About msfielding

I'm a Reading Recovery teacher at St Albans East PS.

Retell to check meaning

We are used to asking our students to predict what might come next in a story (based on what has happened so far).
For example:
Teacher-What do you think will happen on the next page?
StudentI think Bingo is going to eat the card too.
As the student turns the page she looks at the picture to confirm her prediction, and she easily reads words such as ‘card’ because she expects to see it.

A few students benefit from being asked to retell what already happened at the end of every 1 or 2 pages. The teacher might choose to do this to check that the student is understanding what is read. (Before waiting until the end of the book.)

Some students can read all of the words correctly but they cannot answer questions because they can’t follow the story, or they might partly understand what was read but not enough to tell someone else about it. Other students might need extra opportunities to improve how they speak, (i.e.oral language).

“Mother Chimp will be hungry”, he said. “I will take some fruit down to her.” Little Chimp got some fruit. He climbed down the tree with it.

Teacher– Tell me what just happened. (This is asking the student to recall what was just read, and to choose words / sentences to pass on the information in a way that makes sense.)
Student ALittle Chimp is eating the fruit. (Student A based this incorrect information on the picture of the chimp with the fruit in it’s mouth, not the information in the print.) Little Chimp did eat some fruit but this was earlier in the book.
Teacher– Little Chimp does have the fruit in his mouth. Go back to here (beginning of page) to read why he is going to give it to Mother Chimp. (The teacher is providing more meaning, and is directing the student to the exact location to find some specific information.)
Student AShe’s hungry.
Teacher– Why do you think Little Chimp carried the fruit in his mouth?
Student A– ‘Cos he’s climbing down and hanging on to the branches.
Teacher– Why do you think Mother Chimp didn’t get some fruit herself?
Student AShe had to look after the baby chimp.

After the meaning was re-established, the teacher invited the student to turn the page. Student A was asked to describe what was happening in the next picture before she attempted to read it.


Another example:
Teacher– Tell me what just happened.
Student BMother Chimp get none….food.
Teacher– You’re right. Mother Chimp didn’t get any fruit herself. Who gave her some? (The teacher is confirming the information, modelling sentence structure, and encouraging him to add more detail.)
Student BLittle Chimp.
Teacher– Tell me how Little Chimp got the fruit. (pointing)
Student BLittle Chimp climbed the tree.
Teacher– That’s right. Little Chimp climbed up the tree and then he….. (accompanying gestures)
Student B– …climbed down the tree.
Teacher–  And he carried the fruit in …..
Student B– …in his mouth.

The teacher has to be sensitive to how much intervention / questioning is helpful , or disruptive to maintaining meaning (and interest) for individual students. Gradually the student becomes more independent and can gather up and maintain meaning whilst reading.

The power of reading

As I write this post, many of us are settling in to watch the ‘fairytale wedding’ in Windsor.

A distant relative once gave me a book of fairytales when I was old enough to read it by myself. I don’t know if she read the book before she gave it to me because the stories frightened me to bits! These were not the airy fairy Disney versions that are on our bookshelves and screens now. These were the original gruesome versions. Thankfully I was not put off reading for life.

I love reading, and therefore I am quite surprised when I come across someone who doesn’t share my enjoyment of spending time with a good book. My mother passed on her passion for books when I was young. She would sometimes be in fits of laughter as she read stories to me. I didn’t always understand the humour, but nevertheless I enjoyed our shared ‘special time’ together. My father faithfully took his children to the library every few weeks and the stack of books that I borrowed grew bigger in tandem with the number of books that I could carry.

11 year old April Qu shares her passion for reading in the following Ted Talk video. She reminds us-  To read is to experience a world of imagination, adventure and discovery.

The Power of Reading | April Qu | TEDxYouth@Suzhou

TEDx Talks Published on 7 Mar 2016
The joy of shared reading experiences with your children may be remembered and treasured for many years to come. Happy reading…..

Emotional wellbeing

The presenter from Berry Street (recent Curriculum Day) reminded us that attending to the emotional side of learning is important to all learners, especially to those students who struggle in some way.

