Students need to learn ways to help themselves to solve words as they are reading and writing. The aim is always for the student to use what is already known.
This student composed:
I’ve got new runners that are pink and silver with rainbow shoelaces.
The teacher decided the student could solve that.
Teacher: That… What do you know?
Student: No response.
Teacher: You know the… say the and then say that.
Student: the…that (No comment about the similarity.)
Teacher: They start the same.
Student: T-H (Wrote these 2 letters.)
Teacher: What do you hear at the end of the word?
Student: th…a – t…at ! (Wrote a and t.)
Teacher: That’s right. You knew the 2 parts- th and at.
In this example the student was asked to think about how the beginning of one word (that) was like a well-known word (the), and then to notice the familiar word at to finish it. The aim was not just to learn how to write a new word. The aim was to learn some possible ways of solving words that the student would be able to use independently in the future. (e.g. Do I know another word that sounds a bit like that? Can I hear a part of the word that I can write?)
N.B. The teacher had decided that the student did not need the more supportive prompts that she may have used earlier in the series of lessons, e.g. Say the word slowly. T and H make the th sound. You know how to write at. You wrote it here. You just read it here.
If we always give the student the most supportive prompts, we are not teaching him / her to become independent. By giving the open-ended question- What do you know?– the student was given the opportunity to search her own repertoire of strategies. In this instance she needed some support to trigger a response.