Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fluency Part 6 Neurological impress method

The Neurological Impress Method (NIM).

Before the reading the reading guide should ask the child to scan the cover and title of the book. The reading guide should then ask the reader to look at the illustrations and think about similar life experiences. After browsing through the book and discussing each picture he/she is then asked to predict what what he/she thinks will happen in the story.

The reading guide then reads the story to the child by modeling fluent and expressive reading. This will familiarise the him/her with the flow of the language. It makes the reading much more predictable because the meaning of the story will have been dealt with before he/she has to to read. The reading guide then discusses various aspects of the story with the child to clarify and elaborate on interesting features. Unfamiliar vocabulary is also identified and explained.

The next step involves reading orally in unison. The child should be directed to keep pace with the adult reader even if some of the words are not read correctly. If the child happens to trip on a word he/she must catch up to the reading guide to maintain the reading flow. This will develop the ability to read ahead rather than reading word by word. It also enhances fluency because the reader must predict and sample larger chunks of text to maintain the pace and flow.

Often unskilled readers are quite surprised by how quickly their reading improves after only a few sessions.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fluency Part 5 Highlight Phrases

Fluency is not just about reading words accurately and with speed, it also includes prosody and comprehension. Prosody is reading with expression and it includes using appropriate intonation, pitch, modulation and pausing. There would seem to be a close relationship between prosody and comprehension.

A major problem that can minimise reading comprehension is slow word-by-word reading. This style of reading eats up limited working memory resources and stifles expressive reading. One effective way to maximise working-memory resources and to enhance prosody is to chunk the reading by reading whole phrases rather than individual words.

This can be done by using a highlighter to highlight phrases on a photocopy of a storybook page (or a highlighted word doc.). The reading guide then models the reading by reading each phrase and using the appropriate expression. The child then reads by following the expert reader's example.

Fluency Part 4. Prefixes

Following on from part 3.

In the previous blog we looked at the root words to develop chunks of meaning within words. We discovered that the identification of the root word could be used to help make the reading of some longer words more automatic. 

There are also parts of words that are meaningful such as prefixes. Prefixes are added to the beginnings of words to change their meaning. Thus, developing an awareness of prefixes and root words can enhance your child's ability to decode word's and their meanings. In fact, if your child learns  re-, in-, dis-, un- he/she will have a key to the decoding of approximately two thirds of all English words that have prefixes.

One activity that you could be used with your child is to set up a cork pin board with collection of words that have been discovered in your  reading together sessions. 

N.B. Make this a fun activity - reading at home should be enjoyable. Make it into a game, you could call it word detective.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fluency Part 3 Words within words

One way to develop fluency is to look for words within words.. For example, the word 'updated' has 'date' as its base word with the 'up-' as a prefix and 'ed' as a suffix. The word 'updated' can be made easier to read when the word within-the-word (date) is recognised automatically and the affixes are tacked on.

The more information that readers have to process the slower the reading will become and the less fluent it will sound. However, reading is made easier when information is processed in larger chunks. The larger the chunk the more efficient the reading will become.

Good readers look for cues while they are reading. They sample the text for the best cues that will enable them to work out the word by touching the fewest possible bases.  Α good  reader may apply a number of sampling strategies. They may predict words by sampling the first letter and/or consider the overall shape of the word to confirm to correct their predictions. Sometimes they will see a word within a word and recognise it automatically. This process minimises the amount of information that needs to be processed and enables fluent reading to take place.

One useful method to help children do this is to use the 'L' plates or two 'L' shapes pieces of plastic to focus attention on a word within a word. Often, the other letters in the word will interfere with the identification of the root word so this masking technique is used initially to enable focal attention. To make the 'L' plates take an ice-cream container lid and cut out two small 'L' shapes. Invert one of the 'L's to form a rectangle so that they can be adjusted in relation to one another to fit neatly around the root word and mask the affixes. In the example below the word 'flapping' was masked to show the root word 'flap'.

Initially, this process should be modelled by the adult. The child should then use it to do the same independently. Eventually there will be no need to keep using the 'L' plates and the reader will recognise the root words automatically.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sleep time (really ground breaking stuff!)

