Chunky Monkey Reading Strategy
Let’s talk about the Chunky Monkey reading strategy. Using Beanie Babies to help students remember key strategies is a great guided reading tool. Chunky Monkey teaches children how to break apart words to make them easier to decode. There’s a few ways to do this, so let’s get into it!
This is part five of a six-part blog series. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the other posts.
What is the Chunky Monkey Reading Strategy?
The Chunky Monkey reading strategy helps children break apart larger words. They look for “chunks” that are easier to read individually and then blend it with the rest of the word. Here are some examples of different ways you can use the Chunky Monkey reading strategy.
Introducing the Chunky Monkey Reading Strategy
The reason for using Beanie Babies to help teach reading strategies is because children find it easier to remember the characters than just the name of a strategy. And with remembering the characters, children can then make the connection to the reading strategy. It’s a win-win!
I refer to each Beanie Baby as our “Reading Buddies.” Whenever I introduce a new reading buddy I follow this routine:
- Show students the actual Beanie Baby and introduce them by name.
- Explain the reading strategy that this particular Beanie Baby wants us to remember. It would sound like this:
This is Chunky Monkey. Sometimes there are big words that are hard to read. Chunky Monkey reminds us to look for chunks in the word. Chunks are smaller words hiding inside bigger words.
- Model using the strategy. I display an appropriately leveled text on our smartboard for this.
- Give children a Chunky Monkey reading strategy “watch” to wear. This gets them excited and wanting to use their new strategy. You can see a picture of my son rocking the Eagle Eye watch below!
- Do a group activity that encourages children to try the new strategy.
Chunky Monkey Reading Strategy Activities
So now let’s talk about the kinds of activities we can do to help support the Chunky Monkey reading strategy. Here are some examples.
1. Finding Smaller Words Withing Large Words
With this activity, children have to find a smaller word within the original word. I laminate these boards so that they can use dry-erase markers. This allows us to use these over and over again, and with a variety of guided reading groups.
2. Consonant Blends and Chunk
I love these banana puzzles for our phonics centers. It allows children to work with consonant blends while also working on breaking up a word.
3. Chunk the Digraphs
These no-prep worksheets are a great way for children to practice breaking up words by separating the digraph from the rest of the word.
4. Compound Words
These cards are a perfect guided reading warm-up. We use these to practice breaking up compound words.
5. Word Endings
We use no-prep worksheets to help identify word endings. This helps children practice breaking up the word so that it is easier to decode.
Chunky Monkey Visuals
Providing visuals is a helpful tool for children. I like to hang up posters, provide desk plates, bookmarks, and more, to help children easily access our reading strategies.
Teaching Children to Use this Reading Strategy
When it comes time to start working on this strategy with your students, there are a few things you can do to guide them.
- Remind them that big words don’t have to be scary, because we can often find smaller chunks within them
- Model getting stuck on the word and using the Chunky Monkey reading strategy to decode it
- Have children ask themselves, “Does this word make sense?”
- Do activities that help reinforce this new reading strategy
I typically follow the above at the start of our guided reading lessons. This provides an opportunity to remind children of important strategies, but it also gives me a chance to work closely with individual children.
Providing Incentive to Students
Okay, so your children know what Chunky Monkey represents, they understand how to apply it, but how do we get them to actually do it during independent activities?
Throughout the years I’ve come up with incentives and ways to encourage our children to do just that. Here are a few of the resources I use:
2. Buddy Badges: When I catch students using their reading strategy, I give them a Buddy Badge. Buddy Badges go on a chain and they say “I was caught using Chunky Monkey”. Children can wear these Buddy Badges during reading groups and reading time. Throughout the rest of the day, they have a place to hang them in our room.
3. Self-Checking Charts: Another way to incentivize students is by providing self-checking charts. These charts are to be completed and filled in by the students themselves. Whenever they catch themselves using a strategy, they color the reading buddy in.
While working with children in small groups, make sure to collect data so you understand which children need more support, and which are ready to move forward.
It is imperative that you find a system to help you monitor and track reading and comprehension progress. This will help you determine the next steps and plan the appropriate reading lessons to help them grow.
Taking notes during one-on-one reading conferences doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be a matter of jotting down keywords or phrases.
For me, these are the main things I want to collect data on:
- The date, name, and level of the text they are reading at the time of the conference
- The strategies they are using independently (with or without success in deciphering the word).
- Specific decoding observations. Example: “Attempts to sound out words but struggling with blending the sounds.”
- Specific comprehension observations. Example: “Answers recall questions easily”
- Goals and next steps. Determine what you want to work on with this specific child in order to push them to the next reading level.
Here’s an example of the sheets I use to track this information.