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Let's Read Aloud...Or Not....

A few months ago I did a Facebook Live discussing the Do's and Don'ts and guided reading.  You can check that video out here:

I think one of the things that surprised me most, and apparently many of my viewers, were my comments on whisper phones and round robin reading. I suggested that students do not read aloud the text all at the same time when it is time for them to read independently. I want to focus on this a bit more, and go into some more detail.

Subvocalizing, or vocalizing, is when students read out loud when reading.  Some students may whisper, and others may simply move their lips. 

Many young and beginning readers tend to vocalize when reading. You may notice that during guided reading, you may ask students to read the text independently, and suddenly everyone is reading aloud and it is hard to hear each student!

One of my most favorite professional books is the book Yardsticks by Chip Wood.

(Please note that this is an affiliate link.  I may make a commission when anything is purchased through this link.)

 I used to read it each year before the school year started. I found it put me in the right "mind set" to prepare for what was developmentally appropriate from my students each year. This book breaks down what is developmentally appropriate for kids, each year, from ages 4-14. According to Wood, for seven year olds, "'Silent reading' is not yet silent- lots of whispering (vocalization) as children read."

I generally start to encourage silent reading about mid-second grade.  I do not make a make deal of it. I found that by preparing kids that were reading on grade level at the mid point of the year, they easily made the transfer by the end of the school year.  This followed the Chip Wood's advice, as many mid-second graders are still 7 years old. This way I could support them as they became more mature readers.

When I am reading a difficult recipe or a technical text, the first thing I do is turn off the radio or TV (I need total silence to concentrate! LOL! Am I alone???).  Then, I usually read aloud the passage or text a few times until I am sure I "get" it. 

So if I do this as an adult, why is subvocalizing such a big deal? 

The biggest issue is that subvocalizing when reading slows the reader down.  The reader literally will read at a slower pace.  There is a lot of research supporting the correlation between a fluency and comprehension.  Basically, when a reader is fluent, their brain can focus more on understanding the story, instead of decoding the words. Subvocalizing can prevent the reader from reading fluently.

The next reason is a sad one, but a necessary evil.  When standardized tests are given, students must read the passages "silently." By scaffolding students to do this, they are not stunned when they must read that entire test silently.

Another reason is that is makes the guided reading setting very distracting for your older students.  Also, some of your kids who have developed some pretty slick coping strategies to hide their reading struggles, can simply mimic the person beside them.

Like I mentioned above, I do not make a terribly big deal about it.  I tell the kids, " Good readers read silently and think about the story in their brains.  This helps them read more smoothly and helps them understand the story better. When we read everything out loud, our reading slows down and can make it hard to remember the story."

Most kids will naturally make this jump when switching from a transitional to fluent reader.  To support kids reading on about a beginning to mid-second grade level, I will provide whisper phones.

(Please note that this is an affiliate link.  I may make a commission when anything is purchased through this link.)

You can also make your own from PVC pipe from Home Depot or Lowes. Students can whisper into the phones.  The sound will travel (like a telephone) to their ears, but will not be as loud or distracting to all the kids around them.

By about mid-second grade, I will stop using the whisper phones because I don't want students to over rely on them.  Then, I gently remind kids to read silently when reading.

Often, kids will naturally make the progression by the end of second to middle of third grade. Students that are still reading aloud by this point, are generally reading below grade level and there may be bigger issues to tackle than subvocalization.

So, if kids are not reading out loud, all at the same time during guided reading, when do I hear and monitor them? My students read silently, or using the whisper phones, until I "tap in" with them.  This means I literally touch their hand and ask them to read aloud a paragraph of two and then discuss it briefly with them. I am able to tap in with 2-3 kids per guided reading session.  I take notes, so that the next session, I make sure to listen to the students I missed. I also can use these notes to help guide my teaching point. 

Some may ask, "How can you make sure that the other kids are actually reading?" Easy!  After students read the text and it is time to discuss the text as a group, I make sure to ask the students I didn't tap in on targeted questions to get a feel for their comprehension level! Want to more more about tapping in or how to promote fluency in guided reading (since kids aren't reading aloud), just let me know in the comments and I will write another post since this is getting so long!

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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Opinion Writing Tips and Tricks

Opinion writing can be so hard for kids, partly because it requires such a strong structure to make sense.

How can you make it easier?  Check out these tips, tricks, and mentor texts suggestions!

Find a topic that truly motivates kids.  Think about what your students like.  We have done favorite kinds of cookies or candies, complete with a taste test. My favorite was taste testing the different kinds of M&M's such as the dark chocolate, peanut butter, and plain! Then, we wrote about or favorite and least favorite! Yum!