In the last Blog (last night) I discussed using routines and bedtime stories and how effective this was for a couple of our grand children (Now you know, no good keeping secrets on cyber-space!). It just so happens that a couple of our other grand kids were sleeping over for the night tonight. Now the bed time reading routines can work well to a point, but when  they are so excited about sleeping over you need to pull out the big guns. I mean the 'Fair Dinkum' really big guns like Ernest Borgnine reading a story online. Now, if what I said last night doesn't work then follow-up with this.

So, after reading some bedtime stories and they still won't go to sleep then drag out the laptop and goto storyonline online and let the kids listen to top actors reading interesting books. This works much better than valium and they can hear what good fluent reading sounds like. Now we are really getting back on to the fluency topic!

I just had to be a bit spontaneous - this stuff is literacy as it happens! A sort of literacy news flash! Something really ground breaking!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Benefits of Bed Time Reading

So you want your children to have a good night's sleep?

The main thing is to set up some strict routines of an evening. Make sure that you have set times for watching TV, play time, bath time, dinner time, reading together, and reading quietly in bed. The reading silently time should follow a reading together session where there is some quality time for sharing. Children are often quite  happy to read silently after having a shared reading time.

Fluency part 2

It is important for the child to know what sort of thinking processes go on during reading. The reading guide should model the thinking process by verbalising the thoughts as they happen.  This is referred to as  'thinking-aloud' and it seeks to make the thinking processes more explicit. For example, the reading guide may stop at the end of a sentence and talk about what he or she has imagined or pictured while reading the passage.

At other times the reading guide may come to a difficult word and tell how he/she arrived at the correct response. As we have discussed before it is often a good idea to model using compensatory strategies to restore meaning. For example, "This, word does not sound right, I'll read the beginning of the sentence to gain more clues. Oh, yes, and he first letter of the word helped me to work it out. Oh, yes it now makes more sense and it looks right."

The guide should demonstrate that reading is not just word calling. It is an active meaning making process. The reader negotiates with the text by connecting text ideas with his/her experiences and understandings. Reading fluently helps but not at the expense of engaging deeply with the text. Reading is not a perfect activity and when children make errors they realise that mistakes are part of the learning process.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fluency Part 1

Fluency is important for comprehension because words are more meaningful when read in relation to other words.

One way to increase fluency is to use the repeated reading strategy. This strategy is often used to help make texts sympathetic to the reader. What is required is that a more expert reader will read the passage first to the child. Expert reader modelling will expose the child as to how a particular text should be read. The first reading should demonstrate speed of reading, expression, and intonation.

Before the initial reading of the passage the reading guide/expert should ask the child if he/she can see any difficult or unfamiliar words in the passage. If the child places a finger on each unfamiliar word and all the fingers on one hand are used (assuming that there are at least 100 words on the page) then the passage may be too difficult for the child. However, the technique of repeated readings can overcome this problem to some degree because the child can hear and see the word as it is being read aloud. However, each unfamiliar word should be discussed and put into context by giving examples of how it is used. It is important to browse through the passage and talk about the pictures in order to link the text ideas to the child's background knowledge or experiences. This is made more effective when the parent or caregiver strategically uses the new word while relating the text to the pictures. These strategies will enhance the child's ability to construct meaning during the reading.

 When it is the child's turn to read he/she has already processed the meaning and developed a feel for the language of the book. The child will be more able to predict and speed up the reading because to some degree he/she knows what is coming up in the story. This makes decoding easier because it is easier to decode a word that you expect to see. This process reduces the load on working memory and allows the child space to think about the story at the ghist or global level.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How do we know that our efforts are becoming fruitful?

The burning question that all parents/caregivers want to know is, "How do we know that our efforts are becoming fruitful?"

Is the answer that my child can now read bigger words and longer sentences?  Or is it that now my child can read fluently and with expression? These are certainly important indicators but there are many children that can read bigger words, longer sentences fluently and with expression. These are not the only considerations because there is now a great deal of evidence that many children can do this but without clearly comprehending what they have read. Therefore, those of us who are seeking to assist children in their reading need to focus on reading for understanding.

