HOW TO CUE A BEGINNING READER

What is Cuing?

Cuing has two different meanings when it comes to beginning reading.  First, a beginning reader uses three types of information or cues (meaning, structure and visual) to read accurately.  Second, cuing refers to providing very specific prompts to your beginning reader when she comes to a word she does not know.  The prompts, or cues, have two purposes: your cue is meant to help your child to figure out the unknown word and your cue will help your child to internalize the word attack strategy you are suggesting, or modeling.

Three Types of Cues – Meaning, Structure and Visual

Readers use three types of information to read unknown words.  They can:

  1. use meaning.  The reader uses the book’s illustrations and her own life experiences and knowledge to figure out what makes sense.  This is the first word attack strategy that a child will become proficient at because it does not require any knowledge of letters and their sounds.
  2. use the grammatic structure of the sentence.  The reader uses her knowledge of how sentences are formed to decide what type of word (noun, verb, adjective) fits.  A non-reader inherently knows a lot about the structure of the English language from her years of experience as a listener and speaker.
  3. use visual information.  This is the most sophisticated word attack strategy because it requires alphabetic knowledge.  At first a beginning reader may only look at the first letter in a word, retrieve that letter’s sound and use that information to identify the entire word.

In reality, readers, especially proficient ones, use a combination of all three types of information to read unknown words.

Examples of Successful Use of Cues

Meaning – Text reads: I like apples.  I like bananas.  I like oranges.  The child can read the words apples, bananas and oranges because she looks at the illustrations of the shopping cart and sees the fruits.  Since all three words are nouns and fruits, the child may be using a structure cue, as well.

Structure – Text reads: Sam walks to the store.  The child can read the word walks because she (subconsciously) knows a verb or action word fits in the sentence.  She may also be using a meaning cue if she noticed that the illustration shows Sam walking.  If she noticed that the word begins with the letter w and its sound is /w/, then the child is using a visual cue too.

Visual – Text reads: When the baby gets tired, he is cranky.  The child decodes the word cranky by breaking the word down into chunks that she knows.  She recognizes and can sound out the cr and the -ank and even though she is baffled by the -y, she has enough visual information to decode the word.  Once she reads crank in cranky, the child uses a structure cue and knows that an adjective fits in the sentence.

Cues/Prompts to Use When Your Child Gets Stuck

Meaning

  1. Look at the illustration.  More specifically: What is the dog doing?  Where is the boy going?  Does the baby look happy or sad?
  2. Refer to something your child has experienced or knows: What tools do you use when you’re painting? (paintbrush, easel, paints)  How do you feel when someone does not share with you? (upset, sad, mad, angry)  When you do leave for school? (in the morning)

Structure

  1. Often these errors sound wrong.  Ask your child (and possibly reread the sentence containing her error), “Does that sound funny?”  If your child needs more support, reread the sentence substituting “blank” for the word she misread.  What word fits in the blank?

Visual

  1. Look at the first letter.  What is the letter’s name?  What sound does it make?  Try rereading the sentence and using a word that starts with that sound. 
  2. Do you notice any word families or chunks in the word?
  3. Where is the vowel in the word?  What sound does it make?
  4. Sound out this word, letter by letter.  You may have to repeat the segmented sounds again for your child to hear the word they form.  Blend the sounds to form the word. Again, you make have to model this.
  5. I know you know this word.  Take a moment to look at it closely.  If your child needs more support, you can reference the book, sight word card or sight word book that contains the given word.
  6. This word is very similar to a word you know.  Show the child the word “boy.”  What is this word?  Yes, it is “boy.”  Notice how the word you’re reading looks like “boy,” but has a “t” at the beginning.  What sound does a “t” make?  Then, what word is thatYes, it is “toy!’

Learning a systematic and sequential approach to visual cuing is complex.  Reading specialists are highly training in this approach; however, I have found that parents can learn to be more skilled at cuing with minimal training and support from a reading specialist. 

It is okay, and sometimes preferable, to tell your child the unknown word.  Working on cues with your child will teach her how to become a more independent reader, but it can also take a lot of time, which takes away from your child’s enjoyment of reading the book, fluency and comprehension!  Attempt to find a balance that works for you and your child. 

Watch these videos on the Parent Literacy Partners website to see cuing in action!  Notice how the adult monitors the child’s engagement and frustration and uses this information to determine whether cuing or simply giving the child the unknown word is more appropriate.