You may have watched the SBS Insight program (How do you turn a school around?) during this past week. It highlighted the positive practices introduced to a disadvantaged Sydney high school that greatly affected the students’ learning and self-confidence.

Research has proven that what children learn (or not) is heavily influenced by emotions. How we are feeling at a particular time affects how our brain receives and understands new information.

Emotions overrule your ability to think. For example, if you have had a bad experience when navigating to somewhere you have never been before, it will probably affect your attitude when driving to another location. One wrong turn could cause a downward spiral of panic that may stop you from thinking rationally. (Been there, done that!)

What teachers, parents and caregivers do and say impacts childrens’ learning and belief in themselves. One of the most damaging things parents and teachers can do is to react impatiently or harshly when children make mistakes. (We all make mistakes and hopefully we learn from them. If we don’t take risks, we limit our opportunities.)

Children who struggle to learn tend to be the most sensitive, and react negatively or positively to parents’ and teachers’ nonverbal cues e.g. a frown or banging the book on the table (negative response) compared to a smile or a ‘high five’ (positive response). An adult may be saying ‘nice things’ but can still be conveying displeasure through expressions and gestures.

A child’s ability to think and problem-solve is heavily dependent on positive experiences with others. A caring and supportive environment (including the teacher / carer) is essential for the development of the complex thinking processes required to read and write. Positive emotions lead to ‘stronger memory’ and lead to ‘easier to learn’.

Students motivate themselves to try new things when they feel good about themselves. In Reading Recovery we are always looking for strengths that can be nurtured. We help / intervene to keep the experiences positive when the student is problem-solving. We create opportunities for the child to become successful.

Teachers who benefit students the most build trust with them, show a genuine interest, listen carefully, give purposeful feedback, provide support, and set high expectations. By doing this we tend to the emotional wellbeing of our students so that they are ready to learn.

Much of the information for this post is taken from a Reading Recovery professional development day I attended years ago lead by Carol Lyons. She is the author of an excellent book called Teaching Struggling Readers: How to Use Brain-Based Research to Maximize Learning (2003)


I have been browsing (not wasting time!) and came across some great articles related to Self Monitoring, Comprehension, and Reciprocity.

I have added the links to the For Teachers page.


Looking for some fresh (or forgotten) ideas to use at home? Here are a couple of updated sites:

Ways to Help at Home from LiteracyLearning.net

Some suggestions for reading, and the cut up sentence, as well as word games.


Reading and Writing With Your Child from the Reading Recovery Council of North America

More ideas and links to games and articles.


Further tips can be found on the Useful Links page. (It can be frustrating when you find links that do not work any more. It would take way too long to keep checking them all!)

During the Curriculum Day on Friday we had our 1st session in the Berry Street Education Model series. There was an emphasis on the importance of students feeling safe and supported in a learning environment containing a predictable routine. Sounds exactly like Reading Recovery!

It is always uplifting to hear about some success stories. Also revisit Celebrating Reading for some feel-good viewing!

Magnetic letters

If you come into Room 12 you will notice that there are many magnetic letters covering the metal surfaces within our room. They all have a purpose.

Each student has different needs each day, and it it makes the lesson go more smoothly if there are multiple teaching areas that can be quickly chosen to suit those needs.

An array of letters is used for quick identification. The student becomes faster at recognising letters as he / she says each line from left to right. Letters are chosen because they are well known to the student and gradually new letters are introduced.



Random letters can be sorted in different ways,  e.g. by colour, by shape, or by size. The purpose is for the student to be aware of differences and similarities between letters, and to quickly search for specific detail.


A student is sorting these letters into 2 groups. 1 group will be lower case letters and the 2nd group will be capital letters.




Sometimes letters are matched to picture cards to reinforce some common sounds, e.g. b-bee, q-queen.





These letters have been chosen for a student to make some specific words. He is learning to use a known word to make or solve a similar word.





He was asked to make a known word- dad- from the selected letters. This was very easy for him. He was then asked to make ‘sad’ which he did. I asked could he make any other words like dad using the letters. He made ‘mad’ and ‘bad’ with a little prompting.


A greater challenge was to make ‘glad’ which required searching for 2 letters to represent the ‘gl’ sound.




