The 1st word can be the hardest

There’s a song that says that ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’. Well I think that the hardest word is often the first word of a sentence. Why? Because there is little or no context (meaning or structure) to support the look of the word.

If your child is stuck on the first word of a sentence don’t think that you’re doing the wrong thing if you just tell him / her what it is to move the reading along.

Sometimes I will tell the word. Sometimes I will give a prompt to action and if that does not work I will tell the word.

Here are some ways that I’ve helped students to get started :

Day after day “We’d probably say ‘every day’ but the author chose ‘day after day’. Say it with me. Day after day”. (‘Day’ might be a word that is usually recognized by this student, but it is not known in this context.)

Kieron “That boy is ‘Kieron'”. (Pointed to picture and pointed to 1st word.) “Can you say ‘Kieron’?” (To become familiar with the look and sound of the word.)

Matthew “Who is still making the card?” (A call to use some visual information and meaning (print and picture) to support a decision.)

They “Does it look like ‘They’ or ‘Then’?” (Reducing the choice to 2 words. Will need to look through the whole word.)

Then “What do you think happened then?” (Giving some context and putting the word ‘then’ into the student’s mix of possibilities.)

After “What do you think will happen after school?” (Context for the 1st word, and also a call to think about what might come next (structure and meaning).)

Thunder “Look at the black clouds in the sky. Look at the beginning of the word and think about what might happen”. (Giving some context and a call to crosscheck meaning with the look of the word.)

Everyone “Can you see a part you know? Can you say more?” (A call to take the word apart as I know he knows both ‘every’ and ‘one’.)

You have to know the reader well in order to choose an appropriate prompt. If in doubt- Tell.

 

Common learning between reading and writing

Reading and writing go together. Reading is a message- getting, problem-solving activity and writing is a message-sending, problem-solving activity.

When you teach reading and writing together, it is a two-for-one deal (From Reciprocity Between Reading and Writing: Strategic Processing as Common Ground by Nancy L Anderson and Connie Briggs)

The strategies that the student uses to read, and the strategies that the student uses to write, are often the same and they support each other. What seems obvious to us however may not be obvious to the student, so we have to help him / her to make the connections in order to make learning easier.

Some of the common strategic actions are:

  • Searching for more information e.g. asking oneself- what do I know about the message, how words go together to make sentences, and how letters go together to make words?
  • Monitoring, e.g. checking if the message makes sense and looks right. You cannot fix a problem if you do not notice that there is a mismatch.
  • Self correcting, e.g. rereading to change a word that did not look right / sound right.

Common Ground Between Reading and Writing

WRITER

Creates ideas with an audience in mind, e.g. a letter to Grandma, a story for the class library.

READER

Uses the written message to construct meaning, e.g. what did the author want me to know / think about / enjoy?

MEANING Checks that the message makes sense.If it does not sound right then I have to check what I want to say and search for a better way of writing it. MEANING Checks that the message makes sense. If it does not sound right then I have to check what I think the author is telling me, and search for errors.
STRUCTURE Chooses the order of words based on a knowledge of what we hear / see during reading experiences, and how we put words together in sentences when we are talking (e.g. grammar, punctuation, Can I say it that way?) STRUCTURE Groups words together that sound right based on a knowledge of what we hear / see during other reading experiences, and how we put words together in sentences when we are talking and writing (e.g. grammar, punctuation, Would I say it that way?)
VISUAL INFORMATION Uses knowledge of how letters, words, and print work (e.g. letter-sound connections) to write the message. VISUAL INFORMATION Uses knowledge of how letters, words, and print work (e.g. letter-sound connections) to construct (make meaning) from the message.
MONITORING Checks and finds any mismatches between the anticipated message and the written words. MONITORING Checks and finds any mismatches between the anticipated message and the written words.
SELF CORRECTING Notices errors and fixes them. SELF CORRECTING Notices errors and fixes them.

Dr Ann Ballantyne wrote some examples of teaching explicit links between reading and writing:

The child read was for went: Teacher “You can write that word. Write it quickly. What did you write?’

Child stumbles on a partly known word in reading. Teacher: ‘that’s an important word. Have you seen it before?…That was in one of your favourite books (shows him). You can read it and you can learn to write it.” (teaches writing)

Anderson & Briggs prompted:

“Think about how you say words slowly in writing. That will help you in reading.”

If you would like to read the article called Reciprocity Between Reading and Writing: Strategic Processing as Common Ground by Nancy L Anderson and Connie Briggs click on the link (title).

Teachers might also like to take a look at Reading and Writing: teaching for reciprocal gains by Dr Ann Ballantyne.

Faster progress in writing

On Friday we attended our last Reading Recovery Ongoing Professional Learning session for the year. We discussed some research that had looked into the differences between a group of Reading Recovery students who had demonstrated fast progress in writing and the students who had made slower progress over the same amount of time.

Interestingly, the students who made the faster progress by the end of the study were not always the students who knew the most about writing at the beginning of the study.

A main difference was that the students who had made the faster progress often reread their writing as they were producing it. Rereading seemed to help them to work out what the next word(s) should be in order to make sense, and to continue the thought. They did not need to be prompted to recall what they had originally intended to write. They were also easily able to add or change words ‘on the run’ to contribute to the original idea.

As well as rereading, the students who made the faster progress could often be heard saying the next word(s) or the beginning sound(s) of the next word. (My friend Colby stayed at my house for a s / sl (sleepover). They were more likely to say the parts of the word as they wrote them (sl-ee-p-ov-er) and checked themselves and made changes if they were not happy with the look of the words (slipova – sleepova – sleepover).

We all reflected on our teaching. Were we letting our students become more independent, or were we doing too much of the thinking, checking and problem solving for them (i.e. holding them back)? I am going to make sure that I give my students every opportunity to reread, check, and help themselves before I intervene with their writing in order to promote faster progress.