Parents: What cues have you used successfully with your child?  When do you feel stumped by cuing?

TIMED REPEATED READING

What is a Timed Repeated Reading?

Timed Repeated Reading calculates your child’s reading rate of a book or passage over multiple readings.  The units used are words per minute (wpm).

Why should I do Timed Repeated Reading?

Timed Repeated Reading keeps track of your child’s fluency training progress.  It is important for your records as a parent tutor.  Timed repeated reading progress can be presented on a child-friendly chart.  It is motivating for your child to see that she is growing as a reader.

How do I do a Timed Repeated Reading?

Before your child starts the Timed Repeated Reading, count the words in the book or passage.  Have a stopwatch and calculator on hand.  Use the stopwatch to count how many seconds it takes your child to read the book.  Tally the number of miscues or errors your child makes while reading.  Calculate the number of correctly read words by subtracting the number of miscues from the number of words in the book.

Number of words in the book – Number of Miscues = Number of correctly read words

To calculate your child’s reading rate, multiply the number of correctly read words in the book times 60 and divide by the number of seconds it took your child to read the book.

(Number of correctly read words x 60 seconds) / number of seconds it took your child to read = reading rate in words per minute

Example: Book has 81 words, child made 2 miscues, and it took 135 seconds to read.

(79 words x 60 seconds) / 135 seconds = 35 words per minute (wpm)

How do I record a Timed Repeated Reading?

Use the TIMED REPEATED READING CHART to record reading rate progress for a specific book.  Each time your child reads a book, calculate the reading rate and document it on the Timed Repeated Reading Chart.  The Chart has space for 6 different readings of the same book.  Over the six readings, the reading rate should increase.  You and your child will be able to see the improvement on the chart.

You can add more information, if you like, to the Timed Repeated Reading Chart I attached.  You can include the book’s reading level next to the space for the title.  You may want to record the dates of each reading of the book.  It is possible that the range of the reading rate, 10wpm – 80 wpm, should be modified to more appropriately fit your child’s reading rate.

Here is an  EXAMPLE TIMED REPEATED READING CHART.  The book’s title is Nature Hike.  The book was read 6 times.  The reading rates for the six readings are, in order: 28 wpm, 31 wpm, 32 wpm, 38 wpm 36 wpm and 45 wpm.  The general trend is that the reading rate increased over the six readings.  You can see that the child’s reading rate was a bit slower on the fifth reading.  It is to be expected that the child will occasionally read more slowly than on a previous reading.

PREPRIMER, PRIMER AND FIRST GRADE LEVELED READERS

Your child is in first grade, and his teacher announces with pride that your daughter has graduated from preprimer to primer readers.  What in the world is she talking about? you wonder.

What exactly are preprimer, primer and first grade leveled readers?

First off, a reader is synonymous with book.

The easiest leveled reader is a preprimer.  The text is simple and often repetitive and/or predictable when viewing the book’s illustrations.

Example preprimer text: I can run.  Dog can run.  I can jump.  Dog can jump.  I can swim.  Dog can swim.   

Preprimer correlates with late-kindergarten through mid-first grade.  So if your child’s reading skills are developing on grade level, she will likely be able to read preprimer books/readers somewhere between late-kindergarten and mid-first grade.

Primer is the next step up from preprimer in the world of leveled reading.  The text remains simple, but sentences are longer and more vocabulary is introduced.  Repetition is common, but not to the extent of the preprimer level.

Example primer text: It was Kitten’s first full moon. When she saw it, she thought, there’s a little bowl of milk in the sky.  And she wanted it.  (an excerpt from Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes)

Primer correlates with the third-quarter of first grade (I know … pretty specific!).

First grade seems to suggest your child should be reading at this level in first grade, but don’t get worried; first grade in the sense of a leveled reader correlates with the fourth-quarter of first grade.  In other words, your child is doing great if she reaches first grade readers by April of first grade.

First grade readers have much more varied text.  The vocabulary is less common; the sentences are more complex.  Words have more advanced or irregular phonetic patterns.  Reaching this reading level is a milestone.  Your child is READING!

Example first grade text: Chester felt his mother’s kiss rush from his hand up his arm, and into his heart.  Even his silky, black mask tingled with a special warmth.  (an excerpt from The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn)

Want to see how preprimer, primer and first grade levels correlate to other leveling systems?

