Reflect a moment on why we ask kids to ‘point as they read’…..
We know that one-to-one correspondence (voice/print match) must be firmly established in order for young readers to read with meaning and accuracy. Without the physical act of pointing to each word, they will often insert words, skip words, change words, miss multi-syllabic words, skip lines, etc. So….we ask children to ‘point as they read’ in order to establish one-to-one match between the voice and the word. However, we don’t want this to go on forever!
By the middle of first grade, most students are ready to ‘read with their eyes’ and to only use their pointer finger for breaking up hard words or for getting on track with ‘tricky’ lines. If children are encouraged to ‘point and read’ for several years, their eyes become accustomed to ‘pointing’ to each and every word. They become dependent on their finger to point to each word and their head begins to ‘bob’ as they read. These behaviors affect decoding and fluency skills and ultimately, comprehension. Hmmm….
Are your students RUNNING to your reading groups every day? The secret lies in FUN….yes, FUN! Kids are all about FUN! When they are with me in small group instruction, they NEVER know what they’re going to get….kind of like a box of chocolates! They don’t know if we’ll be doing the picture walk UNDER the table or if we’ll start at the back of the book instead of the front! They don’t know if we’ll begin the session by reading sight phrases or making words with magnetic letters. They don’t know if they will be up at the board writing words ‘fast’ or if we will search the index for interesting topics. They never, ever know….because I never allow lessons to become routine or predictable. This keeps learners ‘on their toes’ and ENGAGED with me, each and every time. They simply don’t have time to blink, yawn, cough, go to the bathroom (too often!), or anything else!! They remain consistently ENGAGED in the process of learning to read….and that’s that!
John Dewey once said, “Start where the learner is.” It’s that simple (and hard, at the same time)!
How do we know where the learner is? By assessing and reflecting. THEN, plan and teach. Many Kindergarten teachers ask me how they really know if a child is ready for guided reading. Great question! We learned Running Records from Marie Clay and New Zealand teachers. So….ask that little one to draw or paint a picture. Then have him/her dictate a statement or two about what they drew. You write what the child said below the painting. Then have the child ‘piggyback’ his/her pointer finger on your pointer finger and together, read what you wrote. The next day, invite the child to come over and “read back what we wrote.” Do the Running Record on whatever the child reads back. This will be an eye-opener! If the child points and reads most of it correctly, he/she is ready for Guided Reading! Get going! If not, you will want to help the child understand that print carries meaning, that there is voice/print match, and that there are words that we recognize instantly, by sight. Get going!
Start where the learner is…….but start!
Ever notice what a good writer does when he/she is trying to figure out how to write a new or difficult word?
If you watch, you will see their LIPS MOVING and HEAD BOBBING! Why? Because good writers know that if you move your lips and pronounce the word slowly, you will hear the sounds within the word. They know that if you bounce your head while articulating syllables out loud, you will hear ‘chunks’ so you can segment the word AS you write it.
Ever watch a struggling writer write?
You will see NO movement of the lips and NO bobbing of the head. Falling writers must be TAUGHT and ENCOURAGED to use these strategies. SO IMPORTANT!!!!!! Teach them to move their lips, articulate the word slowly, and bob that head!
Do you have a place in your classroom where you can assess kids at a moment’s notice? Consider it! You will want to organize any and all informal assessments into a well-stocked assessment ‘table’ for easy access and accessibility. I recommend the use of a large accordion file for Running Record (and/or IRI) booklets/passages/forms, informal assessment forms, assessment instructions, checklists, etc. You will also need a clipboard, .7 mechanical pencil, timer, coffee can with sight words written on index cards, a Pringles can for sight phrases, student assessment folders, and a basket for wordless books and writing prompts.
Your assessment table should have everything you need to assess a student ‘on the spot’….and please don’t tell kids it’s a “testing table!” Instead, invite them over and say, “Come and show me what you know!” You will get the BEST from each child….and isn’t that what we want from every child we test? YES! (See more on Assessment Tables in my book, Catch a Falling Reader at http://www.conniehebert.com) Thanks….ready, set, assess! Then, use the results to DRIVE INSTRUCTION….