Emergent Reading Activity

Emergent Reading Activity

This activity helped us experience a bit of what emergent readers feel when they are learning. It gave us some insight into what ELL students or people who are just learning to read feel like. We had to “read” / “decode” a book about Sam the Rat and Pam the Cat and Jack the Rat. In place of the letters, there were symbols and we didn’t know what they meant at first. I wish I had taken a picture of this!

Feelings: we experienced frustration, a sense of wanting the class to be over and wanting to give up, disengagement from the task (e.g. wanting to make up our own stories instead of trying to figure out what the symbols meant). Once we experienced some agency (success), we were more into it because we felt like we would be able to figure it out.


  • Great desire to want to write on page
  • Sounding it out
  • Making a legend / alphabet (we could do that because we had another language/alphabet to transpose the symbols onto – emergent readers won’t have that)
  • Looking for patterns / familiar words
  • Guessing – looking at what makes sense / context (good reminder that this is a strategy to use and not “cheating”)
  • I used to think it was bad when kids just memorized the story but this exercise helped me see that memorizing words helps and that is actually reading training
  • Grouping the symbols to form a word – like a sight word (not sounding it out) – for words that repeated in the passage
  • Fill in the blanks when you know some letters – even if you don’t understand some of them
  • Use background knowledge – we know words are made of letters
  • Having lines under the words helped where we could fill in the blank of what that word was – or lines under the letters to be able to decode to the letter we knew
  • Good strategy can be for the teacher to read the book to the class first – makes it easier for kids to then read it to themselves – repetition helps – we can’t expect learners to jump right to a hard task – need SCAFFOLDING


  • When the font changed we struggled with decoding even more
  • Length (going through that long of a story made us tired)
  • Frustration (emotion)
  • Symbols were similar – (we kept mixing them up)
  • New letters kept being introduced and that made it harder
  • We could figure out the words but had no comprehension – we couldn’t tell you what the story was about – we could tell you a couple of words used
  • Having a partner is a challenge and advantage
    • Socio-emotional considerations – some gave up because knew partner would figure it out
    • Feeling of shared achievement when we got through a page together
    • Nice to have a buddy to help through challenges
  • The room was noisy because we were reading aloud – but many were so engaged in our reading that the noise wasn’t a problem
  • There was one page where it shifts from a couple words to a whole paragraph – jump in difficulty
  • Engagement / feeling of whether you want to figure it out – some were just trying to make up their own stories – but then when they experienced some success with the decoding task they felt more engaged