Beyond books

Reading happens in many more places than just within the pages of a book. Whenever there is a genuine purpose for reading, the child is more likely to want to read. As well as reading e-books, most children enjoy using the computer to play online games which often involves following written directions. Technology including X-Box / Play Station / and Wii, magazines, comic books and board games all provide fun opportunities for reading practice.


What are Sound Boxes?

Sound boxes are used within the writing section of the lesson. After composing a sentence, the student writes it on the lower half of an open scrapbook. The upper half of the scrapbook becomes the practice page. One way of solving an unknown word is to use sound boxes. The teacher draws a box for each sound (not each letter at this stage) and the student pushes a counter up into each box as he / she slowly says the word. The student is then asked – What did you hear? Each sound that is heard is recorded in the appropriate box. At first the student may only hear the first and / or last sound. The teacher writes what is unknown. Gradually the student is encouraged to hear and record the sounds in order. Once the use of sound boxes is established the counters are no longer needed.

Reading prompts

  As you listen to your child read you will hear when he or she becomes stuck. Always give a little wait time (3-4 seconds) before you intervene because your child may be able to solve the tricky word independently.

If not, you will want to prompt your child to try something before you tell the word.


  • Look at the picture. Can it help you? (e.g. What is the bird doing? Where is it?)
  • Get your mouth ready with the 1st sound in the word. (e.g. The bird is on the t____)
  • Think of what word would make sense that starts with that letter. (e.g. tiny?  tree?)
  • Still stuck? Look for chunks in the word that might help you read it. (e.g. tr-ee)
  • Try skipping over the hard word and reading to the end of the sentence. Now go back and reread. Keep thinking about what word would make sense in that sentence. (e.g. The bird is on the t___ in a nest.)
  • When you think you know what the tricky word is, crosscheck your reading by thinking: 1 Does it make sense? 2 Does it look right? 3 Does it sound right?

Familiar reading

 The student has his/her own box of books. These books are read often and become familiar. Every day 2 or 3 familiar books are read to give the student the chance to be phrased and fluent (sound like a good reader). Fluency is important because it helps the student to maintain meaning, and therefore more readily predict what is likely to come next. Slow, stilted reading does not support understanding, or remembering what has already happened.

When books are reread the meaning is already known and more effort can go into looking at the print. Each time the student rereads a book there is an opportunity to notice something that has never been noticed before, e.g. at and cat look similar.

The homework book is chosen from the familiar books that were read that day. It should be quite easy and it will give the student confidence to read at home.

What is an Observation Survey?

An Observation Survey is a number of tasks that are individually administered to a student to find out what the student knows. Classroom teachers sometimes use the Observation Survey in the Prep to Year 2 classes.

Reading Recovery teachers give their students the Observation Survey a number of times a year to check on progress. A student will usually take part in the Survey at the beginning of the year, at the beginning of Reading Recovery, at the end of Reading Recovery, and at the end of the year.

The Observation Survey includes six literacy tasks, all of which describe a young child’s developing reading and writing behaviours:

  • Letter Identification to determine which letters the child knows and the preferred way of identification (by name or by sound or by a word that begins with the letter)
  • Word Tests to determine if the child is building a number of already-known words (words recognised straight away)
  • Concepts About Print to determine what the child knows about the way spoken language is represented in print (where to look, direction, difference between letters and words, punctuation)
  • Writing Vocabulary to determine if the child is building a number of known words that can be written in every detail (spelt correctly straight away)
  • Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words to assess phonemic awareness by determining how the child represents sounds within words when writing (can the student hear the parts of a word and can he/she choose appropriate letters to represent those sounds, and can the student write the letters?)
  • Text Reading to determine an appropriate level of text difficulty and to record what the child does when reading continuous text using a running record. (A running record is taken to find a reading level that is not too easy, or too hard, but is just right for the student. The teacher is observing and recording what the student does to solve words, e.g. rereading, taking a word apart st-op, searching the picture.)

Roaming the Known

Once a student is chosen to take part in Reading Recovery, he/she will be tested via the Observation Survey. This tells me what the student can and cannot do independently. There is no point in teaching the student what is already known. I want to find out what is almost known, or partially known, or not known at all. I want to know what confusions the student has and what poor habits have been established.
To get to know the student more fully, before the formal Reading Recovery lessons begin, we have10 sessions called Roaming the Known.
Briefly the purpose is to:
•Stay within the comfort zone of the student, i.e. the known. (Feel positive about coming.)
•Build up confidence. (Nothing too challenging yet.)
•Show the child what he/she knows. (Already has had some success.)
•Build a teacher – child relationship. (Feel comfortable to take risks in front of the teacher.)
•Play letter / word games. (Learning can be fun.)
•Establish a box of known books- easy. (Here are some books l can read myself.)