Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Keys To Reading Silently With Comprehension AND Speed

Recently, I was asked by a My Reading Specialist.com reader about which techniques are most effective for silent reading, and how one might acquire this skill.  This is a great question that I felt really needed a post to answer all the parts.  Here is the reader's comment, along with my embedded answers in red.

I have a question about how one should read when they are reading silently.

I was recently talking to a friend who is a very good reader. He told me that when he reads, his eyes see the words and the words "click" (or rather the meaning of the words "click") in his brain and he understands them. He told me that when he sees numbers, they slow him down because he has to actually say them in his head.
There are two methods of reading silently: subvocalization (saying the words inside your head), and non-subvocalization in which you are not saying the words but rather thinking about the meanings of the words.

It is interesting that numbers slow him down; however, if they are in the numerical form rather than the written word I can see that connection.  That is likely due to the area of the brain that does mathematical functions as opposed to the portion of the brain he uses to "define" the words inside his head.

I realized that when I am reading, I actually say every single word in my head, as if someone was reading it aloud to me.
I often do this as well.  I found that I had to practice reading in a faster manner (regardless of clarity) a few times to make my brain more comfortable with the feel.  This 'forced speed reading' does help you train your mind to gloss over words and interpret meaning rather than saying these words subvocally.  It is something you really have to work at, but can be done.

So I have a few questions about this.
1: Which method is more efficient; actually saying every word in one's head, or being able to look at the word and instantly understand its meaning?
This is actually a trick question because BOTH methods are effective for different purposes:
  • -Subvocalization (or saying the words inside your head as you read) is very effective for memorization,  focused comprehension, learning, and intense focus.  It is bad for reading quickly as you will never read faster than you talk at about a rate of 150 words per minute
  • -No Subvocalization is great for reading at a very rapid pace, and is good for total comprehension of the entire written work.
2: As I suspect the latter, how does one acquire this?
You must work at it.  The reason you are using subvocalization is because you were taught that way!  As a child you began by reciting letter sounds of words aloud and then you would transfer this skill inside your head.  

I suggest taking time each day to read by speed reading the passage as fast as possible first regardless of accuracy.  Then go back and try it a little bit slower.  It is important to try and think about the 'meanings' of the words and NOT the words themselves.  Of course, this is very difficult.  With practice you will begin to improve and your speed and accuracy will pick up.

Just like how you learned to read as a child...this is a process! It has to be worked on over and over to achieve mastery, but it is a very great skill to have.  If you find that you are stopping more than 5 times in a 100 word passage (this is known as the 5-finger rule) the context of the passage is above your reading level (ie: your vocabulary is not high enough to achieve mastery).  Having a high vocabulary is absolutely a key to learning to read quickly.  My suggestion to increase accuracy: crossword puzzles, scrabble, online word games with definitions.

One more, slightly off-topic question. Is it possible to learn to read multiple words at once? Is it possible to learn to see and understand say 2, 3 or even four words at once, so when you are reading you are able to read by moving your eyes less and less sideways and thus you can read much faster? If yes, how might one acquire this?
Many speed-reading programs would say yes.  I have heard that it is possible to train your brain to read multiple words at once and comprehend them; however, I admit I have not experienced this myself.  I find that as I read quickly that I will "flash" my eyes across a line and pick up many (but not all) of the words at once.  When I think about it now (since I obviously don't as I am reading), my brain can very often fill in the blanks when it comes to conjunctions (and, for, or, so, etc), and other high frequency words.  Therefore, it appears that I am reading multiple words at once, but in actuality I am reading portions of phrases.

*I really hope that I was able to answer all of your questions, and that you have a good place of where to start to acquire this skill.

-Please leave me comments and let me know:
  • Did you find this post helpful?
  • Have you tried these techniques?  Did they work for you? 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

TouchyBooks Review and Giveaway: The Witch's Apprentice

It's that time again you lucky ducks! Today's review of the TouchyBooks story The Witch's Apprentice also has a giveaway in which 5 winners will get to pick the Touchybook story of their choice loaded directly on to their iPad or iPhone.  Only takes a few seconds to enter!

Today's book The Witch's Apprentice seems to fit in perfectly in today's world of Harry Potter and Twilight lovers (yes, I admit I am one of those...team Edward in case you were wondering)!  This book though is geared more towards younger viewers (ages 12 and under) rather than tweens (anyone else getting tired of that word?).  The graphics are dark and spooky in overall appearance, though the little girl witch is more cutesy than evil.  She is training to be a witch and talks about all the steps and spells she must practice in order to achieve her goal.  I loved the large amount of interactive features that were really unique which included:
  • Dressing the witch in her proper attire (socks, hat, cape, etc)-kids LOVED this one
  • Reading magic cards (they are printed backwards and you must read them in a mirror-so creative!)
  • Reading magic words with the touch of a wand
  • Creating your own concoctions (thank you for using large vocabulary words)
  • Racing witches around on brooms through the sky
  • Practicing magic spells on the cat and turning her into....whatchamacallits!
  • Picture puzzles (the kids had fun mixing and matching animal parts)
  • Choosing different funny noses for our witch
This TouchyBook is definitely on our must-have list.  Now is your chance to win it (or another book of your choice).
5 people will win a TouchyBook of their choice.  Just complete at least the BOLD entry below, then complete optional entries for more chances to win!  If you have any problems entering using this Rafflecopter giveaway, please leave me a comment below.  Good luck!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Read The Walls!