Use the Reading Level Correlation Chart.  If you have a child in the early elementary grades, print it out and keep it on hand.  You will refer to it time and time again!

Where does the word primer come from?

First, primer is pronounced prim-mer with a short i sound.  Primers refer to the earliest form of reading instruction in book form.  A primer is similar to a basal reader.  It features extremely controlled text for the beginning reader.  Picture the textbooks in Little House on the Prairie when everyone recited the reading book aloud together.  The Dick and Jane series were once a modern example of a primer series.

An archaic term resides in the modern form of literacy instruction!  I hope this blog post helps to alleviate any confusion about the reading levels of preprimer, primer and first grade.

 

PHONEMIC AWARENESS ACTIVITIES

Phonemic awareness activities will help your child to learn to analyze and manipulate individual sounds in words.  Phonemic awareness is the ability to count the number of sounds; identify the beginning, middle and ending sounds; and segment, blend, add and delete sounds in words.

To understand why phonemic awareness is so crucial to your child’s reading development, read my post, “Phonemic Awareness – The Most Important Pre-Reading Skill.”

Now for some fantastic phonemic awareness activities that work…

1. ALPHABET SOUND TUBS – I really like the ones made by Lakeshore Learning.  The objects are sorted by beginning letter.  For example, the A tub includes apple, acorn and alligator.  The objects provide great practice for identifying beginning sounds.  However, if you wanted to practice identifying ending sounds, you could find multiple objects from various tubs ending with the sound /n/, such as sign, cone and sun.  I also like adding objects and toys to the tubs to expand the activity.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights identifying the beginning and ending sounds in words.

2.  PICTURE SORTS – Google beginning consonant sounds picture sorts, ending consonant sounds picture sorts or middle vowel sounds picture sorts, and you will find a plethora of materials fit for contrasting phonemes within words.  A couple of things to remember:

  1. Start with single syllable words.  Words with only three sounds, such as cat or bus are best.
  2. Contrasting beginning sounds is easiest.  Once that is mastered, move onto contrasting ending sounds.  Contrasting middle vowel sounds is the most difficult.
  3. Start by contrasting only two sounds.  Contrast at most four sounds at one time.

You can do this task with the objects in your alphabet sounds tubs, as well.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights identifying the beginning and ending sounds in words.

3.  ELKONIN BOXES – The Read Rocket website offers instructions how to use Elkonin boxes and the Lanternfish provides a ton of Elkonin boxes templates to download.  Since our goal is to develop phonemic awareness, which deals with sounds within a spoken word, not letters, I would recommend using counters (e.g. pennies or unifix cubes) instead of letters.  For example, when presented with the sheep template below, I would slide one counter in the first box while saying the sound /sh/, one counter in the second box while saying the sound /ee/, and one counter in the third box while saying the sound /p/.  After segmenting the sounds, blend them together to form the word, sheep.

Elkonin box

An Elkonin box template for the word, sheep. There are three boxes for the three phonemes, /sh/, /ee/ and /p/.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights counting, segmenting and blending sounds in words.

4.  USING KINESTHETIC MOVEMENT TO SEGMENT SOUNDS WITHIN WORDS – Start with consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) word families that produce a lot of words, such as –ap, –ed, –ip and –ot.  Work with only one word family at a time, such as –ap, which includes the words cap, gaplap, map, nap, sap and tap.  Pass a ball back and forth between two (or more) people.  When you catch the ball, you say the next sound in the word.  Over three tosses, the word cap sounds like /c/, /a/, /p/.  By working within the same word family, you will only need to change the beginning sound.  In lieu of tossing a ball, you could stomp your foot or clap your hands for each sound, or phoneme.

5.  COMMUNICATE IN SEGMENTED PHONEMES – Start with single syllable words you use frequently, like car, bike, school, bed, ball, dog, etc.  Also use your child’s name, even if it has more than one syllable.  Say things like:

  1. It’s time for /b/ /e/ /d/.
  2. Do you want to /b/ /igh/ /k/ to /s/ /k/ /oo/ /l/ today?
  3. Let’s play catch with the /d/ /o/ /g/.
  4. /S/ /a/ /l/ /ee/, where is your brother?

