First graduate

It was very pleasing to return after the holidays and to observe that each student had maintained their new skills. Some students were reading a little slower but they quickly picked up the pace again. Remember that reading should sound like talking.

One of my students has just finished Reading Recovery. She is so proud of herself. Her classroom teacher has commented on her overall increased confidence in the classroom. However her learning hasn’t finished. We all learn new things every day.

What we don’t use can be easily forgotten. Reading Recovery graduates should continue to read at home every day. Teachers will monitor their progress and continue to give some extra support when required.

‘Miss Graduate’ wrote a message about her experience with Reading Recovery.




She is proudly showing a book that she read when she first began  Reading Recovery, and a book that she can read now.







Her favourite story to read is Goldilocks And The 3 Bears.


As one student graduates, another one begins Reading Recovery. I have a new student who has already begun Roaming The Known.  (Roaming 2, First 2 Weeks)  


Growth with Reading Recovery

Enjoy the next 2 weeks of holidays! Don’t forget to have your child do lots of reading, and some writing too.

If you read the last post and followed the links you may have noticed the video Growth With Reading Recovery (Reading Recovery Council of North America, 2012)
If you did not see the video, I have linked it to this post.

The video is celebrating Chase’s journey from being a student who was reading below the other students in his class, to being a confident student who was reading above the level of the average students in his class.

After 5 weeks of Reading Recovery, Chase’s RR teacher tells us that he was using strategies such as slowly saying a word (moth) in order to hear what he would expect to see at the beginning of the word (m). He was then asked to check if the word did begin with m, and it did.

Chase was able to hear many dominant consonants. Consonants are letters that are not vowels (aeiou). Dominant consonants are the ones that are easiest to hear within a word, e.g. Chase would probably hear c-s-n (or k-z-n) in cousin. He is not likely to think the word cake would be cousin if he is using what he knows about matching sounds with probable letters,

Chase was also learning that there was a connection between reading and writing. When we are reading we go from letters to sounds. When we are writing we go from sounds to letters. We can hear individual sounds and parts of words, we can write down letters to represent the sounds and parts of words, and we can look at the letters and parts of words and think of sounds that could match those letters.

Even after 5 weeks, Chase’s classroom teacher had noticed that he was taking risks with his writing, i.e. he had the confidence to try writing words that he did not know.

Chase had 15 weeks of Reading Recovery. By then he had caught up to the average students in his class and he sounded like a good reader. Chase was using word parts (e.g. st-art-ed) and word patterns (day, away) to solve words.

At the beginning of Reading Recovery Chase could only write 5 words. After 15 weeks he could write 42 words.

Chase continued to progress without the extra support that he had previously needed. Chase was reading above the level of the average students in his class by the end of the school year, and his classroom teacher was very pleased with what he could do, including solving words on the run. That means he could work out many unknown words as he was reading, without having to stop, reread and think about ways of taking a word apart.

Chase understood what he was reading as he could answer questions about his book and write about it. Chase was now confident to try new challenges and he enjoyed reading and writing. He had learnt many things about reading and writing (giving him background knowledge) that he can now use in the future. The teachers were proud of him and no doubt so were his parents. Most importantly, Chase would be very pleased with himself.

This is the kind of journey we want for all of our students!

Advice for parents and teachers

I find that searching around the World Wide Web provides lots of good advice (and some questionable advice too!).

I was very pleased to find this website- It advertises itself as ‘a site dedicated to resources for literacy learning and teaching’.

There is a lot of very valuable information for parents related to Reading Recovery.

Parents will be especially interested to read Ways to Help At Home.
There are some ideas that you can use as your child is reading the take-home book, and unjumbling the cut up sentence that comes home each day.
Your own copy of Ways to Help At Home can be downloaded here.

Parents and classroom teachers may also be interested to read A Reading Recovery Lesson.

Each part of the Reading Recovery lesson is explained- Familiar ReadingReread of Yesterday’s New Book for AssessmentWord and Letter WorkComposing and Writing A Story, the Cut-up Sentence, and the New Book Introduction & First Read. There is quite a bit of ‘teacher talk’ so parents might like to revisit The Lesson page on this blog as it also explains the parts of the lesson without the ‘teacher talk’.

Phonological Awareness 2

The Prep and Year 1/2 teachers have been exploring more about Phonological / Phonemic Awareness. You may like to view the following Youtube presentation from the Neuhous Education Center. (It is intended for teachers but it is well explained for others to follow too.)


      • Phonological Awareness is critical to learning to read.
      • Phonological Awareness is a strong predictor of reading success. (Children who can hear the parts within words find it easier to learn to read.)
      • Phonological Awareness can be developed through instruction. (Children can be taught to hear the parts within words through a variety of activities.)

from the handout that accompanies the presentation.

