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.


  1. I agree self praise is definantly the goal as opposed to external rewards. I wonder Gary, is there a big connection between the age that "reading books" are no longer sent home with primary school students to be read with parents.- To my understanding, it is common practice to send little home readers home on a regular basis for students to read out aloud with their parent. However, after about grade 3, this tends to taper off... do you think that there is a direct correlation between students who have reading difficulties remaining stagnant at a reading age of approximately 8? because it was around this age that they no longer were 'guided' to read out aloud to a parent? If this is true, I would recommend for school's to have a universal design policy within their curriculum requirements to maintain daily homework reading which is monitored at school - signed off by parent and teacher... thoughts?

    August 31, 2011 5:51 PM

  2. Thanks Deb, this is a thought provoking comment. There is wide agreement that many children around 8 years old start to show reading difficulties, that have been previously unnoticed - this is often referred to as the grade four slump. One reason for this situation could be that reading decoding is emphasised at school up to 8 years of age and reading comprehension is seldom taught explicitly in the early grades. At the same time the written language is becoming quite complex and they can no longer hide their language difficulties.

    Because reading comprehension becomes a more prominent factor in reading around this time I tend to think that reading a serial story to children when they go to bed is one of the best reading experiences, especially when lots of talk takes place around story content. Also reading for enjoyment should be encouraged as much as possible. When the children are expected to go to bed early and have a regular bedtime reading session the children begin to look forward to it each night. If they go to bed early they could have a choice to keep the light on and read if they like. Stop the reading session at an exciting spot and leave the book beside the bed. Most children would prefer to read rather than go to sleep early. The school may need to have some information nights on how to encourage this type of reading.

    I wonder if making reading compulsory at this stage could work against reading for meaning and enjoyment.

  3. Hi Deb,
    I just had some other thoughts about your question.
    I think that what is needed at this age is more encouragement to use the school and local libraries and also the book club. This way they can choose what interests them and read what they enjoy the most. Take-home readers tend to be mostly narratives and they need to access other genres as well.

    You could monitor what they borrow from the library and promote borrowing in the classroom. For example, you could have a borrowing theme for the week with library books on display with interesting things associated with the books. Choose a book for the day to promote, ask children to share books that they have taken home that they would like to promote.

    Encourage parents to regularly take their children to the public library - have an information evening.