At first, you may have to blend the sounds to form the word for the child, but with repetition, his ear will be able to hear the word among the segmented sounds.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights blending sounds in words.

Other amazing resources for phonemic awareness activities

I really find value in many of Heidi Butkus’ recommended phonemic awareness activities.  I specifically like the Segmentation Sliders (similar to the Elkonin boxes) and the Puppets speaking in segmented sounds and alliteration, both on page 3.  Sound blending bingo, songs and eliciting a physical response on page 4 are exceptional, too.

I like the Sound Segmentation Pictures at kellyskindergarten.com.  You can use them with Elkonin boxes or Segmentation Sliders to segment sounds in words.  You can hand your child a fly swatter and have him whack the swatter as he segments each sound within the word.

How phonemic awareness activities evolve into reading and spelling activities

Before your child knows a lot about letters, he can know a lot about sounds, especially if you incorporate phonological awareness activities, such as rhyming and syllabication, and phonemic awareness activities into your everyday life.  But at some point, your child is going to recognize letters and develop alphabetic knowledge (linking letters to their sounds).  With a growing awareness of letters, your child’s phonemic awareness will likely grow exponentially.  This is the time to start incorporating letters into the phonemic awareness activities described above.  It will help develop his reading and spelling skills.

Parents: In your own experience, which activities mentioned above were best for developing phonemic awareness before your child developed much alphabetic knowledge?

 

 

HOW CAN I FIGURE OUT MY CHILD’S READING LEVEL?

First … Why is it important to know my child’s reading level?

You want to know your child’s reading level because then you can make sure he has access to books that are a perfect fit!  When you match a child with appropriately-leveled reading books, his reading skills will improve.

reading level

Knowing your child’s reading level will help you to choose books he can read independently and books he can read with adult assistance.

Your child’s teacher should know your child’s reading level

ASK!  Depending on the leveling system that the school or classroom uses, the teacher may provide you with a grade number (K-12), letter or number.  Then use the Reading Level Correlation Chart to see how his reading level correlates to other leveling systems.  A lot of classroom teachers send home nightly readers/books at your child’s independent reading level.  Often teachers will supply students with a couple of books at their independent level to keep in their desk to read during free, or silent, reading time.

How to figure out your child’s reading level

Select at least three books that you believe your child can read easily.  By easily, I mean they can read 98% or more of the words in the book.  Find out the books’ reading levels by using Scholastic’s Book Wizard.  On the home page of Book Wizard, you can select which leveling system to use.  I like Guided Reading (A-Z) best.  I would use this system unless your child’s classroom teacher uses another leveling system.  In that case, align the system you use at home with the school’s.  If Book Wizard does not have a level for the book you entered, keep entering in new titles until you find ones that have a reading level.  Hopefully, the three books you selected have similar reading levels.  They should.  By similar, I mean they should only differ by one letter (Guided Reading) or one letter (DRA) in the leveling system.  If there’s a discrepancy between the reading levels of the books, enter a few more books’ titles until you can find a consistent reading level among the books.

Steps to find your child’s reading level

1.  Count the words in the book, if your child is reading at a K-1 grade level.  If reading at a second grade level or higher, select a passage, roughly 100 words, in the book for your child to read.

2.  If possible (I know it is time-consuming), photocopy or copy by hand the book or passage.

3.  Have your child read the passage orally.  Children reading at a third grade level or below typically perform best reading orally.

4.  Your child has the original book in front of him, and you keep the copy in front of you.  Have a pencil ready.

5.  As your child reads aloud, cross out any words that he misreads or skips.  Do not give hints.  If your child looks to you for help, you can say, “Try again.”  If he does not know the word and refuses to continue, you can tell him the word, but cross it out and consider it misread.  If you cannot cross out the miscues because you did not copy the book, tally the miscues.

6.  If your child self-corrects, which means correctly reads the word after misreading it, do not cross it out.  Additionally, sometimes children will realize that they are off track and that what they are reading does not make sense and will reread an entire sentence.  If the second reading includes self-corrections, do not cross out those words.

7.  When your child finishes the book or passage, total up the miscues (crossed out words).

8.  Use the following formula to calculate your child’s reading accuracy rate:

(Total words – miscues) / Total words = Reading accuracy rate (round upward to whole number)

Example:  Book has 79 words, and the child makes 5 miscues. 

