How to Implement Correct Reading Techniques

How to Implement Correct Reading Techniques

Today, I’ve decided to write to you, the adult reader, about a topic that most of us take for granted:  Reading. I’ve chosen this topic because improving reading skills is not just a concern for students only!  We all need to practice.  The truth is that your reading ability may be more important to you after you have completed your formal education.   

Here’s the thing.  Reading isn’t just for pleasure.  In fact, reading all kinds of written material and processing the information quickly is part of our daily lives at work, at home, and everywhere in between.  The scary part is that you don’t always have much time, yet it’s important to interpret many of these written messages with accuracy.  So, what can you do about it?  I’d like to give you just a couple of tips.  First, you can start by

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More Than the ABCs: Vowel A

More Than the ABCs: Vowel A

Last time, I showed you how to help students own the alphabet as more than just the ABCs. Each symbol or letter is a picture of sound. Our job is to teach kids how to attach the sound or sounds that each symbol represents.


We’ll start at the very beginning with the letter  A a . As you can see, I printed both the capitalized version and the lower case versions. I do that because children need to see and use both forms. I start with A a,  not because it is the first letter of our alphabet, but because it represents the first three vowel sounds I teach. I repeat…it has THREE sounds that should be taught right out of the starting gate: a, a, a. Click the play button below to hear the correct

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More Than the ABCs: Owning the Alphabet

More Than the ABCs: Owning the Alphabet

Lately, I have been pondering my linguistic journey. Over the years, it has been a journey of self-discovery. A journey that led me to use a fascinating method to teach systematic phonics and phonemic awareness.

If you could have visited my first and second grade combined classroom about 20 years ago, you would have noticed that I displayed traditional alphabet cards above my chalkboard. I didn’t really use it as a reference tool. It was more of a standard classroom decoration than a tool for learning. That is, until I gained some knowledge about teaching letters NOT as letters of the alphabet, but as pictures of sound. I didn’t realize the power the alphabet has when it is considered as a code made of symbols that allows learners to attach sounds to them.

The fact remains, we have an alphabetic language. In other words, letters provide us a way to encode sounds of speech into symbols…the letters of the alphabet. But for years, that information was lost on many a teacher. When I realized how the code system works, it rocked my linguistic world!

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Micro-comprehension: Comprehension Monitoring

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In this series of blogs about micro-comprehension, I have presented strategies that boost micro-comprehension: vocabulary words, gap-filling inference, sentence structure processing, figurative language processing, and applying text structure.

When you teach students how to slow down their own thinking— to become aware of what they are thinking about while reading, you are teaching them comprehension monitoring. However, some readers, especially very young ones, fail to truly read for comprehension. Here’s a solution: teach readers to monitor their comprehension in smaller chunks. If you can help readers chunk their understanding step-by-step, you up their odds for success.


Chunks of Meaning

We can help our young readers by teaching them some thinking steps to use when they read. These steps make it possible for readers to put a voice to what they think about when they read. The first step in chunking meaning starts with getting students to slow their reading down a bit when they read harder texts. Then, teach them to ask the following questions after each paragraph or two. Don’t do it too often. You can tell when a plot thickens in a story, so that is the ideal place to sprinkle in these comprehension chunks:  

  • What are the times and settings of the story I know about so far?

  • Who are the main characters so far?

  • Have any new characters been introduced?

  • What important events have occurred so far and who was involved?

Make sure you model this process periodically throughout the story or book. You will know students understand the gist of a story by the way they react to and respond to these kinds of questions.



When students read aloud, do not allow them to simply skip a word and move on. Sometimes, readers will substitute a wrong word. If the substitution doesn’t work, and the reader just keeps plowing through, that’s a problem. Don’t let them ignore it. Instead, teach them to go back and re-read. Good readers need to re-read to verify comprehension—it’s just that a lot of kids will never do so if they aren’t taught directly. Teach the following steps when students encounter new words or phrases or whole lines of challenging text. When a student stumbles, hesitates, or substitutes with a nonsense word, do this:

  1. Say: “Go ahead and try it.”

  2. If the student cannot correct the error, say the word for the student.

    Note:  Decide what caused the problem. Ask yourself if the student made the error because of a phonics problem, a visual miscue, or if the student substituted with a nonsense word. If the student immediately self-corrects the mistake, just move on. If the student substitutes the problem word with a synonym that works in the sentence, have them correct it after they finish reading the whole passage.

  3. Have the student start at the beginning of the sentence which contains the problem word or phrase.

As you continue your efforts to help kids learn to read and comprehend, give some thought to all of the micro-comprehension strategies in this series. If you make it a habit, you will multiply your effectiveness and improve your students’ reading comprehension at the same time. Thanks for reading!

(This post is part of a series on Micro-Comprehension. To start at the beginning, click here.)

Micro-comprehension: Applying Text Structure

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As I continue my series about micro-comprehension, text structure processing is next in line. Earlier, I wrote about sentence structure processing. The process of analyzing sentence structure and text structure shares similarities. However, analyzing at the sentence level gives a close up picture of the meaning of the sentence; whereas, analyzing text structure provides the bigger picture of an entire essay or any  longer piece of writing.

Many fluent readers seem to automatically process text structure, but it is probably subconscious. Take a look at this short list of text structures students encounter:

  • sequence/chronological order

  • compare/contrast

  • description

  • cause/effect

  • problem/solution


Unfortunately, a lot of readers miss out on whole chunks of meaning because they get caught in the muck and mire of wading through too much information. Tunnel vision sets in, and students simply gloss over the purpose for the passage. Understanding the overall structure of the text can help students avoid some of these struggles. So…how do we teach students to recognize these text structures?


Look at the list of text structures again. Luckily, these types of text structures come with signal words and phrases that you can directly teach students to recognize. Then, as they read, these words clue them in as to which textual structure they are reading. The NEA published an excellent chart to illustrate this.


