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

More writing examples

This week I have  continued  using the same composing idea suggested by our Reading Recovery tutor. (See previous post.)

The students have adapted very well, and some of them anticipate that I will ask them to select 3 words from one of their books. They make comments such as “That would be a good ‘special’ word”.

Here are some examples from the past week:

Dad threw the ball and Jack hit the ball. That was good.

Billy likes bread and he is hungry. The bread was for the ducks.

Sam said, “Please stay with me”. Bingo did not run away.

Fat Cat crashed into the paint. Then the paint went on the grass.

Billy said he likes walking to school with Jack. Mum said, “You will be 5 on your birthday”.

Baby Bear sang, “Honey for tea”. He said, “The honey is gone”. Baby Bear said he is lost.

Baby Bear said, “Boo!” when he was hiding in a little tree house.

The goats ate the turnips and the bee came along and chased them out of the field.

An acorn fell down on Chicken Licken’s head and then Duck-Luck came along.

Max was going to be a wolf but his throat felt sore. Grandad did it.

The Billy Goat Gruff butted the troll off the bridge into the water.

The troll went down the river to a farm to eat the vegetables and fruit.

Here is one of my students holding up his writing book. He used to be quite a reluctant writer. He doesn’t mind the handwriting so much any more as he is keen to get his message written down.

So far the students have been able to view their 3 chosen words on a small whiteboard. 

FYI, mean (a familiar word) was used to write eat, and car (a familiar word) was used to write farm.

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.

Book orientation

A book orientation is the same as a book introduction. It happens before the student attempts to read a new book for the first time.

The following video was published on Mar 22, 2015 by UALRCenter4Literacy

The Reading Recovery teacher scaffolds (supports) the student during the book introduction and the first reading of a new L14  book called The Missing Necklace.

The Reading Recovery teacher provided her student with some information about the story and she asked him questions that prompted him to wonder about what was happening, and what may happen next. He was in control of the book. (He held the book and he turned the pages.) The student searched the pictures and he told the teacher what he observed.

Sometimes the teacher pointed out something in the picture in order to add to the meaning. She also asked him some questions to check that he understood the vocabulary (e.g. detective, chipmunk). He demonstrated a good understanding of the story when he reacted to the humour at the end of the book. The teacher responded to his enjoyment of the story, and she connected the story to his own experiences.

He is likely to read the book very well the next time he reads it as he understands it so well. Perhaps he will add some more expression to his voice to make it sound more interesting.

He is learning ways to orientate himself to a book when the teacher is not with him.

All of the teachers are currently very busy with writing reports. I am also gathering information in preparation for the mid year reports. I have been re administering parts of the Observation Survey in order to check for progress. It’s always interesting (and rewarding) to look back at what the student could do at the beginning of Reading Recovery, and to compare it with what is known now.


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.

Reading together

Again, I am encouraging parents to read to their children because there are so many benefits.

This article (click on the picture) was written by Deborah Gough (Sydney Morning Herald, 2013) and quotes Bridie Raban (University of Melbourne’s Graduate School Of Education).

 Some quotes from the article:

Parents who stop reading to their children once they reach primary school are missing out on an emotionally rich time …

…a Galaxy poll of 1200 Australian parents found that just 23 per cent of parents read to their child every day… Just four per cent read daily to their child by the time they were aged 9 to 12 years.

Parents blamed making dinner and doing housework …, work … and tiredness… (for not reading to  / with their child).

Nine out of 10 parents encouraged their children to read… the most common incentive was giving children books as gifts…

Reading tips:

  1. Make a bedtime story something to look forward to (a treat).
  2. Be a good role model. Do your children see you reading?
  3. Join a local library.
  4. Read books on different topics that interest your children.
  5. Play word games together.
  6. Talk with your child. It’s a good way to learn new words, and to learn more about a language. (How children talk will influence the words that they will expect to see as they are reading.)

Reading aloud to children is important because it helps them pick up information and skills they need.

Children’s reading experts agree that reading aloud is the easiest and most effective way to turn children into lifelong readers.

Continue reading aloud after your children can read. All readers will enjoy listening to books that they can’t yet manage on their own.

Previous posts: Reading Aloud To Children,   Reading Aloud To Children 2,

Reading Aloud To Children 3Share The ReadingReading To Brothers And Sisters

See also Sharing Books With Young Children (Scroll down to the Reading section.)


How do we learn to read?

I was impressed with an article called How Do We Learn To Read by  (Associate Professor in Language, Literacy and TESL, University of Canberra)

You may like to read her views on comprehension (meaning) and decoding (recognising words by how they look).

Her article is similar to a former post I wrote- Reading Is About Meaning.

I have added a new page to this blog where I will link articles that I think are of particular interest to teachers. This article is one of them, but some parents might also find it to be interesting.

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)  


A Tale Of 2 Students

2 students (from an unnamed school) began Reading Recovery a day apart. Student A was reading Level 3, and Student B was reading Level 4. Their Observation Survey scores were almost identical.

For the 1st 4 weeks of their series of lessons the students kept pace with each other. But after Week 4 Student B stalled on Levels 5 and 6 but Student A continued to progress a reading level each week.

What changed?     Attendance.

 Student A

 Student B

Student A was away for a total of 6 days so he missed 6 lessons. Student B was absent for 18 days so she has missed 18 lessons. There was only 1 week that she was at school every day.

(FYI- the week 24/03/17 is missing from Student B as she did not attend school at all that week.)

9 weeks from the beginning of Reading Recovery, Student A is reading Level 10 and Student B is reading Level 7, (despite the latter beginning 1 level ahead). Ironically Student A would have been reading Level 11 (4 levels above Student B) but he was away on the last day of this sampling!

There are many reasons why one student may progress at a different rate to a peer, but the teacher of these 2 students considers that the difference between them is the number of lessons that have been missed. As I have stated before, every lesson builds upon what happened the day before. The bigger the gap between this new learning and the next lesson, the more opportunity there is to forget.

It is sensible to keep a child at home if he / she is unwell. It is not sensible to keep a child at home because it is raining, to get a haircut, to buy new shoes, to go visiting etc. etc. Missing lessons will alter the progress of your child.