Clearly, children who understand what they are reading should be able to answer some basic questions that go beyond the mere recall of facts from a story or passage (more about this in a later blog). Another indicator is that the child is being quite strategic when he/she reads. Being strategic means that your child should be able choose from a repertoire of reading behaviours that go beyond the mere decoding of print. They should be sampling the text, predicting, confirming, or correcting as they monitor their meaning-making while reading. What is certain is that when your child self-corrects he/she is actively demonstrating that this vital process is in operation. The fact that a reader can self-correct is an indicator that he/she is sampling the text, predicting, and correcting - as opposed to confirming.

On the other hand, an example of the confirmation process becomes obvious when your child miscues a word but the meaning does not change. In terms of comprehension, the child has sampled the text and predicted but the word may be a synonym and not the actual word in the text. This is a strong indicator that your child is processing the text at a much deeper level and has confirmed that the meaning fits the context of the passage. This is why I have suggested that the reading should not be interrupted because good readers do this naturally and quite frequently. The guiding principle is that meaning always dominates perception and that we should purposefully read for meaning.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What to do when the meaning is lost.
How to give positive performance feedback.
Creating a climate of support and risk-taking.

Reading Comprehension Instruction

I have recently read: Berkeley, S., Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (2010).  Reading comprehension instruction for students with learning disabilities, 1995-2006: A meta-analysis. Remedial and Special Education, 31(6),  423-436.

This was interesting because the researchers synthesised findings of a large body of work on the effectiveness of reading comprehension interventions that included nearly 2000 participants overall. They looked at three types of treatments: text enhancements, cognitive strategies, and behavioural treatments.

Text enhancements include: highlighting, discussing illustrations, using embedded questioning, explicit skills training, using repeated readings and vocabulary instruction.

Cognitive strategies include: summarising, activating background knowledge, & inferencing.

Behavioural treatments include: goal setting, self-monitoring, self-questioning, self-relection.
(N.B. some examples in these categories are my own examples).

They concluded that by systematically employing virtually any or all of these techniques is likely to enhance reading comprehension.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Focus on meaning - it dominates all perception

I have decided to focus on comprehension by looking at meaning during assisted reading sessions.

I used a filmed reading session that I shot several years ago and captured some stills to show more explicitly what was happening in the video. The screen captures were then emailed to my iPad and converted to carton images using the ToonPAINT app. The image was then transferred to the ComicStrip app and made into a cartoon with captions added.

I wanted to show that meaning dominates all perception and often the deciding factor when deciding whether or not to give a prompt during a guided reading session.

It would be good to get some feedback on this toon as it is my first attempt - does it make sense?

Monday, October 17, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading. 10. The text should be sympathetic

In the last blog we discussed the idea that texts should be interesting and that the guided reading session should involve an element of choice. In this blog the emphasis will be on the actual difficulty level or readability level of the text.

The readability of the text refers to the ease of reading. There are many reasons why one text is easier to read than another. Easier texts usually have shorter sentences with smaller and more familiar words.  There are many other factors that can make reading easier for the reader such as the font size, good illustrations,  number of sentences per page, and the use of natural language with familiar expressions. One of the most important elements is familiarity with the reading topic. Generally, the more a child knows about a topic the more he/she will understand when new ideas are presented. This works well when the child is interested in a topic because he/she will be more likely to persist in the face of reading difficulty.

A simple way to assess the suitability of the text is to count the number of words that are correct out of the first 100 words read. Generally, 96% word accuracy or above is considered to be too easy for the reader. To give some challenge and to learn new words the reader should be reading a text that is pitched between 90% and 95% word accuracy. An easy way to score this is to have a 10 by 10 grid and tick each box for each word read correctly. Subtract the number of boxes that are unticked from 100. This will give you the word accuracy percentage. Below 90% word accuracy is considered to be at the frustration level unless you provide some scaffolding to assist the reading.

