Sight Vocabulary

sight wordsStudents need to build up their own  bank of words that they can quickly read or write in order to free up more time and energy to constantly solve new words.

There are many word games, songs and animations on the internet that can help your child to learn some ‘high frequency’ words (words that we often use) and some common letter clusters (e.g. sh, tr).

You will find some examples at:

If you continue to follow the links from the You Tube and Pinterest sites you will find many more. Some links are free but be aware that some of the links are to sites that are advertising products that are for sale. I am NOT suggesting that you buy any of these.

You can never predict which games and songs will engage the children.simple

This simple sentence making ‘game’ was very popular with one of my students.



sight words match                                       This word matching activity was also simple and popular.

Homework books

homeworkSometimes a parent may ask for harder books to be sent home. There is a reason why l do not send ‘hard books’ home.

The homework book is chosen from the familiar books that were read that day. It should sound quite easy because it has been read at least 3 times at school (when it was introduced, as a running record, as a familiar book).

The purpose of sending ‘easy’ books home is:

  • to give the student confidence to read (and proudly show off) at home,
  • to give the student the opportunity 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) and
  • to give the student the opportunity to notice more visual parts of words. When familiar 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, yesterday has 2 words l know in it, clever and mother end the same way.)

I am constantly judging if l think that the student is ready to go to the next level of books. This is based on:

  • how the reading sounds, (the words may be correct but it may be painfully slow)
  • how much reading work the student tries and how often he / she succeeds, (some children only know a word because the teacher has helped, some children wait to be told what to do, sometimes a child may only try one time, or one way, to work out a word and then give up) and
  • how much the student understands the meaning of what has been read. (Some children need a lot of help with the vocabulary and sentence structure because it becomes  less like his /her speech the higher the level.)reading in bed

Be careful of pushing your child to read harder books at home because he or she may not be ready, and may stop enjoying reading. You can always borrow more challenging books from the library and make this a sharing time. You could do most of the reading and your child could join in.

Being flexible

Flexibility-Cartoon-When Marie Clay was researching ways to help struggling students to read she began by investigating what good readers do as they read. She found that competent readers quickly change between reading strategies by selecting what works best for each situation.

We want our students to be flexible. If one strategy is not working the student needs to quickly try something else.

If the student is stuck l might ask- What else can you try? This question is inviting the student to recall other known strategies. 

The student might:

  • search the picture for clues,
  • reread to regather the meaning / structure / momentum,
  • think about what has happened so far to predict what may come next,
  • reread and get ready to say the beginning of the next word,
  • look for a part of the word he knows,
  • think of another word that looks a bit like that,
  • take the word apart,
  • try saying the word, or part of the word, a different way,
  • look back to where she saw the word before,
  • keep on reading to see if that helps.

If your child is only using 1 strategy every time he / she is stuck, try to encourage the use of something else reading childrenthat may work better for that word. A caution- asking a child to take a word like ‘because‘ apart is not very helpful. Or asking a child to think about the story when he does not know much about the topic, e.g. car engines, is not helpful. Asking the child to look for a small word inside the word is not always helpful, e.g. me within come is no help at all. Some words will have to be ‘told’ and that is OK.

The main message for the child is don’t give up after one attempt.  Don’t keep using what is not working for that word. Try something else.

Direction is important

theFrom the beginning of Reading Recovery we are emphasizing the importance of direction.

The direction of letters:

This can be a challenging concept for the student. For example, a chair is still a chair if it is upside down, facing away from us, or tilted. The letter b is not the same if it is flipped (d) or upside down (p, q) or placed any other way that it is not the usual position. A chair is a chair in any position but a letter is not the same.


The position of the chair does not change that it is a chair.

4b 2b 3b 1b

The position of the letter b changes what it is.

In a previous post about Making and Breaking l wrote that it is important that the students know the direction that their eyes need to track as they are reading.

Looking through the word:

  • we look from left to right, e.g. the is not the same as eht,
  • letter order is important, e.g. like is not the same as ikle or leik.

slow checkTo reinforce that words are made up of individual letters, the student is asked to break one letter at a time from a word. He /she physically moves the magnetic letters across the whiteboard, e.g. c-a-t, to emphasize looking at each letter.
After the student is asked to move each letter to the left in order to break the letters out of the word, we always have the student quickly  sweep a finger under the complete word from left to right. This encourages the eyes to look through words in this direction. As we read, our eyes are moving quickly from left to right and they are looking for chunks of letters (within words) and groups of words (within sentences).

Sometimes we encourage the eyes to sweep ahead by using a masking card. As the student reads a familiar book, a piece of card is 1rocketheld by the teacher and she sweeps it along the line of the print just a little behind the student’s oral reading. (I use a card that is the shape of a rocket.) If the student is reading too slowly the card will cover the words before he/ she sees them, and therefore the student is greatly encouraged to look ahead as quickly as possible. A masking card can be a very useful tool but it should be used sparingly and l would not recommend that you use it at home as it can be a distraction or a hindrance if it is not used very carefully.

If your child is not looking from left to right have him or her slide a finger under the words whilst reading. The finger should be removed as soon as it is not needed.