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.

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.

Many new skills

longer textBy the time the students are finished Reading Recovery they know a lot about reading:

I need to read smoothly, putting the words together like talking.

I need to read using the punctuation, ( e.g. by stopping at a comma, and a full stop. Sounding like it is a question, or changing my voice for an exclamation mark).
I need to read with expression, making it sound interesting.
What I read must make sense.
I need to stop if I’m not sure I understand what I am reading.
I might need to re-read to work out the meaning.
I need to think about the possible meaning of the word by using the surrounding pages / sentences / words.
I need to check that the words I say aloud match the words that I can see.
I create pictures in my mind as I read. It’s like a movie in my head.thinking
I feel what I read. (Little White Rabbit’s face is making me feel so sad.)
I need to look at the pictures. I need to think about what I know about that (topic, idea).
I need to think about similar experiences that I have had, or have read about, or have seen on T.V. or somewhere else.
It reminds me of when I read …because… (text to text).
It reminds me of the time I … because …. (text to self).
It reminds me of something I read because … (text to text, text to world).
It reminds me of something I heard about because … (text to world).
I ask questions and look for answers- before I read, as I read and after I read to help me to understand. (Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?)
Questioning will help me to make predictions (e.g. why did the magpie take Mother Bear’s vocabularywatch and will she get it back?), check and reflect on my reading. (I didn’t guess that Baby Bear would find it.)
When the author doesn’t tell me I must infer…. (Maybe…., I think…., It could be…, It’s because…., Perhaps…, I’m guessing….). (Maybe she wanted to make her nest look beautiful.)
I need to quickly recognise many most-used words.
I need to understand the words that are in this book, preferably before I first read it. (Talk about the book, look through the pictures before reading it to get the overall meaning.)IMGP1026
I can try different ways of taking a word apart, as I think about the meaning at the same time.
I search for more information that will help me. (The look of the whole word. Looking back to where I saw it before. Thinking about other words that are a bit the same. Checking pictures. Rereading. Looking ahead.)
It would be great if all the students kept reading for the remainder of the school year and during the holidays. We all begin to forget how to do something if we do not continue to use it, e.g. remembering passwords or a recipe. We do not want our children to forget their new skills over the long break.

Supported decision making

thinkingWe want our children to check their reading and make their own decisions.
Here is an example of supported decision making quite early in the series of lessons (2nd intake).


The sentence in the book was:bowl
Billy looked at the bowls.
The child read:
Billy looked at the bowls …. spoons.

Teacher: Is it bowls or spoons? What do you think?
Child: Mm
Teacher: (Covered the word.) What would you expect to see if it was spoons?
Child: s
Teacher: (Uncovered the 1st letter-b.) What is it?
Child: bowls
Teacher: You’re right. Billy looked at the bowls.

The sentence in the book was:
The fish are not coming
The child read:
The fish are not here … coming …today. (The student stopped reading and looked uncertain.)

Teacher: Which one is it? What do you think?
Child: coming
Teacher: Why?
Child: There’s a c.
Teacher: Read it again and check it sounds right.
Child: The fish are not coming today. It’s right!

It would be a lot quicker to just tell the child the correct word but we would not be giving her the opportunity to discover she could work it out herself.

See also an earlier post- Decision Making.

Reading fluently

Reading fluency is the ability to read quickly, accurately and with the right expression. Fluent readers understand what they read.  Ginny Osewalt

We do not want our students to sound like robots as they read. This is word by word reading, and it does not help the students to put the the words together in a meaningful way (like talking). I have written a previous post called Why do we want students to be fluent readers?

Here is a link to some strategies to improve the fluency of reading –

fluency7 Ways to Improve Reading Fluency

I think the following tips are the most valuable for our students and you might like to try them at home:

1 Model fluent reading

2 Try guided practice

3 Read together

4 Try repeated readings

7 Praise meaningfully

From the website: Understood for learning & attention issues

Discontinued students

graduateReading Recovery takes place with students in Year One in order to catch those who are already slipping behind the other students in the class. After 15 – 20 weeks of intense instruction the student graduates from Reading Recovery, but he or she is not to be considered ‘fixed’. He or she will probably need to be given extra assistance within the classroom (and at home) to ensure continual advancement, and no slipping back into bad habits.

As Marie Clay wrote:

The child has come a long way in a short time, but still has a long distance to travel (to become an independent learner) … (after Reading Recovery) some children may react with new doubts about their ability to cope. ( Literacy Lessons Designed For Individuals)

How can you help at home AFTER Reading Recovery?

Keep doing what you have been doing. Continue to hear your child read EVERY day. Keep up the momentum of all the good habits and strategies that your child has been using.

Think about these questions as you listen to the reading:
– Is your child reading smoothly or word by word?
– Are you jumping in to help without giving ‘wait time’?
– Is your child expecting you to do the reading work if he  / she is stuck?
– Is your child slipping back into a bad habit that you have not seen in a while, e.g. ONLY saying a few letters to guess an unsuitable word?
– Is your child rereading, taking words apart, checking that the reading sounds right and makes sense, and trying again?
– Is your child using the meaning of the story (by rereading, checking the picture) to support taking the word apart to solve words?

Use opportunities for reading and writing within your daily life. Here are just a few of the many websites that are full of ideas:

petaaParents’ Guide To Helping Children At Home With Reading And Writing




Ideas to help with Reading, Writing and Maths




reading children11 Ways Parents Can Help Their Children Read




developingDeveloping Writing and Spelling at Home




You may also wish to read an earlier post about Discontinuation.

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.

Struggling readers need to read

boy carrying booksI was waiting for my gym class to start and I began talking to a woman who had heard me say that I taught Reading Recovery. She wanted to know what she could do for her son in Prep who was falling behind in reading. She had bought him an ‘alphabet app’ and she was investigating spelling programs.

My suggestion was to have him read! Of course children are not going to want to read books that are too hard for them but they do need to read.

Struggling readers need to read more books than those students who find it easy.

I am sometimes asked why harder books are not sent home. I send home books that are very familiar to the student and are within his or her ability to read so that he / she can practice independent reading (reading without help). If the book was too hard it would just add to the frustration that we want to avoid. By taking a running record every day I am able to keep track of which level the student can manage with some support from me. If the level becomes way too easy there is little to stretch the student to learn new ways of solving words, and if a book is too difficult there is no enjoyment and very limited learning opportunities. Sometimes a book and a student just do not match because there is little interest in the topic. If a book is not working out for the student I remove it.

Struggling readers need massive exposure to interesting, colourful and engaging books (books they WANT to read) without the pressure of trying to read the same books as their more capable friends.

My suggestion to the woman with the prep child was to speak to the class teacher about having more books sent home. Perhaps the teacher might know of interesting ‘just right’ books that could be borrowed for a week or so at a time. Reading the same book many times can be a great way of feeling in charge of the book.

Reading to children is fantastic, but they have to do some reading for themselves as dancewell. I went on to explain to my new gym buddy that I could just complain that I was no good at Zumba and give up trying. Those ‘Young Ones’ seem to pick up the new moves faster than me. But I need to help myself by watching and listening to the instructor as she slowly demonstrates new steps, and asking to be shown a tricky move again after the class, and repeatedly going over the dance steps . Avoiding going to the next class is not going to help me, and having someone else do the dancing for me is not going to work. By the way, I also discovered that watching Youtube clips without getting out of the chair does not help much either.

We all have things that we have to work on. Dancers have to dance and readers have to read. But let’s not make the task too daunting.

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.