Rivet Reading Strategy: Pre-Teaching Vocabulary Just Got Easier

The Rivet reading strategy makes vocabulary teaching easier for you and most importantly, it’s going to have a profound effect on your students’ learning.

Rivet is a pre-reading activity that presents to learners essential vocabulary from a text in the form of a “guessing” game.

It encourages vocabulary acquisition and word analysis in addition to prompting students to construct, confirm, and re-frame personal predictions. The strategy consequently enhances reading comprehension and fluency.

With this strategy, kids will be so “riveted” by the anticipation of guessing words and validating personal predictions about the words’ meanings that their attention will be highly-focused on the targeted learning objectives.

rivet reading strategy

This post helps to visualize how to use the Rivet reading strategy with lower or upper elementary students.

Related: For more great literacy strategies and instructional techniques, see our reader’s workshop activities for elementary kids.

How to Teach Using the Rivet Strategy

Part 1: Getting Started with the Rivet Reading Strategy

  • Next, strategically select 5-8 words from the text. These are essential words that you really want learners to understand within the context of the story.
  • Now, draw lines and numbers to represent each word you chose. These lines can be drawn on chart paper, a whiteboard, or displayed from a projector.  See the example below.
  1. __ __ __ __ __ __
  2. __ __ __ __ __ __ __
  3. __ __ __ __ __ __ __
  4. __ __ __ __
  5. __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
  6. __ __ __ __
  7. __ __ __ __ __
  8. __ __ __ __ __
  • Starting with #1 and from the first letter of the word, fill in each letter. Pause for a moment after each letter to give the kids time to process and determine if they know the word. 
  • If a student believes she knows what it is, she calls it out.
  • The children compete to see who can figure out the word the fastest. You may have to write a few letters before they guess it. The anticipation adds to their engagement!
  • Whenever a child guesses correctly, you’ll complete the word.

Part 2: Discussion and Questioning

  • Once the word has been revealed, pronounce it with students. Have a brief class discussion and ask questions about the term.
  • This component is powerful. Your role is to keep the conversation flowing; students’ subsequent questions and responses will guide you.
  • Whatever you do, don’t let students know exactly how the word is used in the text. They’ll figure that out for themselves once they begin reading, and they’ll be SO excited to dig into the book to find out!
  1. _b_  _r_  _a_  _n_  _c_  _h_  
  2. __ __ __ __ __ __ __
  3. __ __ __ __ __ __ __
  4. __ __ __ __
  5. __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
  6. __ __ __ __
  7. __ __ __ __ __
  8. __ __ __ __ __
  • Below are sample questions to ask about the example branch. It’s important to ask questions or provide open-ended statements that encourage readers to think more deeply about the term.
  1. Tell me everything you know about this word.
  2. Where have you seen it? … Heard it?

Once the class has had a brief but significant discussion about the word, move on to the next term in the Rivet reading strategy game.

Continue the process until all words have been guessed and discussed.

Part 3: Making Predictions, Reading, Revising Predictions

  • Once all the words have been revealed, students take a look at them as a whole and predict what they think the text will be about.
  • Record their predictions on chart paper or have them write personal predictions in their reader’s/writer’s notebook.
  • A few students or pairs share their predictions. Below are the words revealed per the example.

_b_  _r_  _a_  _n_  _c_  _h_  

_c_  _a_  _b_  _i_  _n_  _e_  _t_

_e_  _x_  _e_  _c_  _u_  _t_  _e_

_v_  _e_  _t_  _o_   

_i_  _n_  _t_  _e_  _r_  _p_  _r_  _e_  _t_

_b_  _i_  _l_  _l_   

_c_  _o_  _u_  _r_  _t_

_H_  _o_  _u  _s_  _e_  

  • By now, the kids are exploding to get their hands on the text! Once they begin reading, their attention is hyper-focused on the anticipation of discovering and analyzing the words just discussed.
  • Their schema is being reshaped and refined by the newly-read information. Are their predictions validated? If not, are they reframing their thinking?
  • After reading, revisit each word.

Ask the kids:

  1. What definition(s) do you have of the word now?
  2. How was the word used in the book?

Below is an example student response for the word “branch”

“Before I read, I knew that branch is part of a tree. But after looking at the other words from the list, I didn’t really understand how a branch from a tree could be connected to those words. 

While reading, I learned that branch is used to define the three parts of the U.S government. Now I get it! Like a branch is a part of a tree, a branch is also an extension of the government. The connection with the other words now make sense, too!”

Part 4: Informal Assessment with the Rivet Reading Strategy

  • The next day, informally assess how well students grasped the vocabulary. The Tic-Tac-Toe graphic organizer is great for doing this.  This organizer encourages students to go beyond memorizing definitions in order to look for connections and patterns embedded in the concepts.
  • Students take all the vocabulary words from the pre-reading activity (branch, cabinet, execute, veto, interpret, bill, court, house) and place them anywhere on their personal Tic-Tac-Toe graphic organizer.
  • In this case, there are only 8 words yet there are 9 spaces on the organizer. Have learners write any other new word they learned from the text in the leftover space (I added president) or give them a bank of choices from which to choose.
tic tac toe graphic organizer
  • Now, students write five meaningful sentences using the words. The sentences will include 3 words straight across in any row, straight down from any column, or from any diagonal.  
  • As a set of 3 terms is used, the children will cross it out. Students cannot repeat the same set of three words, but a word may be repeated if it’s part of another set.

Here’s a student example…

rivet reading strategy

Your Students Will Love the Rivet Reading Strategy

Rivet is a powerful instructional technique for pre-teaching vocabulary and increasing reading comprehension.

Additionally, it does wonders for encouraging student engagement.

Yep…vocabulary learning and teaching just became easier.