As we are reading there are many decisions that we need to make, e.g. do these words make sense, look right and sound right? Sometimes our students do not know if they making good choices between words.
A student who cannot decide if a word is right or not may:
- Stop reading (probably thinking: Is that right?)
- Ask: Am l right? Is it ___?
- Look at the teacher for help.
- Change a word that was right.
- Have multiple tries without deciding which word is right, e.g. looked, look, like.
- Use a questioning voice.
- Not respond, shrug or say ‘I don’t know’.
The child may be used to always being given help.
If the child gives a correct response and looks questioningly at us and every time we respond with statements such as ‘You’re right!’, ‘Mmm-hmm’, or nodding / smiling, then the child is not being taught to think for himself. We are doing the thinking for him.
Also, if the child makes a mistake and we jump in every time saying statements such as ‘Oops!’ or ‘Not quite” or “That’s not..”, we are not teaching her to check her own reading and we are doing the thinking for her.
Whilst it is natural for us to want to praise and encourage or help the child, we should get into the habit of waiting until after the child has had time to confirm or reject his own attempt at a word.
We should ask ‘What do you think?‘
Then we can give extra prompts to help the child, if required, e.g. ‘What can you do to help you?‘ ‘What letter would you expect to see at beginning / end?’ ‘Think about ____ (the picture / story so far)’.
Am l helping or hindering the student from learning to make her own decisions? Am l jumping in too quickly to assist? Does the student know l expect her to independently try something and check it? Am l trying to move the book along quickly by telling the child too much? These are questions that l am asking myself.
From Teaching Students to Confirm Using Sound and Letter Knowledge. By Lorianne Fittzgerald