Moving on from early levels

Alas I am still absent from school whilst I recuperate from a small operation. On the positive side, at least it gives me an opportunity to catch up on lots of reading! I really value the posts written by Alison at Learning At The Primary Pond.

Her following post explains why Reading Recovery teachers are strongly advised to move students beyond reading Levels 1 and 2 books as quickly as possible. (Click on one of the links below to take you to the entire post at Learning At The Primary Pond.) 

The Problem with Using Patterned Books to Teach Children How to Read

Reading and the Brain

I’m finalizing the Reading Recovery student reports at the moment so my brain is being stretched. If you are interested in stretching your brain you might like to look at some (or all) of these videos. The professor uses a lot of ‘professor type’ language so don’t feel obliged to keep watching! (It makes sense if you already know what he’s talking about… well mostly…!!)

Reading and the Brain: The 3 Cueing Systems by Dr Andy Johnson ( a Reading Specialist and Professor of Literacy at Minnesota University)





Eye Movement: We See With Our Brains

Miscue Analysis Eye Movement Research

Writing about reading

Our last Reading Recovery Ongoing Professional Development session concentrated on lifting the performance of our students in writing.

Currently the students are mostly writing shorter sentences, and choosing easier words compared to those that they can read within their books. Our tutor challenged us to enable our students to compose messages that reflect the complexity of the reading levels that they are reading. 

One of the suggestions from our tutor was to have the student ‘write about reading’, i.e. to occasionally pick out 3 words from a recently read book and to use these words as a basis to compose an interesting piece of writing.

The following examples are what my students wrote the 1st time I tried out this useful idea.

Each student was responsible for looking through a book to pick out 3 ‘interesting’ words which I wrote on a small whiteboard. We then talked about possible ideas and phrases that could contain the 3 ‘special’  words. Each student surprised me by how efficiently he / she adapted to this scaffolding (support) for composing. I thought that they did a great job for a 1st attempt at including specific words.

STUDENT 1  (Roaming)
Ben made a puzzle. It is a dinosaur puzzle.
Based on Ben’s Jigsaw Puzzle. Level 5

STUDENT 2 (my go-to student when one on my RR students is away)
Nick and Snowy were playing on the swing. The teddy had to be white so he had a wash.
Based on Snowy Gets A Wash. Level 7

Baby Bear and Mother Bear went into the forest to get some nuts. The squirrels were hiding some nuts.
Based on Baby Bear Climbs A Tree. Level 9

The spark came from the mower. The firefighters put water on the fire from the hose on the fire engine.
Based on Fire At The Farm. Level 14 / 15

I am going to continue to use this idea of picking out 3 words for a while, as I think it will positively impact on the students’ vocabulary. (i.e. students may naturally use more interesting words in their daily sentences, even when they are not asked to pick out any specific words from their reading.)  The student is only reading 1 familiar book to free up more time for writing.


The Reading Recovery teachers met in Ballarat for our Ongoing Professional Learning this past Friday. It is always good to catch up with the other teachers to learn from each other and our hardworking tutor.

The focus this time was writing. It is often a challenge to lift the performance of our students in this area. The majority of students seem to find reading easier than writing.

We watched a podcast, delved into the writing section of our new guide book, discussed handouts and generally felt challenged to try some new strategies with our students.

As a result of all the recent discussion about writing, I have added a page to this blog with some suggested writing goals (adapted from a handout) that may correspond to the reading levels.

End of year reading

lionEnd of year testing is well underway.

As is often the case, many students are able to ‘read’ levels that are beyond their understanding.

An example- a student read the story about the Great Lion and the Tiny Mouse. This story is about a lion who captures a mouse who promises to help the lion if he lets it go. The lion laughs at that idea but lets the mouse go anyway and later on the mouse helps the lion to escape a net by nibbling a hole in it.

According to the math formula this book was ‘Easy’. The reading was quite fluent (not slow or word by word). Self corrections were fast.

Most of the words were worked out, e.g. gr / gr-et / gret / great, h / hunt / hunting, t-in / tinny / tiny.

But when I asked this student to retell the story I was surprised to hear his interpretation:

The mouse told the man to get the lion and the mouse laughed.

He had totally misinterpreted the meaning of the story!