(79-5)/79 = 74/79 = 94% accuracy rate

In other words, subtract the miscues from the total words and then divide that number by the total words to find the reading accuracy rate.

9.  On a subsequent day, or immediately afterward if your child does not appear fatigued or frustrated by the oral reading session, repeat the above 8 steps with the other two books you selected at the same reading level.

Using the reading accuracy rate to determine whether a given book is at your child’s INDEPENDENT, INSTRUCTIONAL or FRUSTRATION level

Your child’s reading accuracy rate determines whether a book is at your child’s independent, instructional or frustration level for word identification in context.  This only checks how well your child can read the words in the text, not whether he comprehends what he is reading.

There are three levels that depict your child’s relationship with a given book.  At the independent level, the child can read without assistance.  At the instructional level, the child can read successfully with some teacher/parent instruction.  At the frustration level, the child makes so many mistakes (miscues) that understanding the book is impossible. 

Using the formula above, if your child’s reading accuracy level is at 98% or above, the book is at his independent level.

If your child’s reading accuracy level is between 90% and 97%, the book is at his instructional level.

If your child’s reading accuracy level is at 90% or below, the book is at his frustration level.

Your child’s independent and instructional reading levels will be different

Let’s say the first three books that you selected as “easy to read” were leveled as D in the Guided Reading leveling system.  You might find that he reads all three books you first selected with 98% accuracy or better.  Woohoo!!  You have found his independent reading level to be level D books.  But let’s consider a different scenario: Your child read the three books with accuracy rates ranging between 93% and 98%.  Okay, that suggests that D level books are more consistently at your child’s instructional level.  Go back on Scholastic Book Wizard and find some books that are at the C level.  Repeat the reading accuracy test and see if the easier books are at your child’s independent reading level.  After finding your child’s independent reading level, find your child’s instructional reading level by having him read slightly harder books that he can read with 90% to 97% reading accuracy.

When should my child read at his independent level and when should he read at his instructional level?

When your child is reading on his own, he should read at his independent level.  Reading at this level improves reading fluency, sight word knowledge and confidence.  When your child is reading with a teacher or parent, he should read at his instructional level because the adult can provide support and instruction that will allow the child to improve his reading skills.

Parents, did you use this method or a similar one to determine your child’s reading level?  What worked?  What didn’t?  Have you seen the meaningful purpose of your child reading independent and instructional leveled books?

 

 

PHONEMIC AWARENESS – THE MOST IMPORTANT PRE-READING SKILL

There is SO much research showing that having strong phonemic awareness skills predicts future reading success.  Want an analogy?  Phonemic awareness is the foundation of reading success.  Just like a house cannot be built on a weak foundation, a strong reader rarely develops without phonemic awareness.

What is phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to analyze and manipulate individual sounds in words.  It is the ability to count the number of sounds; identify the beginning, middle and ending sounds; and segment, blend, add and delete sounds in words.  It is a more advanced sub-category of phonological awareness, which includes the skills of rhyming and syllabication.

phonemic awareness picture sort

A picture sort, examining the beginning sounds b, m, r and s. Notice there are no letters/words involved. This is an exceptional activity to develop phonemic awareness in pre-emergent and emergent readers.

The facts regarding phonemic awareness and reading success are cut and dry so it feels right to share them in list form.

1.  Development of phonemic awareness leads to improved reading ability.

2.  Poor readers at all ages are less phonemically aware than same-age good readers (Shaywitz, 1996).

3.  Children with poor phonemic awareness have trouble learning letter-sound relationships (aka alphabetic knowledge) and how to spell (Griffin, 1991; Juel, Griffith & Gough, 1986).

4.  Children who have poor phonemic awareness (and are consequently poor readers) in first grade typically remain poor readers in fourth grade (Juel, 1988).

5.  The more advanced forms of phonemic awareness (e.g. segmenting sounds) are more predictive of reading ability than simpler forms of phonological awareness, such as rhyming (Nation & Hulme, 1997).

6.  Instruction in reading is essential for the most advanced forms of phonemic awareness to develop.  In other words, knowing the letters and their sounds, make learning how to segment and blend sounds in words easier.

7.  In studies, phonemic awareness training in kindergarten and first-grade produces better readers and spellers, both at the completion the training period, as well as years down the road (Lungberg, Frost & Peterson, 1988).

