin’ Lion!

When readers come to a word they don’t know, Tryin’ Lion teaches them to try all the other strategies first. Then if they still can’t solve the unknown word, they should read the sentence and just try out a word  they think will make sense. Finally, they should ask themselves, “Does it sound right?” and “Does it make sense?

Tryin’ Lion is such an important strategy to teach, because it reminds your little readers not to give up! Learning to read is a challenging process; but good old Tryin’ Lion encourages readers to keep at it, even when they encounter unknown words.  With this strategy, students learn to examine context clues to help them solve the mystery.

Introducing the Tryin’ Lion Strategy in a Whole Class Setting

When you’re ready to teach Tryin’ Lion to the students in your classroom, you’ll need strategy fans for each student. You’ll also want to have a larger demo fan and a cute, cuddly stuffed lion to serve as your mascot! (All the lessons in my Guided Readers online program contain strategy fan templates, as well as a strategy instruction booklet to refer to as you teach.)

Tryin’ Lion Teaches Tenacity!

Begin teaching the Tryin’ Lion strategy by telling your students, “Open your strategy fans to find Tryin’ Lion. Tryin’ Lion ALWAYS TRIES HIS BEST when something is hard for him. If Tryin’ Lion comes to a really tricky word in a sentence, he TRIES all the other strategies first. Then if he still doesn’t know the word, he’ll try putting in a word that he thinks will make sense in the sentence and then keep on reading. Then he can go BACK and think about what the sentence means and see whether the word he inserted made sense.” 

To prepare for this whole class lesson, have a whiteboard or chart paper ready with several sentences containing difficult words that have been covered up in advance. You should also select a big book that your students are familiar with and cover several difficult words with sticky notes.

After modeling the strategy during the big book reading, do a whiteboard activity with your students. 

Tryin’ Lion Tries Again….

Begin by reading a sentence like “My dog gets [thirsty] after a walk,” leaving out the word ‘thirsty.’ Next, uncover the word and have your students try the other strategies; then guide them in thinking about what words might make sense in that sentence. Remind them that if they can’t solve the word using the other strategies, Tryin’ Lion can help. He says it’s ok to just try a word they think will make sense.

If a student suggests the word “tired,” say, “OK, that makes sense doesn’t it? ‘My dog gets tired after a walk.’ But first let’s double-check something. If “tired” were the word, what two letters would we see at the beginning? ‘Ti.’ The word we’re looking for starts with the letters ‘th.’ Can you think of another word that might make sense? Yes! Thirsty! ‘My dog gets thirsty after a walk.’” Tryin’ Lion reminded us to try a word and then use clues in the sentence to help us figure out the word! Great job boys & girls!”  

Do this with a few other sentences to allow the students to practice; then follow-up with review and reinforcement in your Guided Reading small groups.

Remember: Scaffold Those Strategies!

Just a reminder: Decoding strategies are scaffolded by level of difficulty, beginning with the basic Eagle Eye and Lips the Fish strategies. Although you can still teach each of the strategies in a whole class setting, your lower level readers might not be ready to grasp the more difficult ones like Stretchy Dolphin. However; it’s still good for students to have exposure to all the strategies. That way they’ll be familiar when they encounter them again as they progress through the leveled reading groups. Remember: Tryin’ Lion comes last because this one is used after trying all the other strategies!

Teaching Tryin’ Lion During Guided Reading

Now let’s look at how you might teach the Tryin’ Lion strategy to your Early Readers group during a Guided Reading lesson. As an example, I’ll use the Level H nonfiction text, Art Class Disaster. Just a reminder: this text is available within Guided Readers, my new online guided reading program.

art class disaster guided reader

Be sure to distribute strategy fans your students can use for reference as you teach the Tryin’ Lion strategy. After the Read & Prompt and book discussion, have your students turn to page 5 and read the second sentence: “I [squeezed] the clay,” but leave out the word ‘squeezed.’ Tell your students, “Look at the second word in that sentence. If we can’t solve that unknown word using our other strategies, what is a word we might try?

I ‘skated’ the clay? That doesn’t really make sense, does it? I ‘squirrled’ the clay? That word wouldn’t make any sense at all, would it? Let’s look at the picture and look at the letters in the word again. Now what does it look like the boy might be doing? Let’s try the word ‘squeezed.’ ‘I squeezed the clay.’ Yes! Great job boys & girls. Tryin’ Lion helped us remember that if we TRIED the other strategies and they didn’t work, we could TRY another word and see if it made sense!

Have students move on to page 6, showing them how to use the Tryin’ Lion strategy to help solve the word, ‘moaned.’ And then move on to use the strategy on a few other pages of the text. Be sure they understand that the other strategies should be tried first before going to Tryin’ Lion.

Meet the Challenge With Guided Readers

If there’s one thing Tryin’ Lion teaches us AND our students, it’s that we should never be afraid of a challenge. Do you ever get the feeling that you’re no longer up for the challenge of being a teacher? That’s a very real fear for so many educators, and it’s why I created Guided Readers, my new online guided reading program. I want to help remove that feeling of overwhelm and help you find that love of teaching again!

Guided Readers Digital

Guided Readers is a structured, streamlined approach that’s designed for today’s classroom, taking the guesswork out of what to teach and how. With Guided Readers you’ll be prepared with engaging, professionally leveled texts, complete lesson plans, a digital interactive reader, and timesaving tools to help you stay organized. Guided Readers contains every effective tool you’ll need to take your students from “learning to read” to “reading to learn!”  Get prepared to meet the challenges of literacy instruction with Guided Readers!

Thanks for joining me for this quick look at how to teach the Tryin’ Lion strategy in your classroom. I hope it helps encourage your little readers to try their best when they come up against a tricky word. Keep teaching those strategies!

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