What is self monitoring?

pointing and reading boySelf-monitoring is being able to check that what you are reading makes sense, looks right, and can be said that way. When you are self monitoring you are connecting with what you are reading. You know when you have made an error and you stop, reread, and try to fix the problem.


As students are learning to read, they often guess some, or all, of the words. Some students ‘sound like good readers’ but they are not self monitoring the look of the words.


Text:         Sam ran and ran.sams race

Student: Sam’s in a race with all the kids.

Student 1 was not self monitoring. He looked at the picture and invented the story without paying attention to the number, or look of the actual words. He needs to learn he has to match spoken and written words.


Text:         Mother Bear’s red scarf went flying away in the wind. red scarf

Student:  Mama Bear’s scarf went flying away in the wind.

Student 2 was not self monitoring. The sentence made sense and sounded right, but she was not carefully checking the look of  ALL the words.

Some students concentrate on the beginning (or other) letters to guess a word, and do not check that what they read makes sense or could be said that way.


Text:         The little cat is in the big tree.cat tree

Student:  The like cat is it the big tree.

Student 3 needs to understand that the purpose of reading is to get a message from the author. A mistake has been made if the reading does not make sense or sound right.

When students are self monitoring they are able to identify that an error has been made. They may look puzzled. They may ask for help. They may reread to have another go.

If we always do the self monitoring for the child by telling him /her when an error has been made, we are not allowing the child to develop ways of self monitoring.

You can encourage your child to self monitor by not always showing where the error is, or telling the correct word. Instead you could use prompts such as:

  • It could be __________, but look at ________. (1st letter etc.)
  • Check it. Does it look right and sound right to you?
  • You almost got that. See if you can find what is wrong.
  • Try that again.
  • Something wasn’t quite right.
  • What’s wrong with this? (Repeat what child said)
  • You said _________. Does that make sense?
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