The student may be asked to use sound boxes to learn to listen for the individual sounds within words. The word is said aloud as each letter is pushed up into a box, e.g. g-o-t.

Vowels (aeiou) can be quite challenging. This student is ready to listen for the sound and choose the appropriate vowel to go from ‘ran’ to ‘run’.


Another task is to add an ending to a known word, e.g. look, looks, looking, looked.

‘ay’ words were a focus here, e.g. stay, way, lay, play, played

Known words are also broken into parts, e.g. play-ed and with-out. This will help to solve words as he / she is reading (and writing). Students are shown to always search for the biggest known chunks.


These are just some examples of the many tasks that are experienced each day in the Reading Recovery room. Each student will usually only spend a few minutes on 1 or 2 of the tasks within the daily lesson.

Term 2

The holidays have come and gone and Term 2 is well under way. It is pleasing that the students retained most of their new learning. I did notice that some old habits crept back in, especially reading in a more stilted voice. Please remind your child to sound like a ‘good reader’ by saying something like ‘run your words together like talking’ or ‘don’t sound like a robot’. (See Why do we want students to be fluent readers?)

It’s unfortunate that there will be 2 days without lessons next week just as the momentum is picking up again. Of course Anzac Day is on Wednesday (and we all enjoy a public holiday!). On Tuesday the Intervention teachers are covering grades again so that the classroom teachers can learn some more about writing from Alan Wright. The Friday of the following week is a Curriculum Day so that will be yet another missed lesson.

In the last post I reminded everyone that the homework (pasting) book can be used as a book for your child to read when there is a break from lessons. See how many past sentences can be read. Invite your child to go on a word search. Circle similar words, e.g. day, today, yesterday. Look for smaller words within bigger words, e.g. into, playing, grandma. Find all the words containing ‘th’. I’m sure that you will think of more challenges. Or your child will!

Planning Weeks

Planning Week is being spread over the last 2 weeks of the term. All of the Intervention Teachers, as well as the Specialist Teachers, are being used to cover the classes so that the Classroom Teachers can do their planning for next term. Therefore, there have been (and will be) missed Reading Recovery lessons.

Please try to keep the momentum of the learning happening at home. The take home reader can be read again. The pasted sentences in the homework book can be reread. A page within the homework book can be used to write a new sentence.

Some extra books will be sent home for the holidays. Please try to hear your child read one book per day. Thank you for your support.

Solving ‘ran’

My student was reading aloud and he stopped when he came to the word ran.

I thought that this was a word that he could solve himself with the support of magnetic letters and sound boxes (which he has been using in the writing section of the lessons).

I placed the letters under the boxes and I had him push the letters up as he said each sound. After 2 or 3 times he could hear the parts in the word ‘r-a-n’ come together.

I gave him the book and I asked him to push his finger up and say the letter sounds in the same way that he did with the sound boxes. He was very happy with himself when he easily reread the sentence without stopping. After he finished the book we revisited the word ‘ran’ and he showed me how he had solved it.

Eventually I might just have to prompt him to ‘say it like it is in boxes’ to get the same result.

Remaking the cut up sentence

Today one of my students was remaking his cut up sentence. I noticed that he always placed the sentence in one long line. I couldn’t help but notice as I was being elbowed out of the way to make room for the last few words!

When he pasted his sentence in his homework book at home he did not have the room to make one long line, so I knew that he could remake and read the sentence in multiple lines when he had no other choice.

I moved the words around and asked him if he could read the sentence again which he easily did. I asked him if it was still the same sentence and he agreed that it was. He needs to be flexible in reading lines of words as books (and other texts) have a variety of layouts. I also wanted to rearrange the words to encourage him to phrase his oral reading (i.e. run words together in a natural way as we say them, not word by word).

Each time I rearranged the sentence he read it slightly differently,mostly just pausing at the end of each line. (I emphasized that the word order had to be kept the same.)

He was given the opportunity to remake the sentence any other way he wanted. (See left.) I valued his choice although it wasn’t the best layout for grouping words together to sound like a capable reader.

My student is learning that the same sentence can be rearranged in different ways, but it is still the same sentence. He is also learning to put natural pauses between groups of words that go together as he is reading aloud.