Showing posts with label teaching reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teaching reading. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Keys To Reading Silently With Comprehension AND Speed

Recently, I was asked by a My Reading 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? 

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!

Friday, July 1, 2011

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 :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Spell It Out

So you smarty pants out there probably just spelled "it" out loud didn't you?  Well, what I was referring to was spelling words out loud to help your early reader understand that words that are spelled can be sounded out to make words they understand.

LoLo is 4 years old (and 4 months) and is just realizing that Mommy and Daddy talking in 'code' is really us just spelling words that we want to keep him unaware of.  No longer!  Now he understands what we are doing and is asking every time we spell something what the word is.  I told him he would have to sound it out if he wanted to know. So I decided that on purpose when I would talk with my husband and I would spell out very easy CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words just so he could figure it out.

Today we were talking about both kids not taking a nap and here is what happened:
Me: "So Sandi told me that neither kid took a N-A-P today and that was not good!"
LoLo:  "What does N-A-P spell?"
Me:  "If you want to know you will have to sound it out to figure it out for yourself."
LoLo: "Ok, can you help me?  (Me-No) Well, N-says /n/, A says /ah/, P says /puh/"  Then he tries a few times to sound it out and after a few tries he gets it.  "Oh, we didn't take a nap today and that was bad!"
Me:  Turning to husband "We need a new system!"  "Good job LoLo, now you can find out all of Mommy and Daddy's secrets (LoLo smiles really big)!"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Ask Questions!

So sorry for the lack of posts these past few days, but life was getting crazy! Now, back to Today's Reading Tip!

Today's tip is in regards to asking questions to help your child retain comprehension of what was read.  I created some cute little question owls, and for the life of me can not seem to find them now!  Anyways, I would love to tell you how to make your own. 

Here is what you will need:
  • 6 tongue depressors OR popsicle sticks
  • 6 owl stencils cut out on cardstock or very heavy paper
  • a sharpie
  • some white glue
First, take the owl template you can find HERE and print out 6 each (or use your own template).  One per sheet in the largest size you can accommodate.  Then, write one of the 6 question words on the owls in large letters across the torso (one word on each owl)
  1. WHO
  2. WHAT
  3. WHERE
  4. WHEN
  5. WHY
  6. HOW
Next, you can choose to laminate your owls if you wish and then cut them out.  Once they are cut you are ready to glue them on the sticks and use them with your child.

Here are some ways I use mine in the classroom and at home with LoLo:
  • As we read I occasional stop and hold up a sign and ask a question, such as: "WHO stole the cookie?"
  • If my students have a question as I am reading they can hold up an owl and ask me a quesion.  Example, Leah held up the WHAT owl and asked "what happened to the troll under the bridge?"
  • At the end of the story I use the owls to recap.  I hold up each one and ask a specific question.  Example, "WHO is the main character," "WHERE did the story take place," etc.
Once you have made your owls, tell me HOW will you use them?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Make A Word Flip Book

Now that LoLo is really taking an interest in reading words he sees places I really want to give him more opportunities to be confident and succeed. After all, how can a child really feel good about reading when he is trying to sound out words like "cafeteria" and "selection?!" So, since he is only 4 and needed more encouragement to read words he could sound out I decided to make him a word Flip Book.

Here is what you will need:
-A 4x6 cheap photo album that holds at least 20 cards (I bought mine at the local $1 store, or the bin at Target)
-some BLANK 4x6 index cards
-a marker

Just write some sight words and simple 3-letter consonant-vowel-consonant words on them. Here is a great list with suggestions. These words will be easy for your little one to sound out and are great for teaching early reading techniques.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Activities For Your LeapFrog TAG Reading System

Do you own a LeapFrog TAG Reading System?  If not, I highly recommend it! This system comes with a "pen" that when placed on top of words or markers in TAG specific books will read the word or story aloud to a child.  I love both of the TAG systems: The TAG (which allows the child to read a whole page/portion of text, or will read word by word), and the TAG Jr. (which has simpler features for a younger child).

I also like that I can incorporate activities to go along with our TAG system, such as:
  • I will put a sticky note on the page with the number of the words "the" on the page and have LoLo find them.  I will do this same activity for every sight word we have previously worked on.  Then, I just leave the notes in the book so he can play again later.
  • I will say a word to LoLo and have him use the TAG word to find it.  Since he is a very early reader, I choose an easy consonant-vowel-consonant word like 'cat' and have him find it with his eyes and check his answer with his TAG pen.
  • I will ask him questions about the story and have him find the answer with his TAG pen.  This works best for one-word answers that are specific in the text.  An example would be "who found the bone?" and he points the TAG pen to the word Scooby.
If you do not yet have a TAG pen and books, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Print Your Own Early Readers