A simpler way to check is to have the child place a finger on each word that they do not know on the page. If five fingers are used the text is too difficult. For this to work there must be at least 50 words on the page.

Some books can be assessed using the Book Wizard (see below - click on the image) on the Ashton Scholastic website at
Type the name of the book into the wizard and you will find the interest level and the appropriate grade level of the book. This may only work for books that are in their system but they do have an enormous range of books.

Another way to find the readability of a text is to type in or scan a page of text into Microsoft Word and to do a spell check. The readability statistics will also be shown. On some versions of word you may need to use the options function to turn the readability formula on.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading. 9 Age Appropriateness & Choice.

The main thing to keep in mind when assisting reading is that the reading material should be appropriate for the age of the child. It is not a good idea to give a thirteen year old child 'Little Red Riding Hood' to read. This would be demeaning and inappropriate. As far as possible age appropriate content should be the guiding factor.

The book should be interesting for the child and should involve some element of choice. This is the other guiding factor. It is important to realise that when adults read for pleasure they choose books that they are interested in.

Good quality books with good illustrations are more motivating than books with stilted text and uninspiring pictures (that are often supplied to reluctant readers). Sometimes the books that children choose to read are too difficult and cannot be read without adequate scaffolding. However, this problem can be overcome, to some degree, by discussing and reading the book to the child before he/she attempts to read it. Repeated reading is a very effective method used to familiarise the reader with the story and the flow of the language. Once the child can understand the story the decoding will be much easier to negotiate and the child's confidence will increase.

There is nothing that succeeds more than success itself!

In the next blog I will discuss reading difficulty levels.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading. 8. Reflection

At the end of the story ask your child what he/she had achieved during the reading.

The two stars and a wish is a good technique to promote self-regulation. The two stars are two goals that your child has achieved. One way to view this is to differentiate the two stars into a product (something gained) star and the other a process star. In other words, I give myself a star because I found out that ... or that I enjoyed the story because.... The process star relates to the process of reading itself. How did I read? I used the reread strategy when I was stuck on a word.

The wish refers to what the reader wants to achieve in future reading episodes. A wish sets the next goal to be achieved during the next guided reading session.

Friday, October 7, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading. 7. Relate

After the reading the parent/guide should ask the child about how he/she enjoyed the book/passage. Relate the story to the child's own experiences. Place the child into the shoes of the main character by asking, what he/she would have done in the same situation. Ask the child to imagine what it would have ben like to have been in the same situation.

Have the child retell the story or passage. This is an important stage as it helps the child to reorganise and recode the information in the passage. Check that the child is ordering the events correctly and that they have identified all the main ideas. Ask what parts he/she liked the best and why. Don't make this too formal - just relax and share thoughts and ideas. The parent/care-giver should also relate the story to things that happened to them but keep it conversational.

Ask the child if his/her predictions about the story were correct or were the events of the story different to what was imagined. How was it the same and what was different?

 It is a time that the parent and the child should be looking forward to each day. The most important thing is that this should be a fun time for both!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

This Question was recently posed by Assoc. Prof. Ruth Fielding-Barnsley in her key note address at our recent 2011 Conference -  Include and Impact.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading. 6c Scaffolding - Praise

Throughout the world it has been consistently reported that guided reading sessions often end in frustration and anger. One of the factors leading to disappointment is when guided reading sessions focus on the reader being exact rather than on reading for meaning and enjoyment.

The strategic use of praise can reverse this trend. Appropriate praise can provide a positive spin on the guided reading session and prevents this negative situation from developing.  However, not all forms of praise are effective. For example, praise can be ineffective when it is not very specific. For praise to be useful it must be immediate and it should give exact performance feedback so that the reader can lean from the comments. This promotes intrinsic motivation, whereby, the reader is given the information needed and encouraged to develop mastery over the reading process. This should be a reward in itself and it should be acknowledged. In other words, when the reader's efforts are acknowledged while gaining reading competence he/she will be encouraged to develop a sense of pride and achievement.

