The Keynotes of Roaming Around the Known: Confidence, Ease, Flexibility, & Discovery

It is that time of year again! That mysterious two week period known as Roaming Around the Known (RATK).  To stay true to Marie Clay’s intentions for RATK I like to prepare by reading pages 29-34 in Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals, 2nd edition.

At the beginning of the RATK section, Clay identifies what she refers to as the “keynotes of Roaming Around the Known”.  The keynotes or themes of RATK are confidence, ease, flexibility, and discovery.  The RATK period provides our students with a “firm foundation on which to build” (p.30).  All that Clay writes in this section reinforces these four themes.


Many of the students we encounter in Reading Recovery have had repeated struggles and negative experiences with reading and writing.  During RATK, we keep the work “easy” and centered around what the child knows.  We want our students to be aware of what they know and to feel confident with their knowledge.  Improving confidence is essential for the new learning that will be done as we move into lessons.

While we want to keep the work “easy” that doesn’t mean that we might not engage in some tasks that are a little out of the child’s reach.  We can support the child by sharing the task with them.  We might read a text to them and with them several times before they take over the task on their own.  In writing, we let them contribute all they know while we offer support by doing the parts they do not yet know.

When we spend much of our roaming time working on reading and writing continuous text children begin to feel like they themselves are readers and writers.

As children gain confidence through our work together they also gain trust in us and our “teamwork” approach. Our students feel a sense of, “we are in this together!”  They will soak up our praise about the accomplishments they achieve.  We are there to celebrate with them no matter how small the accomplishment might be.


We create experiences using what the child knows in an effort to help the child work easily within their known.  Sharing tasks with our students and allowing them to contribute what they know allows our students to engage in reading and writing without worries or discomfort.  We are helping our students to create new memories consisting of positive experiences interacting with texts.

When we plan RATK sessions that set children up for plentiful successes they are more likely to attempt the tasks we put before them.  The students gain confidence in what they can do and trust that we will support them in their efforts (p. 30).

We set our students up to interact with reading and writing with ease as they start to understand from our modeling and task sharing what it means to be a reader and a writer.  During RATK, we involve our students in lots of talking.  During these conversations, we provide examples of how to use language.  When we use the conversations to create writing pieces it allows students to see that the stories they verbalize can be written on paper and then read aloud.

We have to work hard to catch the attention of our students and lure them into wanting to read and write.  Talking with students about their interests and families can provide us with ways to peak our students’ interests.  The more actively engaged they are in their learning the more at ease they will feel (as well as more confident, more flexible with known, and more likely to make new discoveries).


Our students need to recognize and interact with their known in a variety of different ways.  We provide students with opportunities to interact with their known in a wide variety of texts.  During RATK, we might pull something known out of text, into isolation, to draw more attention to it, speed up production and then put it back into text.  Helping students to be flexible inevitably leads to improved fluency with their known.  Even in these beginning roaming sessions we want to encourage students to do what is known quickly.


One of our hardest jobs during RATK is to hold back and not teach anything new.  Our second hardest job is to “work creatively to engage in experiences that inspire new learning discoveries”(Clay).  Our shared experiences will support our students in making new discoveries.  When we share the experience with the child we provide them with clear modeling of the learning we want them to take on.

In the beginning, our new students can often be heard saying, “I can’t read.”  During RATK students will quickly discover that they are readers.  Just this week my student pushed my hand out of the way said and said, “I can do this!”  After she read the book she said (with a look of surprise), ” I can read this book all by myself!”

Clay writes that students will surprise us with what they can do.  I can tell you that I was surprised when one of my students who had not previously shown any monitoring behaviors,  knows 32 letters, and knows 2 letter sounds (b, s) read “Bella” for “Rosie”, stopped, pointed to the “R” in “Rosie”, and said “buh” as she looked at me quizzically.  You can probably guess that I was doing the happy dance in my head!

During RATK, children discover that they need to “gear up to actively use” their eyes, and ears, and thinking”  (p. 30).   Reading aloud to students will allow them to hear how books should sound.  We choose books for students to read that are around their reading level so that students are able to to discover what it feels like to be a reader.  *Refer to page 33 in LLDI to read more about finding a readable text for a child.

RATK is an essential part of a child’s Reading Recovery lesson series.  Every child should experience RATK whether they are a second round student with more item knowledge or a student that we have worked with previously under different circumstances.  Our second round students are likely to have more confusions and bad habits.  RATK provides us with an opportunity to discover these behaviors before moving into lessons.

Besides helping our students to grow in confidence, ease, flexibility, and discovery, RATK allows us to check on our assumptions, observe any problems in how students approach text, and provides us with a second chance to observe any behaviors that we were not able to see when administering the Observation Survey.

To help myself stay true to Clay’s vision of RATK I ask myself the following questions:

How does this task promote confidence, ease, flexibility, and discovery?

How can I set my student up to experience this letter/word in various ways?

How can sharing this task set my student up for discovery?

Happy Roaming!


Visit the following posts if you are interested in reading more about Roaming Around the Known.

Preparing for Roaming Around the Known

What Do I Do During Roaming Around the Known?

Writing During Roaming Around the Known

Reading Recovery: Second Round Roaming


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