8.  Phonemic awareness training with a component of discussion as to the importance of phonemic awareness and its application in reading is more effective than simply a “skill and drill” approach (Cunningham, 1990).

9.  Reading increases phonemic awareness, but reading is unlikely without a degree of phonemic awareness (Goswami & Bryant, 1990).  So the ideal instructional path is to develop some phonemic awareness, use it to develop reading skills, and then in turn develop even stronger phonemic awareness skills.

10.  When parents teach their children letters and their sounds (alphabetic knowledge), the children’s phonemic awareness improves (Crain-Thoreson & Dale, 1992).

Parents: For activity suggestions to develop phonemic awareness, check out my post, Activities to Build Phonemic Awareness.

Parents, what activities and strategies do you use at home to help your child develop phonemic awareness?  What has resulted in the most positive growth?  Please share your story.

References

Crain-Thoreson, C., & Dale, P. S.  (1992).  Do early talkers become early readers? Linguistic precocity, preschool language and emergent literacy.  Developmental Psychology, 28, 421-429.

Cunningham, A. E.  (1990).  Explicit versus implicit instruction in phonemic awareness.  Journal of Experimental Psychology50, 429-444.

Goswami, U., & Bryant, P. E.  (1990).  Phonological skills and learning to read.  Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Griffith, P. L.  (1991).  Phonemic awareness helps first graders invent spellings and third graders remember correct spellings.  Journal of Reading Behavior, 23, 215-233.

Juel, C.  (1988).  Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from first through fourth grades.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 417-447.

Juel, C., Griffith, P. L., & Gough, P. B.  (1986).  Acquisition of literacy: A longitudinal study of children in first and second grade.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 243-255.

Lundberg, I., Frost, J., & Peterson, O.  (1988).  Effects of an extensive program for stimulating phonological awareness in preschool children.  Reading Research Quarterly, 23, 263-284.

Nation, K., & Hulme, C.  (1997).  Phonemic segmentation, not onset-rime segmentation, predicts early reading and spelling skills.  Reading Research Quarterly, 32, 154-167.

Shaywitz, S. E.  (1996).  Dyslexia.  Scientific American, 275(5), 98-104.

 

 

 

WHAT ARE LEVELED READERS?

Children’s reading abilities advance most when they are reading appropriately leveled readers, or books.  Publishing houses that create literacy materials level their books according to the books’ difficulty level.  A book’s difficulty level is determined by a number of factors such as sentence length and complexity, word choice, vocabulary, content, repetition and predictability, length of the book, number of words/sentences on each page and complexity of content.

leveled readers

A variety of leveled readers, ranging in level from Kindergarten to second grade

One complicated thing about leveled readers is that different publishing companies use different systems.  Two of the most reputed leveling systems are Fountas-Pinnell and Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA).  The first system levels their books from A-Z; the second system levels their books from 1-44.

example of a leveled reader K

Publishing companies who produce literacy curriculum typically list the book’s level on the back cover of the book. This publishing company uses the Fountas-Pinnell leveling system. This book’s level is K, which is the equivalent of a second grade reading level.

A great tool to have on hand is the Reading Level Correlation Chart.  It shows how some of the best known leveling systems correlate to one another.

Another excellent resource is Scholastic’s Book Wizard.

  • You can type in a title of a book and find out its level.
  • You can type in a book’s title and find similarly leveled readers, or books.
  • You can search for titles at a specific reading level.

For a easy-to-understand guide to what different levels of leveled readers look like, check out Sachem, New York school district’s language arts department’s, Text Level Indicators page.  They use the Guided Reading (A-Z) leveling system.

Do you want to find out at what level your child is reading?

  • Ask your child’s teacher.
  • If your child brings home leveled readers, enter the title on Scholastic’s Book Wizard.
  • Find a book that your child reads easily, at his independent level, and enter the title on Scholastic’s Book Wizard.
  • Find a book that your child reads with minimum assistance, at his instructional level, and enter the title on Scholastic’s Book Wizard.  Compare the reading level of this book with the level of the easily read book.

To determine your child’s reading level with an easy-to-use home assessment, check out my post, “How Can I Figure Out My Child’s Reading Level?”  This link also defines independent and instructional reading levels.