However, students can also tackle opinions on bigger topics such as a 4 day school week. I would suggest these more complex topics after writing about some simpler topics.

Allow students to get to know their topics very well.  Invite students to brainstorm the "pros" and "cons" of the topic.  That will give students a chance to really cement their opinion, and provide reasoning for their opinion.

Once students are able to provide reasons, they can back their opinion up with useful facts.  In order to do this, students need to feel confident differentiating between fact and opinions. This can be a difficult concept for some and they may need many exposures to fact and opinion.  I love using sorts to identify fact and opinion.

I know that format such as OREO (opinion, reason, explanation, opinion) are popular for teaching opinion writing.  I have used them myself.  However, I would caution against using this as the ONLY format for teaching opinion writing.  Students need to realize that expository writing has a format across all purposes (writing to inform, describe, or explain). Before using OREO consider, discuss and participating the simpler format of topic sentence, details, closing sentence and THEN relating this format to the OREO method. OREO only works for one purpose of writing, but the other works across purposes.

After reviewing the text structure, students can  order opinion paragraphs so that they make sense. This allows students to analyze a small portion of text (a handful of sentences) to  identify topic, details and a closing before applying it to their own writing.

Like all these activities?  You can snag them in my Exploring the Opinion Paragarph Pack here!

Are you looking for some mentor text suggestions?  Check these out! These book suggestions are affiliate links which means that if you clicked on a link and made a purchase I may receive a small commission.  THANK YOU!!!

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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4 Easy Ways to Help with Reading Comprehension

I wrote a post at the end of November about how to support struggling readers.  You can check out that blog post here.

I will be continuing this series to focus on several strategies to support ALL readers!  Today's post will focus on supporting students that struggle with reading comprehension.

Personally, I feel like these are some of the most difficult readers to work with.  They sound beautiful and fluent when they read, so there are no external "clues" of where the break down occurs. So how can we "fix" the problem?

Here are 4 EASY tips (with FREEBIES to match!) to help with students that are struggling with reading comprehension.

Does the student monitor for meaning?  If not try the "Monitoring Monster." Ask students to draw a  monster on the bookmark.  It can look anyway they want it to. After students draw their monsters, explain that this monster helps us monitor, or make sure we are understanding the story. It will help us as we read.

Younger students can simply read a page and then tell their monster bookmark what they just read about.  Older students can read and use the checklist at the bottom of the bookmark as a guide to understanding what they read.

This strategy is a great and simple way to make students aware they have to think about what they are  reading. Some kids do not realize reading is much more that word calling!

I have two veresions of this freebie.  This one is perfect for younger readers.

This one is better for older readers!

Some students may have difficulty retelling a narrative story.  A simple way to help with this is to teach students the Retelling Hand.  This gives students a kinesthetic way to help remember story structure.

To begin, you can write the story elements on the matching fingers of a gardening glove.  Students can put on the glove, and touch the word prompt while retelling the story. Then, students can retell the story but simply looking at the picture of the Retelling Hand.  When students are ready, they will be able to retell the story without any picture or glove because they have internalized the story structure.

A larger poster and small posters (2 to a page) are included.

Another way to keep students thinking about their reading is the Reading Red Light. This is a way for students to realize that we think about our reading before, during, and after we actually read the text.

  Show students the stoplight.  Then, explain that just like a stoplight has three parts, so does our reading.  We think about our reading before, during, and after we actually read.

You can color code the red light hand out (red, yellow, green from top to bottom).  Give students matching colored post its (pink if you can't find red!).  Then, before reading the text ask students to orally answer the questions from the "Ready" section and have students write them on the pink post it.  Allow students to read part of the text.  On a yellow post it, have students answer some of the yellow "Read" questions. Finally, after reading the text, have students answer the "remember" questions on a green post it.

Explain to students that we may not always write these answers, but we always need to be thinking about them as we read.

Jump in the Story is a great strategy for students that have difficulty with inferring what is happening in the story, as well as inferring about the characters.  It is best to use this strategy with a text with great illustrations.

While reading the book, stop on a page with a great illustration.  Then ask students to jump into the story.  This means that they pose and move to look like a different character in the story.  Basically, create a visual tableau of the picture from the book.

Explain to students that they are the character they are posed as.  Ask students inferential questions about the text.  Have students answer as the character. "How is your character feeling right now? Why do you think that?" This literally "puts the students in the character's shoes" and can give them a better reference for answering questions.

Want to snag your freebies?  Click below!

I have already written a few other posts about reading comprehension.  If you want to read more, make sure to check out these posts.  

This post gives strategies of what to do in a guided reading group when the child has no idea of what they just read.  

This post gives some more strategies for students struggling with comprehension!


Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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