Instead of 'error spotting' the reading guide should always look for the positives. After all, children usually do more of the right sorts of things while reading, even when making errors. For example, when the reader reads, "The boy hopped on to the house and rode down the street." Respond at the end of the sentence with,  "That was a good try, this word does look like the correct word  and it starts with the letter 'h' and ends in 'e' but it does that word make sense in this sentence?" Praise the correct response with, "I like the way that you self-corrected that word because the sentence now makes sense."

At the end of the reading session ask the child to tell you what he/she learned and what was achieved in the session. Say, "What was the thing that you were happiest about while you were reading?" The main principle is to move from giving praise to encouraging self-praise. This can be enhanced by having the child set a reading goal before reading, e.g., "Today I will try and reread the sentence when I get stuck."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading. 6b Scaffolding

In the last two blogs we discussed the scaffolding required for two types of miscues that are typically made during guided reading.

The third situation is rather simple, it does not require any intervention. When the reader makes an error and the meaning is not lost then do not respond. This type of miscue is common to most good readers and is an indication that the reader is reading actually processing for meaning. It stands to reason that when a reader makes an error that has almost the same meaning as the targeted word then the reader has understood the message conveyed by the author. Meaning is the most important consideration because the purpose of reading is to understand. By ignoring this type of miscue reading risk-taking and fluency will be encouraged. This is not normally a problem because as the reader becomes more confident this type of miscue will diminish, but not completely. Competent readers make this type of miscue more often that we realise. Normally competent readers monitor their reading by asking themselves, "Does this make sense? or "Does this sound right?" If the answer to these two questions is yes the reader will continue the reading without any loss of meaning.

If the reading is interrupted the reading guide may be in danger of giving a wrong message. The reader should be sampling the text and touching the fewest bases so that working memory can be used effectively without being overloaded. On the other hand, if too much emphasis is placed on exactness the danger is that reading will slow down, risk-taking will be stifled, meaning will be lost, and working memory will not function efficiently.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading. 6a Scaffolding

In the last blog we discussed a typical example - when a reader makes a miscue and the meaning is lost. Another situation is when the reader stops at a word and is unable to continue.

In this situation the first thing the reading guide should do is to assist by pausing for 3 seconds to allow the reader time to process the available information from the text. This will convey the message that you are giving the reading responsibility to the reader. If the reader does not respond then give a prompt by placing your finger on the first letter of the unknown word and then run your finger along to the end of the sentence and then pause. This process models taking note of the initial letter, the overall shape of the word, and also the context of the rest of the sentence.

If the child still does not respond then give a prompt by talking about the context or any picture that may accompany the text. Once again pause for about 3 seconds. If the child still does not respond then give the reader the word and continue. There is no need to labour the process just to be exact. There will be plenty of opportunities to practice these strategies together.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading. 6. Scaffolding appropriately

In the last blog we looked at the 'pause, prompt, and praise' (positive feedback) method of assisting during a guided reading session. The question is, what sort of prompts should we provide during the supported reading?

Before we can answer this very important question we need to understand that readers sample from three cueing systems while reading. Readers look for; graphophonic cues ( look and sound of words), the syntax (word order), and the semantic content (meaning context). Information sampled from these three systems gives the reader clues to decode words and build meaning while reading. The more the reader knows about the topic the less they need to sample. In contrast, the less the reader knows about the topic the more the reader has to sample from the surface features of the text. In other words, reading is a two way process that involves the consideration of the surface features of print and the knowledge that the reader brings to the task.

If the reader makes an error and the meaning is lost the reading guide should prompt at the end of the sentence after a three second pause with a question or two. The first question might be, "Does that sound right?" This question is quite strategic as it focuses on the syntax or word order. In other words, "Does that sound like English?" the reading guide should pause again to give the novice or young reader time to process the information and to transfer the responsibility to the reader. If the child cannot correct the miscue then give another hint by saying, "Does that make sense?" This hint directs the reader to consider other clues provided by the context. This could come from the context of the sentence or from the picture, if one is provided. Then pause again. If the reader still cannot correct the error then tell him or her the word, there is no point in labouring the process, there will be plenty more opportunities to practise on other errors when they arise.