It would seem that ‘reading’ requires a lot more than ‘sounding out’. Breaking words into parts (e.g. phonemes and chunks) is a very useful strategy (skill to help reading) but without meaning it is just a lot of unconnected words running across the page.mouse

By the way, this student was able to answer most of the questions correctly.I suspect he used the pictures, his background knowledge and some understanding of the story.

Correct responses: How did the lion catch the mouse? ANSWER: With his paw.

Why did the lion laugh at the mouse? ANSWER: He was thinking the little mouse can’t help him.

crazy-timesIncorrect response: What did the mouse say when the lion caught her? ANSWER: Help! I can’t hear you!

(I have no idea where that came from. The lion actually said- Got you!)

Busy times

busyIt’s that very busy time of the year. Some students are very close to finishing Reading Recovery and they are trying to do as well as they can before they are discontinued.

Some of the students will be not quite ready to finish their series of lessons so 1 or 2 may continue at the beginning of 2017.

The Reading Recovery students who finished earlier in the year are currently being tested so that this information can be added to their reports. Next week I will also be testing the current students for their reports. These students will continue with their lessons after this testing, and for as long as possible before they are given their final testing, and are either discontinued or carried over into next year.eyes

I have Zumba music playing in the background as I write the reports so I hope no lyrics get included! Oh my my…back it up…

Happy Birthday

birthday-girlSt Albans East Primary School is celebrating it’s 60th birthday this weekend!

Back in the 1950s Melbourne looked like this.

The students did not have the variety of colourful and interesting books to read that we do now. Everyone had the same readers for a whole year, such as John And Betty and Fun With Dick And Jane.

Reading was taught by memorising individual words on cards called flashcards. Before you were given the reader you had to be able to read all the words on the flashcards. If you had a lovely teacher you might play games, like Tic Tac Toe, to help to learn the words. Sometimes you had to stand in line to take turns reading avictoriancollections-large word. If you got it wrong the other students might laugh at you or you might have to sit in the corner. Or if you had a really mean teacher you might get a whack with a ruler.

If you had older brothers and sisters you probably knew most of John And Betty before you started school because you had heard your siblings read it to your mum many times.



If you were a girl you probably carried your reader between home and school in your school case.



You may have sat at a wooden desk with an desksinkwell. The older students used to fill their fountain pens from the inkwells.

All the desks faced the big blackboard at the front of the room. A lot of time was spent copying information from the board. Left handed students were often not allowed to write with their left hands.

There were certainly no computers, air conditioning, or playgrounds like ours.

Changes over time in HRSW

writing1Following on from celebrating the benefits of Reading Recovery (previous post), let’s look at the development 2 students made in Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words from the beginning of Reading Recovery to the end. HRSW is one of the tasks from the Observation Survey.

Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words is a task to assess phonemic awareness by determining how the child represents sounds within words when writing (can the student hear the parts of a word and can he / she choose appropriate letters to represent those sounds, and can the student write the letters?)

English is the second language for both of these students.

I read the sentence to each student slowly so that he / she had time to hear each word, and ponder which sounds could be heard, and choose and write letters to go with the sounds.

Student 1

Beginning of Reading Recovery


The sentence is: I have a big dog at home. Today I am going to take him to school.

End of Reading Recovery


The sentence is: I can see the red boat that we are going to have a ride in.

The score was not perfect but it was a big improvement. It is not a spelling task. The word boat lost no points because the ‘a’ cannot be heard. Extra letters within a word do not lose points, but writing ‘u’ instead of ‘i’ in ride does lose a point.

Also note how much better the writing looks. There are spaces between every word and capital letters are used appropriately.

Student 2

Beginning of Reading Recovery


The sentence is: I have a big dog at home. Today I am going to take him to school.

She could hear some sounds but she did not know how to write the letters. Mostly she kept shaking her head to indicate that she did not know any sounds in the word.

End of Reading Recovery


The sentence is: I can see the red boat that we are going to have a ride in.

Again the score is not perfect but it shows enormous development. Look at how much more she could write compared to her first writing.

She wrote ‘u’ twice for ‘i’ in ride. (The 2 students did the task separately so no copying was involved!) ‘sh’ was written for ‘th’ in that and for some reason an ‘i’ was added to we. (I suspect she wasn’t sure which one it was so she put both- clever!)

These students were random examples. They were not my ‘best’ students. They are a snapshot of the difference that Reading Recovery can make to our students.