Retelling is a reading strategy that students use in the classroom to help them to think about what they are reading.  As they retell a story (or a part of a story), they are asked to tell the important parts, in the right order.  This helps them to understand the story better (e.g. make sense of what is happening and is likely to happen next) and to remember it longer (e.g. to answer questions and remember facts).

retelling bmarkWe want our Reading Recovery students to be able to tell us who the characters are, e.g. the 3 little pigs and the wolf. We also want to know the setting, e.g. the forest. There is often a problem in the story, e.g. the wolf is trying to blow down houses. If the student understands the story he will be able to tell us, in his own words, what happens at the beginning, the middle, and the end, e.g.

  • At the beginning of the story the pigs left their mother to make their own houses.
  • The Big Bad Wolf blew down 2 houses and was trying to blow the brick house down.
  • At the end of the story the wolf went down the chimney and landed in the boiling water and that was the end of him.

If the student is able to retell all of these parts of the story she shows that she knows what she is reading. The more details she adds, the greater the understanding.

In a very easy book the characters might be Jack and Billy and Mum. The setting is their home. The problem is that Jack won’t get ready for bed. 3 parts of the story are:

  • Jack was playing with his carred car
  • Billy was in bed.
  • Jack went to bed to hear Mum read a story to them.

As you are listening to your child read at home you may like to have him or her tell you what has happened so far. You will then be able to sort out any misunderstandings along the way. At the end of the book you could ask for some of the information on the bookmark.

Later on, when the students become very familiar with retelling the characters, the setting and the main parts of the book, they will learn to make inferences to fill in missing information, (e.g. Billy was probably feeling tired so he went to bed on time.) and be asked to retell causes of actions or events and their effects, (e.g. Jack wanted to play with his new car so he pretended not to hear his Mum. This caused him to almost miss the bedtime story.)

Click on the picture of the bookmark if you would like to have your own copy.

There are 2 YouTube videos that you might like to view.eyes

Read, Cover, Remember, Retell shows how a teacher uses retelling for very easy books.

Retelling A Story shows how a teacher uses retelling for longer books.

Meaning, Structure, Visual clues

reading blogWhen we are looking at how children solve words we are looking for 3 different ways that words can be worked out.

Is the student using meaning?

Is the student using structure?

Is the student using the look of the word- visual information?

Ideally the student will be using meaning, structure and the look of the words. If he /she is relying on only 1 or 2 of them, the teacher / parent should encourage him / her to use the missing clue.

MEANING:  Does it make sense?

The student uses clues in the story and his knowledge about the topic to predict / guess what will come next.

An example of a student who is mainly using meaning:thinking

Text:         Mother Bear’s red scarf went flying away in the wind.
Student:  Mama Bear’s scarf went flying away in the windy weather.

The sentence made sense and sounded right, but he was not carefully checking the look of  ALL the words.

An example of a student who is NOT using meaning:

Text:         Mother Bear’s red scarf went flying away in the wind.
Student:  Mother Bear’s bed scarf went fling away in the wid.

The errors look similar but it does not makes sense.

If your child is mainly relying on meaning, it will be beneficial to prompt him to use what he knows about letters and sounds, e.g. c-a-t and parts of words, e.g. st-ay-ed.

STRUCTURE: Does it sound right?

The student predicts / anticipates what will come next based on her speaking knowledge of her language.

An example of a student who is using structure:ear

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

The error did not look completely right but it made sense and we could say it that way.

An example of a student who is NOT using structure:

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

The student did not notice that Bear, without the final s, did not sound right with the next word and we don’t say wented.

If your child is mainly relying on structure, it will be beneficial to prompt her to think about the story, look at the pictures and to use what she knows about letters and sounds, e.g. c-a-t and parts of words, e.g. st-ay-ed.

Does it look right? What are the VISUAL clues?eyes

The student looks at the letters within the words to check if the letters could match the way the word sounds.

An example of a student who is mainly using the look of the word:

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

The mistakes looked similar to the correct words but did not make sense or sound right.