During Reading Recovery we include Phonological Awareness instruction across the whole lesson, but mainly during Letter ID / Word Work (e.g. making a word with magnetic letters, changing the 1st or last letters, breaking a word into parts) and Writing (e.g. clapping syllables of a word before attempting to write it, sound boxes).


If you would like to know more about phonological awareness or phonemic awareness  go to

You may like to read a previous post about Phonological Awareness.

You can download at handout with some ideas for home at

Please note: There are some products for sale via this link. SAEPS will never recommend or ask that you buy any products linked to this blog.

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.


Teaching decisions- writing

pencilMiss A is into week 3 of her series of lessons. She is a very quiet English As A Second Language student who is already showing that she is much more capable than her initial testing indicated. (The kind of surprise that I like!)

Miss A has moved from reading Level 6 to Level 9 books. She wrote 16 words independently at the beginning of Reading Recovery, and by the end of last week she was up to 33 words that she can write by herself.


Immediately before the writing section of the lesson on Friday she read Kitty Cat And The Paint. Miss A was invited to show me the part of the book that she liked the most. (She really enjoys the Kitty Cat books. She began tentatively contributing to conversations over a Kitty Cat book. I saw her first smile and heard a giggle.)

In this story curious Kitty Cat would not move away from a can of red paint despite Fat catCat telling her to go away. Angry Fat Cat chased Kitty Cat and in the process knocked over the red paint.

Miss A is not one to freely talk. She quickly told me that she liked the page because Fat Cat ran after Kitty Cat. When I asked why Fat Cat did this she told me it was because she stayed at the paint. I would probably ask other students to tell me more detailed information but I want Miss A to feel comfortable with the process of composing and if I ask too much of her she tends to ‘freeze’.


I said, ‘Let’s write about that. How are you going to start your story? About Kitty Cat or about Fat Cat?’ She said ‘Kitty Cat stayed at the paint’. I had her write that part down before I asked her what happened next. ‘Fat Cat ran after Kitty Cat’. I asked her to read what she had written so far and got her to orally add her ending. I repeated it back to her and offered her an alternative. ‘Do you want Kitty Cat stayed at the paint and Fat Cat ran after Kitty Cat or do you want Kitty Cat stayed at the paint and Fat Cat ran after her? She chose the latter. I would have accepted either response.



Miss A independently wrote Kitty, Cat, at, the, and, Fat, ran (for the 1st time) and her.

I decided that stayed was a good opportunity to show her how a known word could help to write a new word. At the moment she does a lot of solving ‘in her head’. I decided that she could use counters and sound boxes to hear the parts of stayed. She was able to write ‘s’ and ‘t’ in the 1st 2 boxes and wrote ‘a’ in the 3rd box. Then I quickly wrote day on her practice page. (I already knew that she could write this word but to save time I wrote it.) I then asked her to circle the 2 letters that made the ‘A’ sound in day. I then told her that day and stay sound and look the same so she added y to make ay in the 3rd box. I asked her how she was going to finish the word- with d or ed and she correctly wrote ed.

The other 2 words that required assistance were paint and after. She heard pa–t for paint-tin_21083208paint and a-t –for after. I wrote the letters ‘in’ for paint as Miss A could not hear them even when I stretched the word aloud for her. She added the ‘f ‘for after following my slow stretching of the word. I then wrote the familiar word mother and explained how the ‘u’ sound at the end of both mother and after was represented by ‘er’.

The only other teaching decision I made was to have Miss A change her lowercase ‘c’ to ‘C’ for Fat Cat and change ‘P’ to ‘p’ in paint. I could have also asked her to make the ‘s’ smaller for stayed but I let it go. During another lesson I will spend time on the placement of tall and ‘hang-down’ letters.

curious-catThe whole process from the beginning of composing to the finished writing takes 10 minutes of the lesson so the teaching decisions, prompts, and the writing of known words and letters, must be fast. I have to decide what are the best ‘teachable moments’ in the limited time that we have. It is more efficient to show Miss A how to solve words (e.g. analogy- using what is known to get to the unknown) compared to learning to spell specific words. That being said, the more words that Miss A can write on her own, the more time and energy there is to write many varied words. I chose the word after to be a word that would be useful to learn so she wrote it 4 more times on the practice page.

Decoding and Comprehension

graduationSome of my students are in the process of graduating from Reading Recovery. It is extremely gratifying to observe the progress that takes place over the 15 – 20 weeks of lessons.

When I believe that a student is ready to finish he / she does the Observation Survey again. The student is asked to read some familiar and unseen books in order to check the strategies that are being used.

When Student A ‘graduated’ recently she was able to read books up to Level 19 that she had not seen before. I would say that this reading level was a decoding level for her. She was able to decode (work out) enough words for the book to be considered instructional (not too hard according to a mathematical formula that we use). However, she was not able to tell the teacher many of the important parts of the story, and further questioning revealed that she did not understand what she reading.

