Common learning between reading and writing

Reading and writing go together. Reading is a message- getting, problem-solving activity and writing is a message-sending, problem-solving activity.

When you teach reading and writing together, it is a two-for-one deal (From Reciprocity Between Reading and Writing: Strategic Processing as Common Ground by Nancy L Anderson and Connie Briggs)

The strategies that the student uses to read, and the strategies that the student uses to write, are often the same and they support each other. What seems obvious to us however may not be obvious to the student, so we have to help him / her to make the connections in order to make learning easier.

Some of the common strategic actions are:

  • Searching for more information e.g. asking oneself- what do I know about the message, how words go together to make sentences, and how letters go together to make words?
  • Monitoring, e.g. checking if the message makes sense and looks right. You cannot fix a problem if you do not notice that there is a mismatch.
  • Self correcting, e.g. rereading to change a word that did not look right / sound right.

Common Ground Between Reading and Writing


Creates ideas with an audience in mind, e.g. a letter to Grandma, a story for the class library.


Uses the written message to construct meaning, e.g. what did the author want me to know / think about / enjoy?

MEANING Checks that the message makes sense.If it does not sound right then I have to check what I want to say and search for a better way of writing it. MEANING Checks that the message makes sense. If it does not sound right then I have to check what I think the author is telling me, and search for errors.
STRUCTURE Chooses the order of words based on a knowledge of what we hear / see during reading experiences, and how we put words together in sentences when we are talking (e.g. grammar, punctuation, Can I say it that way?) STRUCTURE Groups words together that sound right based on a knowledge of what we hear / see during other reading experiences, and how we put words together in sentences when we are talking and writing (e.g. grammar, punctuation, Would I say it that way?)
VISUAL INFORMATION Uses knowledge of how letters, words, and print work (e.g. letter-sound connections) to write the message. VISUAL INFORMATION Uses knowledge of how letters, words, and print work (e.g. letter-sound connections) to construct (make meaning) from the message.
MONITORING Checks and finds any mismatches between the anticipated message and the written words. MONITORING Checks and finds any mismatches between the anticipated message and the written words.
SELF CORRECTING Notices errors and fixes them. SELF CORRECTING Notices errors and fixes them.

Dr Ann Ballantyne wrote some examples of teaching explicit links between reading and writing:

The child read was for went: Teacher “You can write that word. Write it quickly. What did you write?’

Child stumbles on a partly known word in reading. Teacher: ‘that’s an important word. Have you seen it before?…That was in one of your favourite books (shows him). You can read it and you can learn to write it.” (teaches writing)

Anderson & Briggs prompted:

“Think about how you say words slowly in writing. That will help you in reading.”

If you would like to read the article called Reciprocity Between Reading and Writing: Strategic Processing as Common Ground by Nancy L Anderson and Connie Briggs click on the link (title).

Teachers might also like to take a look at Reading and Writing: teaching for reciprocal gains by Dr Ann Ballantyne.

Faster progress in writing

On Friday we attended our last Reading Recovery Ongoing Professional Learning session for the year. We discussed some research that had looked into the differences between a group of Reading Recovery students who had demonstrated fast progress in writing and the students who had made slower progress over the same amount of time.

Interestingly, the students who made the faster progress by the end of the study were not always the students who knew the most about writing at the beginning of the study.

A main difference was that the students who had made the faster progress often reread their writing as they were producing it. Rereading seemed to help them to work out what the next word(s) should be in order to make sense, and to continue the thought. They did not need to be prompted to recall what they had originally intended to write. They were also easily able to add or change words ‘on the run’ to contribute to the original idea.

As well as rereading, the students who made the faster progress could often be heard saying the next word(s) or the beginning sound(s) of the next word. (My friend Colby stayed at my house for a s / sl (sleepover). They were more likely to say the parts of the word as they wrote them (sl-ee-p-ov-er) and checked themselves and made changes if they were not happy with the look of the words (slipova – sleepova – sleepover).

We all reflected on our teaching. Were we letting our students become more independent, or were we doing too much of the thinking, checking and problem solving for them (i.e. holding them back)? I am going to make sure that I give my students every opportunity to reread, check, and help themselves before I intervene with their writing in order to promote faster progress.