Have you ever gone to the bookstore looking for very beginning reader books only to be disappointed?  Me to! Those Bob Books not only have extremely boring pictures, but also have incomplete sentences, unusual sentence structure, and periods at the end of phrases!  Seriously, they are this reading specialist's worst nightmare!  My suggestion would be to either make or print your own.
If you haven't been a My Reading reader for long, you might not know how much I love Cherry Carl's website Carl's Corner.  One site she also hosts is called  This site has a lot of little books that you can print at home.  I like to print them out and have the kids color them.  Then we go through with a highlighter and look for all of our "focus words" (usually sight words we are working on that day). has so many great resources, and even has series of books that connect to the Literacy Series by Scott Foresman (SF) which may be used within your child's school.
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Play The Game Memory

Today's reading tip may sound a little odd to you, but let me tell you why playing the game Memory will help with learning to read.  Memory helps train your brain to remember locations of either pictures or words, which in turn helps with building visual connections within a given space (the playable area in this case).  Reading a book uses many of the same skills.  For reading you must learn to recognize parts of words (such as word families), read from left to right, and recognize paragraphs and sentences. All of these skills have to do with visual cues much like playing the game Memory.

So the next time you play Memory, think about all the things going on in your child's brain and how these connections are helping build visual memory which in turn will help him become a better reader.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Benefits of Books on CD

Wow! Things have been so busy around here that I have hardly had time to post.  So sorry, there is more to come so keep posted.  Today's reading tip is about the benefits of listening to books on CD.
Recently the kids got two new CDs on tape and I thought about how much listening to these helps build their phonemic awareness which in turns build their reading skills.  Books on tape are great to listen to anywhere and do not have to accompany the book to be beneficial to children.  Most people listen to them at home along with using the book, and this is a great way to teach your child good fluency as they listen to the reader speak, as well as show the visual connection of the word to the spoken word.
One way we like to listen to our books on CD is in the car.  For example, right now we have Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? in the car.

The children know that it is a book, but they do not realize that by listening to the story they are building their phonemic awareness skills.  The CD helps to promote good reading skills by giving an example of good fluency (speed/accuracy of the reader), rhyming, pronunciation, tone of voice, and in the case of this story-repetition.  Then at night when we read the book, the children are able to put all of these skills to use.  They don't even realize that they know all the words on the page until I point to them as they read to me!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Work Those Word Families

Once your preschooler has mastered his letter sounds it might be time to consider teaching word families. 

Word families are groupings of 2-3 letters that are commonly found in many words throughout the English language, such as:

There are too many to list, but try these great lists on Enchanted Learning

Once your child has learned his word families well he will begin to recognize them as one set of sounds and will not have to sound out every letter individually.  Even some of my older students who read letter-by-letter benefit from re-learning their word families to aid in better fluency (rate and accuracy of reading.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Must Have Book-Making Words

If you were to go into any teacher's classroom at my school, you would likely find the Making Words Book by Patricia Cunning.  I first discovered this book while in my credential program at San Diego State University, though I did not realize it's full potential until I became a Reading Specialist.

This book gives you activities to use with students in grades (K-3, though I have used it up to 6th with struggling readers) to help build their phonics and spelling skills.  There are no other additional products you need to buy, you simply create them yourself.  If your child is an early reader or a fluent reader with some difficulty spelling or deciphering new words, then this is the book for you.  It helps your child learn to build words by pieces and helps them to see the connection between short base words and words with prefixes and suffixes.

This series also comes in Making Big Words for students who are more advanced (3rd and up):

As well as Making More Words which is an additional supplement to Making Words:

Disclosure: None.

Today's Reading Tip: Use Proper Reading/Writing Terminology

I never understand why some teachers and parents use simpler words for academic language.  Some examples I can think of are:
  • Big and little letters for upper and lowercase
  • Excited mark for exclamation point
  • Writer for author
  • Artist for illustrator
I truly feel that children can grasp the concept of academic language if they are exposed to it at a very young age.  The use of simpler words (such as big and little letters) in place of an academic term (upper and lowercase) must be very confusing, when in a higher grade level they are expected to know the proper terms!
My advice-don't dumb it down.  Use the proper term from the onset, and your student or child will learn what it means through example and repeat exposure.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Don't Correct Every Error

If you have a beginner reader you know what a joy it is to listen to them sound out words and recognize sight words...but you also know that these tasks are tedious and mind-numbingly annoying to listen to! Yes, I said it.  I am a Reading Specialist and I often find myself wanting to speed along my beginning readers and offer suggestions for every word just to make it easier for me to listen to.  With that said, I know I must bite my tongue and left them apply all the skills I have taught them.

I am not by any means suggesting you do not correct errors, instead I am suggesting you correct errors on occasion so as not to completely discourage a child to read.

Here is what I usually do with my students:
  • If the child stops on every word (or every other word) to sound it out then the book is too hard to encourage independent reading, and you may have to help him so he doesn't get discouraged.
  • If the child makes an error on a word by leaving off a suffix (such as -ing, -ed, -es) and the story still makes sense, just let it go.  If it is a consistent error then mention the corrections after the reading.
  • If a student makes an error on a sight word-tell the sight word to him.
  • If the child says a name wrong-don't correct until after the story.
  • If the child makes errors every few words, but is reading at a smooth pace, just let him continue.  Then after the passage, have him go back to the words he missed and sound them out with you. 
These are just a few of the corrections I use.  Of course every child is different and you must use your own judgement before anything else, especially with your own child.

