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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

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!

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!

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.

Where to point

Some children point to each word as they are reading for varying reasons:

  • he / she needs assistance to match one spoken word to one written word
  • to stop the eyes from wandering away from where they should be focussing
  • to take a closer look at the word to check it looks like the word being said.

Here is a handy tip from the Ballarat tutor-

Instead of the child pointing underneath any part of the word, e.g. the middle or the end-

Have the child point underneath the first letter of each word.

This will remind the child to look at the 1st letter before any other letter, i.e. to look through the word from left to right.

This child is pointing underneath the middle of the word. Now I know to direct the finger to be under the 1st letter (‘l’ in ‘looked’).

Did that sound right?

Last week I wrote about students who are not using the look of the words as they are reading. The problem might be that they do not know where to look, or they might not know how to use the letters within words that they do see.

Other students spend a lot of time looking at the words. They are so busy thinking about what each individual word looks like that they forget to use the pictures and to think about what’s happening in the story. These students are likely to have poor comprehension (not understand) and will have much less chance of predicting and solving the words that will come next. The following example is one I have used in an earlier post-

Text:         The little cat is in the big tree

Student:  The like cat is it the big tree.

This student is using the general look of the words without checking that it makes sense and sounds right.


If your child reads something that does not make sense you can stop him / her at the end of the sentence and say – Did that make sense? or Did that sound right to you? You may have to read back the sentence so that he / she can hear the error.  You could then suggest- Try that again and think about…. (the story or the picture).

In an earlier post called Being Flexible I wrote about the need to challenge our students who rely on just one strategy (e.g. only using meaning, or only using the look of the words).

My students are currently learning to use the meaning of the story (look at the picture as you turn the page and think about what is happening, what has happened so far, and what is likely to come next) AND the look of the word (emphasis on using at least the 1st letter at this early stage).

We are encouraging the child to use meaning and print. We prompt to use what is not already being used.

Where are the eyes looking?

My new students will begin the formal lessons of Reading Recovery this week which includes doing homework each day.

You might notice that some children are very good at looking at the pictures to gain meaning and to ‘read’ sentences that make sense, but they do not notice that some (or all) of the words being said do not match the look of the words on the page. These students need to learn to look more closely at the print and to use it, rather than making up their own stories based on the pictures.

Often these students look at print in the same way as they look at a picture, i.e. their eyes search randomly from 1 spot on the page to another in varying directions. This is OK for searching pictures, but not for writing as we need to look from left to right across a page (usually with a return sweep) in order to make sense of the print.

Students who do not pay much attention to the print also tend to add or leave out a word or two per page. I encourage these students to point to each word as they say it until they have the 1:1 matching of spoken and written words under control. For a very short time I might point to the words and read along with the student.

During the lessons the students are shown to look through print from left to right in a variety of ways, e.g.

  • Look across a row of magnetic letters and quickly say the letter names in order from left to right.
  • Make a known word with magnetic letters. (1 letter at a time is given to the child in the correct order.) After the word is made the student slides a finger from left to right under the word as it is said aloud.
  • Sweep a finger from left to right under a sentence as it is read aloud. (Or point to each word.)
  • Reassemble a cut-up version of the child’s writing. (Word cards are in a random order. The child searches for each word according to the order of the original sentence.)
  • Write known words on the whiteboard. Emphasize that letter order is important. ‘hte’ is not the same as ‘the’. See Direction Is Important.


If your child is looking at the picture while he / she is ‘reading’ remind the child to look at the print. You might say ‘Point to the 1st word. Get ready to say it’ . If a word is added or left out you might ask him / her to reread whilst pointing to each word and ask “Did you have enough / too many words?” If he / she reads an error that does not look right you might say- eyesYou read here (home). Slide your finger under the word as you say it. Does it match? (no) Where are they going? (home) Slide your finger under the word and say home. Does it match? (yes) How do you know? (There’s an m.)

I remind the students that they have to read the author’s words. They can compose their own stories during writing time.


Beginning Reading Recovery

The new RR students will be will be busy over the next 2 weeks Roaming Around The Known. They will have the opportunity to settle into the program, and to feel confident as they stay within the bounds of what is already known. During this time they are not yet challenged to learn new skills. (But they probably will!)

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 upon his / her capability. Here are just some of the tasks that my students may experience.

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.


2018 Welcome back

The Reading Recovery door is open indicating that we are back and ready to start another busy and productive year.

Welcome 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 and meeting the carers who will be encouraging and supporting them at home.


Students in Year One have been tested and selected to be in the first Reading Recovery intake. There were also some students who did not quite finish their series of lessons by the end of 2017 and they have resumed their lessons. Carers of the newly selected Reading Recovery students will be contacted shortly 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.

I have repeated the beginning of the year information from 2017 as it is still relevant:

This blog has quite a lot of information for carers (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