Homework books

Term 4 is always so busy!  Many Reading Recovery students are coming to the end of their series of lessons, and others are busy learning many new skills.

Whilst it would be wonderful for each student to progress as quickly as possible, I would like to emphasise the following information from the Homework page:

Every day your child will choose to take home one of the books that has been read that day. Children have favourite books and sometimes he or she may bring the same book home more than once. Please do not insist that your child brings a different book home every day. When a book becomes too easy, and there is nothing more to learn from that book, I will remove it from his / her book box.

Reading is meant to be a pleasurable pastime. I can guarantee that students learn more from the books that they enjoy compared to books that are too challenging. It is tempting to want to extend our students too quickly, especially with the end of the year around the corner. Let’s be mindful that pushing students too hard does not benefit anyone.

Say it like it is in boxes

One way of solving a word during reading is to think about how it could be broken down during the process of writing.

During the writing component of the lesson, the student has been shown how to match sounds to (probable) letters through the use of sound boxes. The student pushes counters into boxes as he / she slowly says the word. This is repeated until all of the sounds are heard and represented.

During reading, this knowledge of sound boxes can be used to match letters to  (probable) sounds to solve a word. The student runs his / her finger underneath the unknown word to slowly look through the word as if it was in sound boxes, and chooses sounds that could match those letters, e.g. l-i-tt-le. (See Slow check and sound boxes)

I have recently been making this task more explicit by actually using the magnetic letters and a magnetic board with sound boxes drawn on it.

The student had read ‘got’ instead of ‘get’. I placed the letters for ‘get’ under the sound boxes and asked him to push each letter up as he was saying the corresponding sound. This helped him to make a better connection between the look and sound of the word.

Some other words which were solved this way by various students were:



Some students worked out a word before pushing up all of the letters. Other students needed to push up the letters a number of times before being successful. We would not want to be doing this task very often as it takes the student away from the book, but it is a very useful scaffold when extra help is required.

What can you say besides ‘sound it out’?

There is a handy resource that you may like to check out provided by the Reading Recovery Council Of North America, contributed by Cathy Duvall, (a Reading Recovery leader).

Reading and Writing with Your Child

On the left hand menu (of the site linked above) you will see What can you say besides ‘Sound it out?’ (PDF)
You may like to print a copy to keep with you as you hear your children read.

One of my students graduated at the end of last term and another one is close to being discontinued. For the remainder of the year I will be taking new students for ‘top up lessons’ i.e. I will not be taking any more students for Reading Recovery in 2017. I am currently seeing 2 ‘top up’ students. They just need an extra boost to progress further and faster. 1 of these students comes to me twice a week and the other will come 3 times per week. They are having Reading Intervention (not Reading Recovery) as they are not coming to me every day and I am adapting their lessons.

As you know, some of the students are attending swimming lessons during the next 2 weeks so we will all need to be flexible re the timetable. Do not be surprised if your RR child has 2 Reading Recovery lessons on 1 day, and none on another day.


What is a rocket card?

Sometimes students return to school after the holidays reading slower than they were before the missed lessons. If I think that a student is still capable of reading faster I might reach for a masking card.

I use a card that looks like a rocket.This card encourages the eyes to sweep ahead of the words being said out loud. As the student reads a known book, I move the card along the line of the print (just a little behind the student’s oral reading, but at a constant speed). If the student is reading too slowly the card will cover the words before he / she sees them, and therefore the student is greatly encouraged to look ahead as quickly as possible.

Some students (who are very familiar with the rocket card) pick up the pace of their reading when they see me reach for the card. They realise that they need to speed up, and they want to show they can do it without my interference!

I do not use a rocket card on the new book as the ‘reading work’ is understandably slower, and I want to promote problem solving over guessing. (If there is too much emphasis on reading quickly the student can treat it as a race and neglect the meaning or look of the words.)

A masking card can be a very useful tool but it should be used sparingly and l would not recommend that you use it at home as it can be a distraction or a hindrance if it is not used very carefully.

