Taking risks when writing

I know that the students who are going to be the easiest-to-teach are usually the risk takers. They are the ones that are not scared of making mistakes and they’ll have a go at every task.

When it comes to writing, the risk takers do not wait to be told how to write every word. They do not stick to writing words that they can already write.

2 students wrote about their own experiences at a swimming pool after reading a book about Emma and Matthew at the pool with their dad.

STUDENT A wrote: I like the pool.

STUDENT B wrote: Smtims I go dn the sid at the pola. We dedt wont to get let so we got chad wle fast.
(TRANSLATION: Sometimes I go down the slide at the pool. We didn’t want to get late so we got changed really fast.)

Student B used ‘invented spelling’ when she didn’t know how to spell a word. Her focus was to get her message written down.

Of course it is important for students to learn how to spell correctly or else others will have trouble understanding the intended message, but it is equally important for the students to be able to write their thoughts down quickly. (While the thoughts are still ‘in the head’. To have time to write more.) Student B was able to tell us much more about her experiences at the pool than Student A.

If we limit our students to only writing words that they already know how to spell, we may stop their desire to try communicating at all. Some students resist being risk takers because they have been ‘told off’ or corrected so many times it is totally discouraging.

During the Reading Recovery lessons I help the students to learn ways of solving words:

  • Say a word slowly and listen for the sounds
  • Use an alphabet chart, or a previous piece of writing for help
  • Listen for a similar known word family, e.g. cat, that
  • Think about word parts or chunks that you know, e.g. pl-ay-ing
  • Write one syllable (hand clap) at a time, e.g. yes / ter / day.

I also value all the attempts that the student makes. ‘That was a fantastic try at writing sometimes. You wrote down all the sounds that you could hear’. I do not expect the student to work on every word. I write parts of words and sentences for the student. (This varies from student to student, and more help is given early in the series of lessons.)

When your children are writing messages for you at home tell them how pleased you are that they are writing. Value the message and praise their ideas. Don’t feel that every word has to be fixed.

First 2 Weeks

During the past 2-3 weeks the students have been kept very busy Roaming Around The Known. They are not yet challenged to learn new skills. They feel comfortable as they stay within the bounds of what is already known.

You can read more about Roaming by clicking on the following links:
Roaming The Known
Roaming The Known 2
Making I Like Books
Making I Like Books 2

The activities that each student does will depend on his / her capability. Here are some photos of just some of the tasks that my students have experienced over the past 2-3 weeks.

Building up a box of easy to read books for each student. Sometimes the teacher does most of the reading. Sometimes the student takes over all of the reading.




Revising known letters, sounds and words. The student sorts known letters, plays letter games and may make a sound book or a sound chart. Sound boxes may be introduced.



Making a book. The student dictates a page each day and draws a picture to go with it. The sentence is also written on a strip of card which can be cut up for the student to put back together. The words can be sorted in different ways.


Shared writing. The student composes a sentence and writes the letters / words that he / she knows.

Each activity prepares the student for the formal Reading Recovery lessons that begin after the 1st 10 days of Roaming.


The power of self corrections

 A self correction is when the child reads a word (or part of a sentence) incorrectly and then fixes it without help.

Sometimes adults give too much attention to the mistakes that children make which can be rather discouraging, especially during the early stages of reading. But when we give attention to the self corrections we are emphasising what the child is doing well, i.e. the solution rather than the problem.

You might ask “Why did you stop and change that word?” and you might get a reply such as-
It’s a d so it’s a dog, not a puppy.
Checking the 1st letter really helped you didn’t it!”

Because Little Chimp is asleep in the picture. (Not awake.)
It was good to think about what was happening in the story.”

I saw ‘to’ and I knew it was ‘today’. (Not they.)
That was clever. Sometimes you can see a part you know.”

When you bring the child’s attention back to a self correction by saying something like “You did a good job of fixing this word. What you were thinking?” you are not just focussing on the child recognising more words, you are encouraging the process of word solving. The blue teacher comments above are reinforcing the process. By doing this you may encourage him / her to think-

Yeah, you’re right, I really did do that and it worked for me. Maybe I’ll try that same thing again sometime.…..That wasn’t so hard. I did it all by myself. I’m getting pretty good at this stuff.
From One Child At A time by Pat Johnson

By focussing on what the child did to help himself or herself, the child may be more willing to take risks and try again on another day, on another book. (And not just wait for help.)
Feeling good about yourself is the best way of learning and strengthening skills such as reading.


Welcome back to the SAEPS Reading Recovery blog. St Albans East Primary School will again be running Reading Recovery with 2 trained RR teachers. We look forward to working with our new students.


Students in Year One are being tested and selected to be in the first Reading Recovery intake. There are also some students who did not finish their series of lessons by the end of 2016 and they are currently resuming their lessons. Parents of the newly selected Reading Recovery students will be contacted to meet with us to discuss the program and the homework requirements. We can still be found in Room 12 (opposite the Performing Arts room) in Building 2.

This blog has quite a lot of information for parents (and teachers). You can browse throughout the site, or search for a topic by using the Categories To Search drop box on the right hand side of the screen, or you can use the Search box in the top right hand corner.

Helpful information for the start of the year can be found by clicking these links:

What is Reading Recovery?

What is an Observation Survey?

Roaming The Known


Ms Dianne Fielding