SCAFFOLDING: IT’S WHAT GOOD TEACHERS DO

But what is (instructional) scaffolding?  Your child is interested in learning a new skill.  Or you want to teach your child a new skill.  It doesn’t matter what the skill is: learning how to ride a bike, how to use visual cues to read accurately or how to rhyme.  You provide support (aka scaffolding) because it speeds up the learning curve and promotes independence.  Scaffolding support comes in four forms: resources/materials, tasks, modeling and coaching/giving advice.

Let’s examine Scaffolding in the context of Teaching your Child to Ride a Bike
Learning to Ride a Bike

Strider Bike – Independent
Pedal Bike – Needs a lot of Scaffolding

Resources/materials

  1. You provide a Strider (pedal-less) bike or a a bike with training wheels.
  2. When progressing from a Strider bike to a pedal bike, you hold onto the child’s seat, providing additional, physical support.

Tasks

  1. Practice bike riding in a fun, exciting environment.  This may mean a bike ride to park or a play date with friends who are more proficient bike riders.
  2. You have your child practice walking on balance beam like structures to promote the development of balance (the perimeter of the park is often lined with balance beam-like wooden beams).

Modeling

  1. You also hop on your bike (hopefully, not a Strider!) for the ride to the park.
  2. You show your child how pedals are maneuvered (push the left foot forward, push the right foot forward, repeat).
  3. You teach your child how to “bicycle” his legs in the air while lying on his back, thus, ingraining the cycling motion.

Coaching/Giving advice

  1. “Look where you want to go.  If you look at that rock, you will likely hit it.”
  2. “If you cannot use the brakes, remember you can always slow down like you did on the Strider, by dragging your feet.”

Scaffolding is an instructional technique in which the teacher diminishes support in a graceful, observant way so that the student can grow more independent and own his learning process.  

In the academic realm, scaffolding is second nature to top-notch teachers.  First, the teacher must be observant and be capable of identifying where the student stands in the developmental spectrum.  There are three stages for any task or concept: Independent, Instructional and Frustration.

Independent pretty much speaks for itself.  The student can do the task or understand the concept independently.

Instructional means that the student needs support to successfully complete the task or understand.  This is where scaffolding is necessary.

Frustration means that the student cannot successfully complete a task or understand a concept, even with scaffolding.

The goal of scaffolding is that tasks and concepts that were once instructional become independent. 

As a literacy tutor to your child, it is essential that you understand where he stands along the developmental spectrum of a given skill set.  You will have to find the resources and create the tasks to meet him at his instructional level.  (I can help you with that!)  Through modeling and coaching, you can show him how a more advanced learner would approach the task or concept.  (I can help you with that, too!)  Once the process or information becomes more familiar to him, you will be able to withdraw your support and allow him to blossom to independence.

Then, of course, you find the next instructional task and begin the process of scaffolding all over again.

When have you used scaffolding to promote your child’s learning?  What worked?  What didn’t?  Were there any a-ha moments for either you or him/her?  Please share!

 

 

 

ACTIVITIES TO BUILD SYLLABICATION SKILLS

Below I suggest some activities to build syllabication skills at home.  Syllabication skills are a component of phonological awareness.

The examples and activities I present are geared for children in pre-K to first grade.  While these activities can be used with beginning readers, they are really designed for pre-emergent and emergent readers who are not reading at all or reading only a few words.

Key piece of information: When letters are placed within the symbol /   /, it indicates the spoken form of the word.  Since the goal is to build phonological awareness, we are only working with the spoken word.

Examples of Syllabication Skills

1.  What is the first syllable in the word baseball?  base

What is the second syllable in the word baseball?  ball

What is the first syllable in the word opposite? /op/

What is the second syllable in the word opposite? /po/

What is the third syllable in the word opposite? /zit/

2.  How many syllables does the word rich have? 1

How many syllables does the word ocean have? 2

How many syllables does the word mistaken have? 3

3.  The starting word is cupcake.  If I take away the syllable /cup/, what syllable am I left with? /cake/

The starting word is cupcake.  If I take away the syllable /cake/, what syllable am I left with? /cup/

Activities to Build Syllabication Skills

1.  There are 2 ways to teach your child to understand, see and feel a syllable.  Practice saying individual words in front of the mirror.  Speak slowly and exaggerate the syllables.  Each time your mouth opens, it is syllable.  The second way is to touch the underside of your chin.  Each time your chin drops down, it is a syllable.