Effective Literacy Practices

Every now and again the media reports that Australian students are not learning to read the ‘right way’. Some ‘experts’ have their own preferred style of teaching reading (e.g. an emphasis on phonics) and do not acknowledge the benefits of  ‘Whole Language’ (an emphasis on meaning and strategic actions). During Reading Recovery, and across our school, the students learn to use what they have already learnt about language through listening and speaking. They learn that the stories they hear (and write) are made up of sentences, sentences are made up of words, and words can be broken into chunks and individual letters / sounds. ‘Phonics’ (sounds within words) IS taught within Whole Language, but it is only a part of reading, not the starting point of learning to read.

The following 2 videos are from the Reading Recovery Council Of North America. They show some practices that your children experience at our school during Reading Recovery and within their classrooms.

Effective Literacy Practices – Learning About Phonology & Orthography

Teachers explore ways that children learn about relationships between letters of written language and sounds of spoken language.

Effective Literacy Practices – Making It Easy to Learn

Teachers build on a child’s strengths to create situations where the child will experience success in early literacy learning.

The main points of the videos are:
Teachers should start with what the children already know and build on those strengths.
Students enjoy a challenge that is within reach.

A writing sample

One day last week Miss N was told she could write about anything, and I would not be helping her with the spelling. (I wanted to check what she would do by herself.)She chose to write about a familiar story from her book box. Grandad had helped Max to rehearse his role as the wolf in the class play. Unfortunately on the day of the play Max was not well and Grandad took his place.  Miss N wrote:

Max was sick because he had a sore throat. Then Grandad pretended to be the wolf.

Miss N showed that she could easily compose 2 sentences that made sense. She began each sentence and name with a capital letter and she finished each sentence with a full stop. She confidently wrote the words that she knew and she willingly had a go at unknown words. She regularly reread what she had written so far and she often said the next words aloud before she wrote them. She made some changes as she went. She self corrected ‘he‘ and she crossed out ‘a’ but then chose to write it again.

What she did not do was stretch out any words aloud in order to hear the parts. After she was finished I helped her to think about the words that were not correct. I drew a letter box for each letter of a word and I slotted in the letters that were correct in her version. She easily recognised what was missing from ‘sick‘ to make it look right. (She wrote ‘ck’ in the one box until I clarified that only one letter was to go into each letter box.) After I pronounced the word ‘throat‘ for her she easily added ‘th‘ to replace the ‘f’ in her version. I told Miss N to stretch out ‘sore‘ before she wrote it and she quickly realised that the word contained ‘or‘, a word she knew, and then she added the ‘e’ on the end herself.

The trickiest word was ‘pretended‘. Together we said the parts pre-ten-ded. She wrote pre-en-ted, so I had her slowly say each part again until she heard all the sounds in order.

The following day Miss N independently stretched out some words as she was writing. Every day there are opportunities for Miss N to try out ways of solving words. She knows that some letters go together to make a sound, e.g. ‘oa‘, ‘th‘. She knows that some words are a bit like other words she knows, e.g. or / sore, and she thinks about what she would expect to see, e.g. ‘e’ on the end of sore.

Words ‘taken to fluency’

Words can be solved in many ways. (See Ways of Solving Words for Writing.) Every day the student writes a sentence or sentences during the lesson. The more words that he or she can write down quickly(without a lot of working out), the more time and energy there is to add  further detail to the little story.

High frequency words are words that are used a lot. A high frequency word is often used as a word to take to fluency. As an example, 1 of my students wrote ‘dey‘ instead of ‘day‘. This is a word that will be very useful to know in the future, and as he almost wrote it correctly, it was a suitable word to take to fluency.

He was asked to slide his finger underneath my copy of the word and to look at it from left to right to get a ‘picture of it in his head’. He was then required to write it many times on the working-out page. He also wrote it with his finger on the table. He was encouraged to write it quicker each time so that it was becoming more automatic with each experience.

The next time I see him I will check to see if he is still able to write the word. (If he can’t he will go through the process again. Perhaps also writing it on the whiteboard and in the air.)

An example of taking the word ‘she‘ to fluency.