In the next blog we will look at another type of error that can be made and how to respond.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading. 5. Pause, Prompt, Positive Feeding-back

The next stage of the guided reading session is supported reading. Supported reading implies that the reading is scaffolded, in other words, the supports are meant to be temporary and gradually faded out. The main idea is that the reading guide should gradually release responsibility to the reader as the reader gains in confidence and competence.

The most effective method to promote this self-supported reading is the pause, promp, and praise method. This provides a scaffolding that transfers responsibility to the young or novice reader and overcomes the tendency to rely too much on the reading guide for help. It also overcomes the frustration, and even anger, that can develop when using other methods that focus on accuracy rather than on meaning and enjoyment.

The pause aspect relates to the notion that the reader needs time to process the language and meaning of the text so that they can use compensatory strategies when meaning breaks down. Thus, when the reader makes an error the reading guide should pause and wait until the reader finishes the sentence (a sentence is a complete thought). At the end of the sentence the guide should give a prompt and wait for about three seconds to give the impression that it is the reader's responsibility to self-correct.

The second aspect is the prompt scaffold. This implies that the guide will assist the reader without undermining the reader's responsibility during the reading. However, it must be emphasised that some prompts are better than others. In the next blog I will show which prompts are most effective and why.

The third aspect is a variation of the praise principle.  Readers should be given praise as much as possible for their efforts, particularly since reading is an enormously complex process. Praise should be in the form of positive but accurate feedback. For readers to become strategic, they should be made aware of their reading progress. The main idea is that after some modeling by the reading guide the reader should be encouraged to use self-praise rather than merely looking for external rewards.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading. 4. Patterning & Fluency Building

For many reluctant readers the task of reading can be quite challeging and can produce a great deal of anxiety, particularly when it is a constant reminder of past failures. Consequently, their response may often be one of avoidance of anything to do with reading. Thus, a situation can develop in which the child would prefer to avoid reading rather than to read and fail at the task. This condition is commonly referred to as learned helplessness. What is needed is an environment whereby readers are encouraged to experiment and to risk-take, to find what strategies work for them without having their weaknesses highlighted.

One very effective strategy that can promote a more collaborative and supportive atmosphere is the reading together technique. The idea is that the reading guide and the reader read orally in unison. The reading guide sets the pace and models the reading by using expression and fluency. The young reader reads along but is instructed to ignor any errors and to keep pace with the reading flow. This works more effectively when the reading follows on from a discussion of the story, hearing the story, and familiarisation of the new vocabulary in the story.

This technique enhances motivation because it builds upon the trusting relationship that has been developed. It fosters competence, particularly with fluency, expression, and using the context beyond the word level. The third motivational element that is promoted is reader autonomy. This later element is enhanced when the reader is expected monitor their own meaning-making while compensating for reading glitches. Autonomy can be encouraged further when the reader is instructed to tap the reading guide on the arm when he/she feels confident enough to read independently.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

10 Principles for assisting reading 3c.Word awareness

The bulk of recent research indicates that there is a vast difference in the amount of vocabulary knowledge that children bring to school. Those that have a wide vocabulary tend to advance quickly in reading while those with limited vocabularies are at a distinct disadvantage. This situation is compounded by the fact that children who do well in reading learn more new vocabulary than the delayed readers with poor vocabularies. In other words, the children rich in vocabulary get even richer while the poor readers grow poorer in comparison because they have less willingness to read and a lack of opportunity to lean more words. This is often referred to as the "Matthew effect".

What is needed in guided reading sessions is the development of word awareness and the modelling of new word learning during reading. There are two aspects of word learning: depth and breadth of word learning. The depth refers to the encoding and the connections to what is already known about words in the mind of the reader. It is the linking of the new to the known. Does it look like other words? Does it sound like other words? "Do you know other words that sound the same?' "what do you think it means?" These observations questions can come before the reader begins to read. Obviously, if the reader is familiar with the words then the reading will be much easier to negotiate.