Disclosure: These are the tips I use-not necessarily the tips that you MUST follow. Please use with your own background knowledge of the reader.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Use Flashcards A New Way

When you hear the words "Flash Cards," you probably groan out loud.  I know I still do.  That is most likely because you grew up putting all types of things on flash cards and studied them with the "drill and kill method" (emphasis on the 'kill' part)!  Well, I like to use flash cards with my students in different ways:
  • Play the Memory Game: make 2 cards for everything you are focusing on (ie: sight words).  Lay them face down in a random order and play the memory game. Winner is the person to get the most matches.
  • Play "Smack It!"  I made this one up, and my students just love it.  Put your flash cards face up on the floor and give each player a fly swatter.  Shout out a word on a card and the first person to smack it gets a point (or you can remove the card to make it easier).
  • Play Word Detective.  Assign each student a word card (or a few if older players).  This game works best with sight words (aka: high frequency words).  Have each detective find the word somewhere in the room.  This game works great in a classroom or written word enriched environment.  If you are playing at home you can open up books and lay them on the floor and have the detectives find them that way.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Constant Exposure To Print

The more your child is exposed to print the more she will take it in.  I suggest doing a room make over and placing print all over the walls.  One great way is to get some wall decals for your child's room.

I love these ones on ETSY:
-For Preschoolers who are just learning letters:
  • This alphabet tree from Decalsmurals on ETSY is really cute and would help with letter recognition.

-For more advanced readers who can build their own words:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Incorporate Cloze Activities Everywhere

Cloze activities are defined by Wikipedia as:
  • "A cloze test (also cloze deletion test) is an exercise, test, or assessment consisting of a portion of text with certain words removed (cloze text), where the participant is asked to replace the missing words. Cloze tests require the ability to understand context and vocabulary in order to identify the correct words or type of words that belong in the deleted passages of a text. This exercise is commonly administered for the assessment of native and second language learning and instruction."
I suggest that you implement the strategies of a Cloze test within various activities you do with your child throughout the day to promote their ability to build context and vocabulary while reading. 

Here are some suggestions on how and when to do this:
  • As you read a book out loud at night, leave out a word and have the child fill it in.  I love to do this with Dr. Seuss books in which I leave out a rhyming word and have my kids guess it based on the pictures (make sure you choose a word that is obvious).
  • Sing a familiar song in the car and leave out a word.  Have your child shout the word that is missing.
  • Say a nursery rhyme and leave off a rhyming word.  Have your child say the missing word.
  • Take a familiar picture book and cover up a word with a post-it note.  Have your child say the missing word and check his answer by removing the post-it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Benefits Of Using Your Finger While Reading Aloud

Today's reading tip comes from a question I received regarding using your finger while reading aloud to your child. 

You all probably already know many of the benefits that come from reading aloud to your child (phonemic awareness development, fluency development, etc), but did you know that using your finger to point to words as you read also has big benefits? 

When you read to your child at night, do you show him the pictures? Of course you do! One reason to do that is so he can tell what the story is about even if he does not understand all of the words you are reading.  Now that your child is beginning to understand that words on a page mean something as well, you should be pointing them out too-and I do mean that literally.  By pointing to the words on the page as you read them, you are teaching your child one-to-one correspondence.  This skill will help him develop an understanding that each word has a meaning, and that every word is made up of a series of sounds (or phonemes).  This understanding is an important concept to master in order to begin reading independently.

HINT: DO NOT point to each word with a sharp movement under the word.  Instead, slide your finger along under the words as you read.  Children who adopt this movement themselves when reading are more likely to read faster and more fluently!

New Series: Today's Reading Tip!

Today I will be launching my new series "Today's Reading Tips!"  This series will send a new tip everyday (M-F) to help you teach your child how to read.

From tips on how to teach sight words, to tips on segmenting and blending, I will cover it all. 

Please make sure you follow me via email so you will get all the latest tips straight to your inbox when they are posted!

Let me know if there is something specific you would like covered.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Next Post-Created Just For You

I have decided that my next post will come from your questions regarding reading.  So, I want to hear from you. 
  • Is your child struggling in the area of reading and you aren't sure what to try next?
  • Have you attended a Student Study Team meeting (SST) regarding a reading-related issue and you are not sure what to make of the results?
  • Is your child beginning to show signs that he is ready to start reading, but you are not sure where to start?
  • Are you concerned that your child may have a serious reading problem?
These questions only cover many of the topics I have often discus with parents.  I am happy to answer ANY questions you may have.  I will use your questions as my next topics for posts (I promise to keep anonymous), so leave me a comment.

I look forward to reading your comments!