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During Reading Strategies

1. Cueing and Self Monitoring Systems

Successful independent reading involves integrating three sets of cues. Efficient readers use all three to predict, confirm and self correct as they read.

  • Meaning or Semantics: Readers use their background knowledge of vocabulary and word understanding. They also use the context of the sentence, the paragraph or the whole text to figure out what the text is about, and what would make sense. Readers continually evaluate the information they take in, asking:
  • "Does this word make sense as I read it?"
    "Does this sentence make sense as I read it: 'The girl was a dog running'?"

  • Syntax or Language Structure: Readers use their knowledge of English grammar to make sense of text.
  • Does the sentence sound like real language? ("She went into she house") Does this word fit grammatically in this sentence?
  • Visual information or graphophonics: Readers use information in the text including pictures and print and other knowledge of print conventions including:
    • format details
    • details and shapes of letters and words
    • directionality
    • voice/print match
    • letter/sound associations
    • punctuation

Volunteers can help young readers use these cues by modeling and encouraging them to ask themselves questions as they read. For example, if a child reads out loud:

"She rode the house into the barn."

a tutor can say:

"Hmm, does that make sense? Did she really ride a house? What else could she ride? What word begins with an "H" that you can ride? The word 'horse' looks a lot like the word "house"--that was a very good try at reading that word, but it also needs to make sense, doesn't it?"

Gradually, after you have provided a lot of this kind of model questioning, you can encourage students to ask these kinds of questions of themselves as they read.

  • What would make sense here?
  • Did what I just read make sense?
  • If not, how can I fix it?

  • What word would fit here?
  • Does it sound right?
  • If not, how can I fix it?

  • Do the letters and the pictures match up with what I read?
  • If not, how can I fix it and still be sure it makes sense and sounds right?

2. Helping an Oral Reader Who is Stuck or has Miscued

Beginning readers often substitute their own words for those in print. While we want readers to eventually become accurate readers, that should not be the primary goal. Making sense and getting meaning from the text is more important.

Even expert readers sometimes make errors or substitutions in the text without realizing it. Unless those substitutions change the meaning, you don't have to worry about them. Instead of calling them mistakes or errors, we call them Miscues. A miscue is any deviation from the text.

Some things for you to keep in mind:

  • If a miscue doesn't change the meaning, or changes it only slightly, you can ignore it. "He rode his bike in/on the road."
  • Try not to jump in too quickly; wait and give the reader a chance to self-correct or problem solve.
  • Show confidence in the child's ability and be available to help.

Some things readers can be encouraged to do when they are trying to figure out a word or get stuck:

PICTURE PROMPT: Direct reader to look at the picture, or to close eyes and imagine what is happening.

RERUN: Suggest rereading the sentence or phrase to clarify the meaning so far. This can help in predicting the upcoming word, giving the reader more time to access it.

CONTEXT PROMPT: Ask the reader if what he or she just read made sense; use this information to help the reader predict what words would "make sense" or "sound right" in a sentence. Then help the reader check the print to confirm the prediction.

READ-ON: Beginning readers can be encouraged to skip over the unknown word and read to the end of the phrase or sentence, substituting a grunt in place of the mystery word. "I never ['mmm'] what to give my mother for her birthday. " This helps readers use the meaning (context) of the surrounding words, and sometimes the initial letter(s) to figure out the problem word.

COMPARING: Ask if reader has seen a word that looks like the troubling one; or write a similar word, i.e. if the hard word is "fright", point out or write down "night. " (Be sure to use a word that you are sure the child will recognize.) Helping the child see that a word part is similar to another known word can help too. A fluent reader can think "If I know 'her' and 'taps,' I can figure out 'perhaps'" (assuming she or he has heard and understands the word).

STRUCTURAL PROMPT: Tell or ask the child to notice the word's parts: play-ing; out-side. Help the reader cover the appropriate part of the word.

LOOK BACK TO PREVIOUS CONTEXT: Sometimes beginning readers recognize that they've seen a word somewhere else. Looking back or identifying the former context can help the reader recall the word.

After the student figures out a difficult word, or after he or she self corrects, be sure to encourage him or her to ask: "Does this make sense? Does this sound right? Does this look right?" Once the child is satisfied that the sentence does make sense, give specific praise for using good strategies to figure out words. Encouraging students to constantly ask themselves "Does this make sense?" when reading reinforces the purpose of reading: we read to understand the meaning of the text, not simply to translate the printed letters into spoken words.