The reading guide could model the learning of new words during the initial reading to the child by stopping at what would seem to be an unfamiliar word (most parents and interested others are usually able to predict what words will be unfamiliar - if unsure - just ask the child). Say, "I wonder what this word means?" Read back in the text (or read forward) and also look at the picture and mention what clues are available to help work out the meaning.
Now say, "I think it means ..."
Then say, "Yes, that makes sense because..."
This develops the breadth of word learning because it shows that words are connected to other words and it also develops child's predictive ability.

One of the exciting things about the guided reading session is - "What new words did I discover today?"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading 3b.Setting Goals

This blog follows on from Principle 3(a)  modelling and predicting. In this blog the emphasis will be on setting goals for the guided reading session.

Generally speaking, all behaviour is goal oriented. Learning often takes place in response to our attempts to achieve goals that we set for ourselves.  In the last session I showed how to help children make predictions. When readers make predictions before reading they are setting a goal for that reading session. The prediction enables readers to focus their attention and monitor their progress towards the goal that they have set. The prediction helps them because it gives them something to measure their progress in reading comprehension. This process is enhanced when the reader is directed to note the text clues, to monitor their original prediction, and to alter it if the story takes an unexpected turn. During the after reading phase the child should reflect on their predictions. Ask, "What did you think would happen? etc (refer to blog 3(a)).

This goal setting process requires three steps at the three stages of reading:

  1. Before reading - set a goal
  2. During reading - monitor and adjust the reading goal.
  3. After reading - reflect on the appropriateness of the goal and how it was achieved.
N. B. There is usually more than one reading goal. For the guided reading session the overriding goal should always be reading for pleasure. The reading guide should always keep this in mind when assisting reading.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

10 Principles for assisting reading - 3a. Modelling & Predicting

Children often learn by watching and listening to others, particularly people with whom they have a  good relationship. Guided reading sessions are no exception, in fact, this aspect is a vital element that begins in the pre-reading phase. In the last blog post it was emphasised that talking about the content of the book and related experiences was just as important as the reading itself.

This initial phase is often referred to as the book orientation phase because it entails becoming acquainted with the content and language of the book. Book language is different to spoken language and the type of language used will differ from book to book. During this initial phase the person guiding the reading (parent, older sibling, other) should read the book aloud to the child so that the child can become familiar to the language of the book and become acquainted with the content. The reading guide should also take the opportunity to model the sorts of reading processes that the reader should adopt. For example, the reading guide should model the following reading comprehension thinking processes:
  1. sampling,
  2. predicting, and
  3. confirming or correcting.
In practical terms this will require the reading guide to browse through the book with the child to demonstrate how predictions about story content can be made by sampling. This sampling process begins when the reader looks for clues in the illustrations and the text to show what the story or passage might be about. The reading guide should verbalise what they are thinking, this is often referred to as 'thinking-aloud'. For example, while looking at the pictures and discussing them the reading guide should think-aloud by saying something like, "It looks like ...  I wonder what will happen next?"

"This is very similar to what happened to me once when... So I think that ... might happen next. let's turn the page and find out."

After turning the page the reading guide then says, "Yes, my prediction was right, ... did happen but it was slightly different to what I expected. I thought that... would happen as well, but instead ... happened. Now I know what to expect over the next page. Let's turn over to find out if I am right."

N. B. Predictions are usually based on past experiences and so it is important for the reading guide to explicitly demonstrate that they are related to similar life situations that can be shared with the young or novice reader. The expectation is that the reader will eventually do this independently. Before this can happen the person assisting the reading will usually need to give prompts and gradually fade them out as the child becomes more confident and begins to take more responsibility.

Friday, June 10, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading 2.Set the Scene

Reading involves more than just calling the words. Being able to decode the printed word is important and progress in reading cannot take place without a firm grounding in the look and sound of words. However, words do not exist for their own sake. They always have a purpose and a context.