2.  Play what I call the “Syllabication Name Game.”  Place 5 or more photos of family members or friends on the table.  The number of syllables in the people’s names should be varied.  Ask you child to tell you all of the people’s names (simply to make sure he knows them readily).  There are many variations of this game:

a)  Clap out, jump out or drum out (whatever kinesthetic activity engages your child) the syllables of each person’s name.

b)  Have a handful of “markers” on hand.  These could be coins, cheerios, stickers, anything to count with.  On a piece of paper or a white board, make four horizontally-connected boxes.  One by one, go through the people’s names and place a marker in each box from left to right as you hear each syllable in the name.  For example: Debbie, 2 syllables and therefore 2 markers; Mark, 1 syllable and 1 marker; Violet, 3 syllables and 3 markers; Penelope, 4 syllables and 4 markers.

c)  Sort people’s names according to how many syllables are in their names.  Have a pile of 1 syllable names, 2 syllable names, and so forth.

d)  Provide only the first syllable of people’s names and have your child guess the full name.  You could also provide only the last syllable and have your child guess the full name, which would be more difficult.

** You can do this game with words, other than names.  If your child is really interested in baseball, the words could be pitcher, baseball, strike, catch and overhand.

** All variations of this game are meant to be done with the spoken word.  There is no need for print.  However, if your child finds the game too easy and is a beginning reader, you may use the written words.

3.  Label post-it notes with the numbers 1, 2 or 3.  The 1, 2 or 3 stand for the number of syllables within a word.  Have your child stick the correctly numbered post-it note on objects within your home.  For example, bed, chair and book would get 1s, printer, bathtub and flashlight would get 2s, computer, bicycle and camera would get 3s.

4.  Try clapping or stomping or jumping or banging out every syllable in common songs, such as Mary Had a Little Lamb or Twinkle, Twinkle.  Both of these songs have a balanced mixture of syllables.

 

ACTIVITIES TO BUILD RHYMING SKILLS

Below I suggest some activities to build rhyming skills at home.  Rhyming skills are a component of phonological awareness.

Examples of Rhyming Skills

  1. Do the following pairs of words rhyme?  ratmat (yes), jumpybumpy (yes), lovelion (no)
  2. Give me a word that rhymes with car? vetbake?  Nonsense words as answers are acceptable.

The second example of rhyming is harder than the first because the child has to come up with the rhyming word.

Activities to Build Rhyming Skills

  1. Use Rhyming Picture cards.  Start with only eight cards (four matching pairs) showing.  First, have the child name all the pictures.  If he does not know a name, provide it.  Next, pick up a card and have the child name it, stick.  If he does not know which picture card rhyme with it, test out a few pairs for him.  Say, “stickfrog, stickchick, stickskunk.  Which pair rhymes?”  You can extend the activity by asking/telling the onset (the rhyming part): -ick.  You can also ask for additional rhyming words, such as lick, Rick, and quick.  As your child becomes more proficient, you can increase the number of rhyming picture cards.  It is your job as the parent to figure out your child’s current skill level and build from there using scaffolding techniques.
  2. Read books that feature rhyming extensively.  Read them over and over and over.  Eventually, your child will start supplying the missing rhyming words.  Some of my favorites are Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney (and the entire Llama Llama series), Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. (and the related Bill Martin Jr. books), My Truck is Stuck! by Kevin Lewis and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.  Ask your local librarian for more ideas.
  3. Look at objects around you (in your home, at the park, passing by in the car) and start the game, “I see a book.  Do you see a _______?”  (Supply a rhyming word.  It does not need to be a real word.)  Your child and you can take turns making the “I see a ______.  Do you see a _______?” statement.  Other examples: I see fish. Do you see a dish/pish?  I see a tree.  Do you see a key/fee?  I see a sign.  Do you line/jine?  My examples are meant to illustrate acceptable rhymes that are real words and ones that are nonsense.  You can control this activity in the beginning by making sure objects that are single syllable and have common rhymes are present.  Such objects would include a dog, fish, can, boy, book, pot, cat, doll, mug and chair.

It is your job as the parent to figure out your child’s current skill level and build from there using scaffolding techniques.

The website, PhonologicalAwareness.org has an extensive list of quality activities.