Teaching and Education (still under construction...)

 Reading information for parents and buddy readers.

 St Helens State School Reading Notes    May  2002 By Jason Caldwell B.Ed,Dip.Tch.    


The purpose of these notes is to equip the supporting reader with a good general knowledge of the issues and basic strategies involved in teaching reading.

This is by no means a definitive work but will hopefully enhance our ability to support students learning to read.

Technology plays an ever increasing role within society but will never supersede  the importance of reading. Reading is still the key to any academic pursuit and is certainly an essential skill within most professions.

1.  What is Reading?    
Reading is basically the process of decoding symbols or pictures into words. However while learning to read and decode symbols we must not lose sight of the purpose of reading.

Why do we read?         
When we read we should be receiving a message. Many readers are able to see like a movie of what is happening in a story in their mind, some no longer even hear the words in their head they only see the pictures.            

2. Barriers and reasons for reading difficulties.
There are many reasons for people having difficulty when learning to read, but generally problems are found to be related to a lack of confidence due to negative reading experiences.

Readers need to experience success and reading needs to be fun!

3.  The Twenty Year Old Reading Debate.

It is important that we have a general knowledge of all reading decoding strategies and do not subscribe fanatically to a particular approach to reading.

The three main approaches are:
        -Look and say
        -Whole Language
and have arrived in this order over the last twenty years.

Each approach focuses on different decoding strategies:
Phonics by sounding out the words first,
Whole Language looking for "meaning" and trying to work out what word would makes sense,
Look and Say (the least popular due to past failings) suggests just having a guess based off what the word looks like.  

The truth of the matter is that each of these schools of thought encompass aspects of truth. So why not take what works from each and apply where required.

There are many reading acquisition activities and word attack strategies that help students on their journey to becoming fluent readers. However focusing only on one or two strategies can only disadvantage as different words suit different strategies.

4. "Pause Prompt Praise"
Pause prompt praise refers to a successful "Buddy Reading" strategy that gives a simple guideline for helping a reader when they get stuck on a word.

*Pause -When the reader gets stuck it is important to pause so that they have the opportunity to have a go…
*Prompt -Encourage them to have a go. It is often appropriate to suggest a decoding strategy that is suited to the word they are stuck on.
*Praise -Always praise, whether they get the word or not. E.g. "Well done!" or "Good try!"
If the reader can not get the word within a reasonable amount of time, just tell them. It is just as important that they enjoy the story and that flow and meaning are maintained. Perhaps come back to the word, once the sentence or paragraph is finished and let the reader practice recognition of the word they had trouble with.

5. Decoding and Word Attack Strategies.

a.  Check for pictorial clues (depending on book).
b.  Trying to think of "what word would make sense" using the starting sounds as a cue.
c.  "Reading on" from where they have been stuck and then trying once again to use strategy b.
d.  Breaking up the word into syllables or parts of the word that may be recognizable.
e.   Sounding (into) out the word using a knowledge of vowel, consonant and consonant blend sounds.
f.  Simply saying the word that they think the difficult word looks like and then checking their guess for meaning.
g.  Looking up the word in the Dictionary as they may not even know what it means (depending on age and text).
h.  Asking someone for help.

I have listed these in my recommended order. However it is important to realise that when you are helping a reader decode a particular word different words are suited to different strategies. When examining several words children get stuck on and try different strategies for decoding each and you will find that some strategies are totally useless for some words.

For example phonically sounding through theses word (strategy e) may not be helpful: climb, lamb, lived, knit, knife, mystery, scared, fur, busy…   These words may be better suited to strategy b…

However strategy c, reading on in the sentence and trying to work out what word would make sense, may not be very helpful without using phonetics clues to get the starting sound.

6. Choosing Material at the correct level.

It is really important to be able to help a child pick reading material that is at the right level. As a general guide if there is more than one unknown word in 25 the text is too difficult for independent reading but may be fine for guided reading. Children can use the 5 finger approach by reading a page of text and as they come across unknown words, count them. If there is more than 5 words, the text may be too difficult.

Reading material within schools is usually graded depending on the level of difficulty. Different book companies also use grading systems. There can however be discrepancies within grading systems and a particular book may be easier due to the familiarity of the content.

7. Comprehension
Remember reading is about gaining meaning. Sometimes students will be able to read a paragraph or page without making any decoding errors and yet when ask for an explanation of the meaning… It is a good idea to ask thought provoking questions at the end of each section or paragraph. This encourages reading for meaning and helps make reading more interactive and fun.

If the readers are unable to tell you what is happening then they may need simpler reading material so that they can focus on reading for meaning rather than reading to decode words.

8. Interest Level
If I came up to you and said, "read this book…" and you had no part in  choosing the book and the book was about something you weren’t interested in - what would happen. You might not worry if it was simply a short story but how about a Data and Statistics Text?

Children are often similar to adults in how they respond positively when given ownership and choice…

 9. Pause Prompt Praise Probe

This a general approach and guideline for "Buddy Reading" (covered above).

a. Prepare
Choose a good place to sit where you can both see the book. Choose a good time and only read for a short while.

b. Begin
Talk about the title. Try and guess what the story is about. Talk about the pictures. Cover the words. Introduce any new words- eg. Names, places and hard words like delicious.

c. Reading
When the child comes to an unknown word you:  
Pause and give them a chance to work it out themselves (5seconds).
Prompt - Encourage them to have a go. "What is the starting sound?". Depending on what they say you can give them a second Prompt such as- "Try that again," "Does that make sense."
If the 2 prompts haven’t worked tell them the answer. Don’t make a child labour over a word for too long as students tend to lose the flow of what they are reading and thus the meaning. Labouring over a word may also make reading a painful experience.

Praise. Always praise, whether they get the word or not. E.g. "Well done!" or "Good try!" Tell the child why you are praising them eg. "I like the way you tried that word." Praise makes the reading time more enjoyable for the child.

Finally Probe. Talk about the story and ask the child questions as you go. Always ask them to retell you the story and predict what might happen.


 Reading Approaches at St Helens State School

 * The READING PROGRAMME throughout the school will include a variety of approaches:           

Reading TO children...   
Reading WITH CHILDREN...           
Reading BY children...

* The programme will include a balance of ...
    Personal Reading     and    Close Reading   

Purpose of St Helens State School Reading programme:

*To immerse children in as well as to model quality literature.
*For enjoyment and the belief that reading is important
*To familiarise children with book language, story structure, new   vocabulary, ideas, writing styles, themes, authors and illustrators

Children’s experiences are recorded in their own words
Children are involved in writing and reading as one process
Teachers act as scribe for the author when needed

Learning about reading while enjoying and participating
All children have access to the text
Provides opportunities to develop strategies, learn about text structure etc
Can be used across the curriculum

Text is at child’s instructional level... 92 - 96%
Is generally silent reading
Comprehension is promoted through purpose-setting   questions
Child uses cues and strategies to gain or retain meaning
Promotes comprehension of text
Group based activity guided by the teacher
Readers predict plot based on the title
Text read to, with or by the children
        Ideas retold in oral, pictorial or written form without
        referring back to the text

Promotes and monitors comprehension
Involves predicting, question generating, clarifying, summarising
Teacher and the child assume the role of leader

Questioning understanding using both open and closed questions
Teacher encouraging questions that draw inference and a greater depths of processing

For enjoyment
Children learn to read by reading
Children have a choice of reading material
Caters for known interests and extends horizons
Children can use a variety of text types, e g own published writing

fluent readers support less fluent / younger readers
tutors follow "Peer Tutor Guide"
this is time tabled daily in room one and once a week in room two