People write words because they have a purpose and that purpose is communicated through language. Words are embedded within or language and reflect the meanings conveyed by the language and the situation in which the language occurs. Written words are symbols for a range of language experience, for example, the word happiness can mean different things to different people. Thus, the books that we read are placed within a social and language context. A rich reading experience requires rich talk and the sharing of related life experiences.

Before reading begins it is important to talk about the pictures in the book and relate those pictures to life events (of both the parent and child). Talk before reading is just as important as the reading itself. Often this can be a very rewarding experience for children because it gives parents and children the opportunity to spend some quality time together. When relationship building experiences are connected with reading it builds a positive attitude. When this is accompanied with rich talk and the sharing of experiences it builds comprehension and depth of word knowledge.

It is important to provide choice of books that include the things that the child is interested in.  This can be extended to questions designed to encourage the child to choose different experiences to match events  within a story. Questions such as: "Have you ever been in a place like that?" and "What did that feel like?" etc can develop the sense that the reader is actively engaged in the reading process by  constructing meaning. In fact, there is nothing more engaging that to use your own life experiences to understand print. This process builds competence and self-reliance.

Prediction also builds reading competence and self-reliance. For example, while browsing through a picture book and discussing the illustrations the reader could be asked to predict what might come next in the story. After a prediction is make the reader can be directed to turn the page to verify their prediction. "Is this what you expected?" "How is it the same?" "How is it different?" "What do you think might happen next?" This verification process involves either confirming the prediction or correcting it and modifying expectations of what is to come next in the story. This is not just a guessing game but a very important reading comprehension skill. What it does is this, it creates a learning goal and encourages the child to monitor their own meaning making. This is one of the most important skills that will lead to reading autonomy.

Thus, setting the scene involves lots of talk, sharing life experiences, making choices, and developing predictive comprehension skills.

In the third blog in this series we will be discussing book language.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading 1.Motivation

This blog is the first in a series of blogs focusing on 10 important principles for assisting children with reading.

This series is intended to help a range of people. My initial concern was to guide parents when they are helping their children. One of the most common concerns that parents all over the world face is how to assist their children and remain on friendly terms. Many research articles over the last 20 years or so have consistently reported that reading sessions often end in anger, frustration, and an unwillingness to continue the reading episodes. This is not surprising since most parents have not had any formal training in regard to using the best techniques to promote reading engagement, motivation, and effective skill development.

This series has been designed to follow on from a video interview that I did with the New South Wales Education Department for National Literacy and Numeracy Week (see the link:

The first principle is that all children have three basic needs that need to be met in any learning situation:

  1. relationship, 
  2. competency, and 
  3. autonomy
When assisting children with reading it is important to build a relationship of trust, openness and sharing. This means that the tutor and the tutee should be seen as a collaborative partnership. The reader should be given opportunities to take risks in a supportive atmosphere. One of the most common problems when assisting children is when the focus is placed on reading for accuracy rather than for meaning and enjoyment. This can stifle their risk-taking ability and slow their reading down so that they decode letter-by-letter and word-by-word. This narrow focus will overload their limited short-term memory capacity by focusing on smaller and less meaningful chunks of information. The main thing to keep in mind is that reading should focus on meaning. The reading sessions should be enjoyable and provide an opportunity for parents and their children to share their life experiences around interesting literacy activities. 

One of the most common factors leading to reading failure at school is the number of books that are available in the home. Children become competent, in part, because there are lots of books and lots of choices. When parents provide books, particularly books that are linked to children's interests, it fosters their love for literacy. Children gain knowledge and reading skills when parents interact with them around rich book reading sessions. This is enhanced when parents share their own experiences as they relate to story books and information texts. Many of skills that they develop are often picked up incidentally. 

The third motivational need is that of autonomy. Everyone desires to become independent and self-reliant. This is something that can be encouraged in the way that help is given. However, it must be noted that  help can be given in such a way that dependency is fostered rather than independence. I will be giving some advice on ways to promote independence in reading in the blogs that follow this one.

Your comments and ideas will be very much appreciated.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

How Schools Can Use Facebook to Build an Online Community

How Schools Can Use Facebook to Build an Online Community