An example of a student who is NOT using the look of the words:

Text:         Mother Bear’s red scarf went flying away in the wind.
Student:  Mother Bear’s beautiful scarf came off the clothesline.

The student is using meaning and structure but he is not checking the look of all the words.

If your child is mainly relying on the look of the word, it will be beneficial to prompt him to think about the story, look at the pictures, and to think about what would sound right in that place in the sentence.

Prompts to encourage the use of meaning:help1
Look at the picture to help you. What can you see?
Check the picture. Does that make sense?
Let’s stop to think about the story.  What’s happening right now?
What do you think will happen next?
When you don’t understand what you’ve read, go back and read it again.

Prompts to encourage using correct structure:
Are you listening to yourself?
Does it sound right to you?
Can we say it that way?

Prompts to encourage using visual clues
Look at the first letter(s). Could it be ____?
Read that again and start the word. (Rereading the previous words and saying the first letter of the unknown word may be enough of a prompt to guess the word.)
Look for a part you know. Can you say more?
Slide your finger under the word and check it looks like ____.
Does it look like _______ or _______?

For more information refer to this MSV article.

Apps for reading and writing

top lit aps imageAre you looking for some early literacy apps to support your child at home? Here is a list of literacy apps that have earned great reviews. The list includes apps for learning sight words, spelling, and reading skills.

Some are free. The prices for the others may be out of date. The reviews contain  summaries of what the child will experience.

I am not going to personally endorse these apps as l do not know them, but if you are thinking of purchasing some apps it is always a good idea to do some research. Reviews are a good beginning to find what you want. Click on the picture to take you to the reviews.


Matching letters and sounds

jumbled-letters2-1bn2yzv.jpgTo be successful readers and writers, our students need to learn about the relationships between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language (graphophonics). As they are learning to read and write, children learn about matching letters with likely sounds, and matching sounds with likely letters.


To be successful readers, children need to learn-reading book1

  • to see the difference between letters (e.g. b is different to d),
  • to link single letters (m) and clusters of letters (ch, ing) with the sounds they can represent,
  • to take words apart while reading (e.g. c-at),
  • to work with larger chunks (e.g. st-art-ed not s-t-a-r-t-e-d),
  • to use known words and word parts to get to unknown words (e.g. sunflower, play / away),
  • some letter combinations can be said different ways (e.g. cow / know),
  • there are ‘rules’ that sometimes help to solve a word (e.g. the final e sometimes changes how we say the vowel- hid / hide).

To be successful writers, children need to learn-writing2

  • to hear and record sounds in words (i.e. hear the sound, know the letter(s) to match the sound, and know how to write the letters),
  • to hear sounds buried in words  (e.g. The parts of c-a-t are quite easy to hear. The parts of milk are harder to hear.),
  • to use known words and word parts to solve new  words (e.g. play sounds like day),
  • our language has many inconsistencies. (e.g. rhyming words that do not look alike- blew, glue, shoe, through, who, too).

fluency youtubeThis excellent 7 minute YouTube video from ReadingRecoveryNCA shows some students learning to match sounds and letters as they are reading,  writing and using magnetic letters. Click on the picture to view the video.

When Kids Don’t Read Fluently

not fluentAmy Mascott has written a useful article on the Scholastic website called What To Do When Kids Don’t Read Fluently.

If you would like to read the entire article you can access it by clicking on the picture.

The main points are:

  • Fluent readers  understand what they are reading.
  • Fluent readers sound natural and conversational.

What can parents do to help their children read more fluently?

1. Avoid frustration. Stop the reading if your child is struggling to solve the words and is not running the words together in a meaningful way. Close the book and let the child have some time to de-stress.

2. After a while invite your child to open the book to a favourite page.  You can model how it should sound. Encourage your child to join in. You could take turns to read the parts to each other.

You and your child can read the story at the same time and  / or  ‘Echo Read’. (This is when one person reads a sentence or phrase first, and then another person reads it immediately after.)

Fluency is assisted by listening to fluent reading and by practicing fluent reading. Relieving the frustration of stilted, word-by- word reading and sharing the task can be very beneficial for the struggling student.

See also Why do we want students to be fluent readers?