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

Farewell Deb Hicks

Today is the last day that Ms Deb Hicks is at SAEPS and it is a sad day indeed. She has been an amazing e-Learning coach. Without her this blog would certainly not exist.

Deb was VERY patient in teaching me all that I needed to know. I was definitely not her easiest to teach pupil.

Thankfully (for everyone) Deb made the mysteries of technology manageable over many months. She was always cheerful when confronted with technological drama and and mini meltdowns. From iPads to Pinterest to blogging, Deb has been a constant mentor.

Thank you so much Deb. I wish you well in your new role in town and hope that you are greatly appreciated!

Slainte mhath Sassenach!


End of Year 2017

Another school year is quickly coming to a close. There is the excitement of new grades and teachers, class parties and holiday celebrations.

Reading Recovery teacher, Mrs Bowen, has been busy compiling the SAEPS Reading Recovery Annual Report.


The following information is taken from the 2018 report:

  • 16 Grade 1 students accessed Reading Recovery during 2018.
  • The average text level of the students at the beginning of their program was Level 2.
  • The average text level of the students at the end of their program was Level 17.
  • The average text level of the students at the end of the year was Level 18.
  • 2 students will complete their program in Term 1 2018.

Congratulations to all of the students who were committed to their own progress and made the most of each learning opportunity. Thank you to the parents who encouraged and praised their children, and supervised the daily homework.Thank you to the classroom teachers for your interest and collaboration, and thank you to the leadership team for your continued support of Reading Recovery at SAEPS.

Comic conversation

I have been reflecting on some of the discussions that I have had with my students during the year. We always talk about a new book before the student attempts to read it for the 1st time. I usually ask questions to find out if the student has had similar experiences, and will understand what is happening in the story.

 Here are just a few snippets of our conversations:

Me: It’s time for the three pigs to leave home and make their own houses.
Student: Who’s that?
Me: Who do you think? (It was Mother Pig who was wearing an apron.)
Student: The maid.
Me: The Big Billy Goat Gruff butted the troll off the bridge.
Student: He didn’t hit the troll with his butt. Look. See the big horns. He did a big push with his horns. Horns would hurt.
Student: My mum wanted to call the new baby Rose but my dad didn’t like it.
Me: What did Dad want to call her?
Student: Patrick
Student: Why are the plant eaters (dinosaurs) hiding in the water, and the forest?
Me: Because they don’t want T-Rex to get them.
Student: T-Rex only eats meat.
Me: Dinosaurs are made of meat.
Student: Only meat eaters are made of meat.
Me: Plant eaters are made of meat too.
Student: No, you are not understanding. Plant eaters only eat plants so they’re made of plants. T Rex won’t eat them.
Me: Triceratops is a long name so you can just say Tri every time you see that name.
Student: I’m going to call him Rose.
Me: What did you just call T-Rex?
Student: Team Red. He’s got a new name too.
Me: Does the tooth fairy come to your house?
Student: Only when she wants some teeth.
Me: Does the tooth fairy come to your house?
(Different) Student: Yes! My dad pulled my tooth out and it hurt and there was a little bit of blood!
Me: And did the tooth fairy come?
Student: She put $5 in Mum’s bag.
Me: Do you think that the mouse should be allowed to eat the bread?
Student: Yes
Me: But only Duck and Rabbit helped Magpie. The mouse wouldn’t do any of the jobs to make the bread.
Student: The mouse was too little. Little kids don’t do the food. It’s not fair if the mums and dads don’t feed them.
Me: The problem wasn’t that the mouse was too little. The mouse was too lazy to help.
Student: Look at it. It’s little.
Me: Maybe they gave some bread to the mouse later.
Student: They have to because that’s the law.
Thank you to all my students who enlighten me with their wisdom, and provide quite a few chuckles along the way.


Observation Survey

What is the testing that the Reading Recovery teachers are busy doing in preparation for writing reports? It is the Observation Survey. If you are interested you can read some previous posts I have written about it.

What is an Observation Survey?

End of Year Testing

Changes over time in HRSW

Decoding and Comprehension

Giving the Observation Survey (for the purposes of writing the reports) prior to the final testing for the end of year data gives me an opportunity to see what further learning needs to happen during these last few weeks.

Even though it is close to the end of the school year, please do not keep your child away from school more than is necessary.



Testing times

It’s that time of the year again! The frantic testing and writing of reports signals it’s time for the picture on the left to make another appearance.

Most 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 may not be quite ready to finish their series of lessons by the end of the year so 1 or 2 will possibly continue at the beginning of 2018 when they are in Year 2.

The Reading Recovery students who finished earlier in the year are currently being tested so that this information can be added to their reports. The results so far have been very pleasing. Soon I will also be testing the current students for their reports. These students will continue with their lessons after this testing for as long as possible before their final testing when they will either be discontinued or carried over into next year.

Homework, especially reading, should still be happening every day. It’s not the holidays yet! (Unless your name is Melissa and you are getting married on Friday! Have a great day!)

The 1st word can be the hardest

There’s a song that says that ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’. Well I think that the hardest word is often the first word of a sentence. Why? Because there is little or no context (meaning or structure) to support the look of the word.

If your child is stuck on the first word of a sentence don’t think that you’re doing the wrong thing if you just tell him / her what it is to move the reading along.

Sometimes I will tell the word. Sometimes I will give a prompt to action and if that does not work I will tell the word.

Here are some ways that I’ve helped students to get started :

Day after day “We’d probably say ‘every day’ but the author chose ‘day after day’. Say it with me. Day after day”. (‘Day’ might be a word that is usually recognized by this student, but it is not known in this context.)

Kieron “That boy is ‘Kieron'”. (Pointed to picture and pointed to 1st word.) “Can you say ‘Kieron’?” (To become familiar with the look and sound of the word.)

Matthew “Who is still making the card?” (A call to use some visual information and meaning (print and picture) to support a decision.)

They “Does it look like ‘They’ or ‘Then’?” (Reducing the choice to 2 words. Will need to look through the whole word.)

Then “What do you think happened then?” (Giving some context and putting the word ‘then’ into the student’s mix of possibilities.)

After “What do you think will happen after school?” (Context for the 1st word, and also a call to think about what might come next (structure and meaning).)

Thunder “Look at the black clouds in the sky. Look at the beginning of the word and think about what might happen”. (Giving some context and a call to crosscheck meaning with the look of the word.)

Everyone “Can you see a part you know? Can you say more?” (A call to take the word apart as I know he knows both ‘every’ and ‘one’.)

You have to know the reader well in order to choose an appropriate prompt. If in doubt- Tell.


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.