I took LoLo out for an adventure the other day (aka The Mall) and decided that we would play little games with all the signs and words we saw out in public.  This is a great way to get him thinking more about how letters make up words, that words have meanings, and that words can be found anywhere.

Here are some of the things we read:
  • Menus in restaurant windows (he used pictures and the first letter of the word to figure them out)
  • Signs out front of stores advertising sales (he was excited to see words he knew "the," "and")
  • Push and Pull signs on doors (he learned the difference between these words "-sh" vs. "-ll")
  • Walmart coupon flyer at the door
  • Advertisements in store windows (I would have him look at the pictures to figure out what the ad was for, then show him to corresponding word)
So next time you are out, make reading the words around you a game!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Get A Grip

Is your child learning to write, or having trouble with penmanship?  If so, get a grip! Now, don't be offended...I meant it literally.  Getting a rubbery pencil grip (like the one shown below) can really help your child learn the proper finger positioning for writing. 

Most kindergarten teachers take the time to correct hand positions, though with the rigors of today's state standards and all they have to accomplish, many teachers lack the time needed to correctly teach this skill.  As a result, some children need more time to perfect writing.  Now that it is summer you have the chance to get your child's penmanship up to speed. So go get a rubberized grip and practice, practice, practice!

Monday, July 4, 2011

TouchyBooks Review and Giveaway: The Tortoise And The Hare

I am excited to announce that I will now be reviewing new TouchyBooks on a regular basis.  What that means for ME is that I get to test and review new stories on one of the best apps for kids there is, but what is means for YOU is the chance to win free books!  Hooray!
Today's story is the classic fable The Tortoise And The Hare.  I am happy to say that TouchyBooks stuck with the original story and added a modern twist with cute graphics.  I liked the purple Hare and the way he came off as cocky in the beginning and so forlorn at the end!  The Tortoise is very friendly and cute, especially with his little headband.

The kid's favorite parts of the story were the balloon that floats up at the starting line and you can touch it to pop it which begins the race!  They wanted to play that page over, and over, and ugh over.  Another page that received tons of laughs was where the Hare decided to take a nap because he had such an overwhelming lead.  As he napped there were snot bubbles that oozed out of his nose, and with a touch you can pop them.  Guess what the kids did over and over on that page?

This is a great, classic, simple story that was a lot of fun.  It didn't seem to have as many interactive features as some of the other books; however, we loved the ones it did have.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Little Sky Writers App: The Little Airplane That Teaches Writing And Phonics

Little Sky Writers by Dano2.com is a cute little app that any child, or airplane lover, will like.  It is the perfect app for young preschoolers who are learning to write, recognize letters, or phonics.  This app is available for the iPad and iPhone.  On the menu screen your little one will be able to pick which color plane he would like (red, blue, pink), and then you press the start button and your engine starts up!
You can choose to practice writing letters in capital or lowercase font.  My favorite feature of this app is that it shows a dot where the plane should start and stop writing the letter, and a 'track' that the plane should follow.  This teaches your child the correct way to write a letter.  Directionality is not often shown in similar apps, and as a Reading Specialist I have to say that I LOVE that they included this feature in Little Sky Writers.
As the plane follows the path it leaves behind puffs of smoke to show that the path was completed.  Such a cute feature.  What is even better is that it can not follow an incorrect path.  If your child tries to drag the plane on an incorrect path it will simply pull the plane back on track! A great feature for young kids with limited fine motor skills.

One feature that the kids found hysterical was the voice of the narrator.  As you trace the letters he says words and phrases that coordinate with the letter.  LoLo really liked the letter G which said "Gobble, Gobble is thought to be what a turkey says; however, he really says 'Hello, I am a Turkey'!"  Somehow this phrase just seemed to throw him into a fit of laughter every time...seriously, like 20 times!

This app is a great summertime activity to help your child learn writing and phonics skills for the upcoming year, or to review skills they need to perfect.  Check it out by going to your app store on your device, or iTunes and typing in 'Little Sky Writers.'

Today's Reading Tip: Keep Working This Summer-Here's Why

Every year as school starts back up I find that some of the same groups of students come back to see me for Language Arts support.  As always I find that these students did NOT continue to practice any of the skills I taught them over the summer, and therefore we usually have to back track about 4 months!

Now, imagine what your child would be like if you work with them this summer on keeping up with their reading skills! Obviously if you are reading this you care about your child's academics, but did you know that MOST children do not do any sort of academic work over the summer, and MOST are behind by 4 months upon entering school in the Fall?  So, I encourage you to have your kid be at the top of the class.  Even if your child was about average in his class last year, you now have the potential to have him entering the following year closer to the top portion.  So get working!  Only about 10-15 minutes a day is needed, but the key is consistency and focus!  You can keep it easy by buying a workbook for your child's grade level he will be entering, or you can go over all that work that the teachers sent home over the course of the previous year.  Good Luck...and remember teachers LOVE parents like you :)