The main reason for reading is to gain meaning.

chefIf you can say the words correctly (because you are good at putting the letters together), but you do not understand what you are reading, it is called ‘barking at print’. I might read a cookbook this way. I could sound like a great reader (only stumbling over a few words) but I would have no idea what most of the instructions meant. (I know this from the few cooking shows that I’ve seen on TV. The contestants use a different language to me, e.g. emulsify and temper the chocolate and blast chiller.)

Student A read up to Level 15 at a comprehension level. She was able to retell the main events and answer questions about the books. The comprehension level is often below the decoding level. It will depend on the understanding that the student brings to the book. If the student has a background in a language other than English it is likely that he / she will not know the meaning of many of the words. It is also harder to predict what will come next.

I can be reasonably confident that Student A will be able to read Level 15 books independently if she is familiar with the topic (ideas, setting, vocabulary, structure).

It is always a good idea to ask your child a few questions about a book to check he or she is understanding what is being read. You could ask your child to tell you what has happened so far. ‘Sounding good’ does not always mean that the reader is comprehending.

Flexibility in problem solving

teacher-1415225-mWe have just had another session of Reading Recovery professional development. We looked at many examples of excellent teaching strategies, including a webcast of Mary Fried (Ohio State University) presenting Flexibility in Problem Solving During Writing.

She gave some examples of what we might expect our students to contribute to their own writing during various stages within their series of lessons. (This is only a guide. Some students will be able to contribute more themselves earlier in the lessons, and some students may need longer time.)

This sentence example could have been composed at any stage of the lessons but we would expect the student to demonstrate an increasing amount of problem solving. In the following examples Mary Fried has anticipated what a student at various levels might contribute. This is demonstrated by the red letters / words / word parts. The fictional teacher chose the underlined words to work on.


My mum took me to the library yesterday. I got movies and books.

The student would be asked- Can you write ___? (mum, me, the) Another question would be- What can you hear? (Some 1st and last sounds.)

EARLY STAGE (Levels 3-6)

My mum t-oo-k me to the library yesterday. I g-o-t movies and books.

Sound boxes could possibly be used for took and got.

MID STAGE (Levels 6-11)

My mum took me to the library yesterday. I got movies and books.

Analogy would be prompted- If you know look, you can write took. Look at how you wrote took. It will help you to write books. Clap the 3 parts of yes-ter-day. Can you write yes …and… day? Sound boxes would be used for movies.

LATER STAGE (Levels 12-16) (16-20)

My mum took me to the library yesterday. I got movies and books.

Clap yes-ter-day. Try it on the practice page. Try writing movies in letter boxes. The student might write move_es independently.

The students always contribute the parts that they can. At first they may only write a few letters that they can hear. They may already know how to write some words. Some words may only be tentatively known (or mostly known), and the student may be asked to write it a number of times in order to learn it.

Some words may be partly solved and the teacher contributes the tricky parts, e.g. ter in school_clipart_boy_writtingyesterday. Some words are easier to solve if you clap the parts, e.g. yes-ter-day. Some words are solved using sound boxes (What can you hear?). Some words are easier to solve if you compare it to a word you already know, e.g. look / took / books and some words are solved using letter boxes (What would you expect to see?)

The teacher needs to adjust her prompts throughout the series of lessons. The aim is to teach the students how to be flexible when solving words by using a variety of strategies.

An example of a lesson


Here is a new youtube video of a Reading Recovery lesson. It is interesting to hear the prompts that the teacher uses to scaffold (help) her student to check and solve words as he is reading and writing.

The lesson is made up of-

Familiar reading (well known books). Usually that there is less help needed during familiar reading, and the reading should sound smooth (not word by word).

Running record. The student read independently.The teacher was recording what he was doing well and what needed attention. After the reading she made some decisions about which teaching points would be the most valuable at this time, and which errors she wanted him to work on again.

Making And Breaking. He made the word play with magnetic letters. He was asked to make a similar word– day. The word pay was harder for him to read showing that he didn’t quite understand that ay had a constant sound in the different words.

Writing. The student composed a sentence based on one of his books. The teacher and the student shared the pen. (We have a marker each. We would do the cut up sentence next. This was left out of this lesson.) The teacher and the student worked on various ways to solve words: clapping the parts, sound boxes, and stretching out the word.

New book. There was some discussion to familiarise the student with the overall story and some of the words and phrases in the book. She left out the ending for the student to discover during the 1st reading of the whole book. He read this book with the most amount of expression in his reading voice.

This teacher has been very generous in allowing this video to be posted. It kids-readingdemonstrates that a student does not always easily follow our prompts and we need to constantly adjust what will help him or her. We need to know what is not working for this student at this particular time. We need to know what to keep working on and what to leave for another day. Our students are certainly unpredictable.