decodeDecoding can be thought of as searching through the word (by looking carefully at the letters) to work out the “code”  that makes it that specific word. Another way of putting it is – decoding is the process of translating print into speech by rapidly matching a letter or combination of letters (graphemes) to their sounds (phonemes) and recognizing the patterns that make syllables and words.

Decoding may look like:

Rereading and sounding the first part of the word, e.g. Father Bear said, “I like the (reread) tr- train”.

Covering the beginning /  ending to isolate the parts, e.g. look-ing.

Making connections to a similar word, e.g. taller looks a bit like ball.

Chunking a big word, e.g. yes-ter-day.

Decoding Strategies:

readding and decodingClick on the picture to take you to the Scholastic website to read about some ways that you can help your child to develop reading skills using comprehension and decoding strategies.



hiddenClick on this picture to view a list of prompts from ‘jocvalees” that you may like to download and print.

Professional development

teacher-1415225-mLast Friday we met with our Ongoing Professional Learning group of Reading Recovery teachers and tutor. Some of us travel over an hour, and a few very dedicated teachers travel over 2 hours to join in with the sharing and learning at these meetings.

Our main focus was making the most use of our daily running records to drive our teaching choices. We were reminded to look for patterns of responses (strengths and weaknesses) over a number of days to set student goals. We also discussed ways of recording more information on our running records to capture the behaviours of the students as they are reading, e.g. long pauses, short pauses, grouping words together in phrases, word by word stretches, responses to punctuation, and comments from the students. (A different type of comment from one of my students last week was “Can l have this room when you’re dead?”. When l replied that l didn’t plan on being dead for quite a while he looked me up and down and seemed quite sceptical!)

Another discussion point was about self corrections. We celebrate when our students running-recordself correct errors, especially in the first half of their series of lessons because it shows that the student acknowledges that an error has been made and is then able to solve the error in some way. But if the student is continually making a lot of self corrections we have to question why so many errors are being made in the first place. Is he / she scanning ahead to see what is coming next? Is he / she only thinking about the meaning, or is she /he only looking at a few letters and guessing?

The professional development we do always leads to many questions as we reflect on our own teaching behaviours. It is not only the students who are doing the continual learning.

Retelling the end of the book

my-students-1-1154730-mI have written a previous post about having the child retell a story (with the focus on identifying the features of a book such as the setting, the characters and the sequence of the events e.g. 1st, middle, and last parts of the story).

Lately my students have been reading longer stories. After the 2nd reading of the book, l may have the student read most of the story and then have him / her retell the rest of the it. This serves 2 purposes. One is to move the lesson along (i.e. spend time on other reading and writing tasks) and the other is to encourage their oral language. 

As the student retells the end of the book he / she has to think about the story and put what will happen next in his / her own words. This is a way of checking the vocabulary and sentence structure that the student is using. The student has to understand the words within the story to be able to describe the events /  feelings of the characters / and the cause and effect of what happened. The student also has to put the words into sentences that make sense. This is a very valuable part of the lesson.

Sometimes you might like to stop the reading before the end of the book and have your child tell you the remainder of the story. He / she can still look at the pictures. Notice how he / she puts the words together. Does it make sense and sound right? Is he /she using describing words like tiny, enormous, beautiful? Are some of the sentences your child says as long as the ones in the book or just very simple ones? Don’t forget to ask questions to have your child do even more talking. It is all very helpful.

Self Monitoring for Meaning

child-and-book-1366362356aIcWhen your child makes an error that does not make sense does he or she stop reading? Self monitoring is noticing that something is wrong. If the child keeps on reading without seeming to acknowledge the error (e.g. stops, looks puzzled, looks at you as if wanting help), self monitoring is not happening.

Some children rely on others to tell them if they are doing a good job or not. Some skip over an error in the hope that the listener has not noticed because it will lead to more work (e.g. go back and try something else). My aim is for all of my students to monitor their own choices and to make their own decisions as they are reading.

As l take a running record the first strategy l check that the student is using is meaning, (i.e. I check if the student seems to realize when an error does not make sense). If the student is not using meaning he or she is likely to have poor comprehension (not understand) and will have much less chance of predicting and solving new words.

The following example is one I have used in an earlier post-

Text:         The little cat is in the big tree

Student:  The like cat is it the big tree.

This student is using the general look of the words without checking that it makes sense and sounds right.

To prompt for using meaning, allow you child to finish reading the sentence and then say something like, Did that make sense?, Did that sound right to you? Try that again and think about…. (the story) (the picture).

Building sentences

writingEvery day the Reading Recovery student writes a sentence or 2. During the series of lessons there should be a progression in the words that are used (vocabulary) and the complexity of the sentences (e.g. correct grammar, the use of joining words such as and, because, so).


For example, the following 3 sentences were composed by one of my students.

The truck put mud.

Jack got happy on his birthday.

Kitty Cat sat on the chair and Fat Cat got angry so he chased Kitty Cat.

The 1st sentence was written very early in his series of lessons. The 2nd sentence was written during Week 5, and the 3rd sentence was written during Week 10.

Notice the changing complexity of the sentences. This student has learnt much more about our pencillanguage from the books he has read, the conversations he has shared during his lessons, and through all of his school (and world) experiences.  Ideally his writing ability will keep up with the complexity of his reading levels.

One way you can help your child with his / her developing vocabulary and sentence structure is to ask questions that need more than a yes or no answer. Instead of saying- Fat Cat was angry wasn’t he? (Inviting a yes / no reply), invite longer responses by saying – Why do you think Fat Cat was so angry? Tell me about Kitty Cat. What was she doing? What do you think she will do next?