With practice, students can identify the structure, which prepares their brains to comprehend and retain the information. Students who can readily determine an author’s text structure will have a much clearer mental model of the goings on in a piece of text.


Now, here’s an interesting approach that will also inform your reading instruction. First, Shurley English provides graphic organizers (also called advance organizers and prewriting maps) that help students determine the kinds of text they want to write. Since we show students the ins and outs of how to write various text structures (depending on the purpose of the writing and the audience), it isn’t a huge leap for them to analyze what they are reading, based on an author’s chosen text structure. And, they can use our graphic organizers to help them do it! It’s almost like reverse engineering, using texts and graphic organizers.


Now, it’s your turn…

  • Select a short passage—any grade appropriate prose will do.

  • Provide your students the appropriate Shurley English prewriting map, or have them select which map will best work for the text.

    • use  a Venn Diagram for a comparison/contrast structure;

    • use the Descriptive map for a descriptive text structure;

    • use the Persuasive/Argumentative map for a problem/solution text structure, etc.

  • Read the passage aloud or have volunteers read it aloud.

  • Have students listen carefully and fill in the information on the map as they hear or read the text.


I love using reading and writing skills interdependently because that’s the way those processes actually interact in the brain. Each lends itself to the other as confirmation that the meaning is getting through! As students begin to identify text structures in their reading, you build onto that knowledge to shore up their writing, and vice versa.


In my next article, I will conclude my series on micro-comprehension with a discussion about comprehension monitoring. Please join me!

(This post is part of a series on Micro-Comprehension. To start at the beginning, click here.)

Figurative Language Processing: Reader’s Theater & Drama

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Reading fluency, comprehension, prosody (the highs and lows of the voice to convey emotion), —these facets of reading sound like a bunch of educational mumbo-jumbo, but they matter! As I continue to poke around in figurative language processing, these components have to be mentioned because many readers need us to teach these skills directly, at least until they get the idea. Sounds like a lot to manage? Not really—not if you root these skills in an activity that rightly brings each area to the forefront in a kid’s thinking.

I am talking about Reader’s Theater and other dramatic activities. Because I am a nut about drama and all things related to the stage, these kinds of strategies allow me to use my passion for words, expressions, figurative language, poise, elocution, drama…blah, blah, blah, and enable me to get kids excited about them, too. In Reader’s Theater and plays, reading, of course, is a demanded skill, but because the focus is not only reading, but also “how” to read with expression, fluency, prosody, and breathing techniques to create dramatic entrances and pauses. This kind of reading is sneaky because it rehearses the important reading skills kids need, but it does so under the guise of performance. The dramatic arts allow students, who get tunnel-vision by the minutia of reading, to experience a major boost in their reading ability and overall confidence.

Reader’s Theater and plays take on many forms. Sometimes a solo, sometimes a duet, sometimes a whole group; it doesn’t matter how you configure it. It only matters that the reading material sparks students’ interests. Plays, of course, take the skill further by adding a dimension of memory work and blocking of characters.

When I was in the fourth grade, I will never forget Mrs. Hollmann, who challenged our whole class to memorize Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. She arranged all twenty-four of us into various-sized groups and set us to practicing the poem. In those days, we didn’t add in special sound effects or fancy inflections, but we performed it together as a class after all that rehearsal. You see, it was during the hard work of learning the poem, reading it over and over, memorizing a large part of it, that many of us found a voice—our own voice. And in doing so, we also improved our reading skills without realizing that it was our reading Mrs. Hollmann was pushing us to improve. We just thought it was exciting!

Later in school, drama on the stage afforded me the same kinds of rehearsal. When I carried that knowledge into the classroom, the results were truly “dramatic”! Never underestimate the value of good classroom drama.

I don’t have enough space here to publish all of the possible ways for you to incorporate Reader’s Theater or classroom plays, but if you do an internet search for the key words: reader’s theater or student plays, you will discover no end to the amount of amazing material available to get you going! Be sure to choose works that are just slightly more advanced than your students’ current readability levels. You can use any one of the online reading scales to check for grade levels most suited for a particular piece. In addition, you can go to the following site to access ideal literature for Reader’s Theater and this site for scripts students can use in their classroom plays. In no time at all, you can have your students reading and performing!

(This post is part of a series on Micro-Comprehension. To start at the beginning, click here. To view the next post in this series, click here.)

Figurative Language Processing and the Writer’s Workshop

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As part of my series-within-a-series for figurative language processing, writer’s workshop might seem like a surprising topic to bring up in a discussion about reading comprehension. But, it’s not. I have worked with many students through the years, many who struggled with reading comprehension. They struggled for various reasons, but I discovered that even the poorest readers could read their own writing.


So, writer’s workshop proved to be a very important step when helping struggling readers to find not only their writing voice, but also their reading voice. When you couple that with showing the students how to nuance their writing by using figurative language, they can then connect that understanding to both reading and writing.


Ben Franklin’s old truism about teaching goes: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” It’s as true today as it was when he first said it. That’s why writer’s workshop is an ideal event where students gain real experience with figurative language.


I set up writer’s workshops just like I set up literature groups. Every other day, students will either engage in a literature group or in a writer’s workshop. During the writer’s workshop, a lesson about alliteration, for example, might have spring boarded from the previous day’s literature group discussion about a tongue twister, like Peter Piper. After having immense fun reading Peter Piper and having discussed alliteration, the topic for the next writer’s workshop is born!


Each writer is asked to create their own tongue twister, which will highlight alliteration as the “skill” to sharpen up. At the next writer’s workshop, students will be encouraged to read their tongue twisters aloud or in pairs. This is just a simple example to demonstrate how simply figurative language can be taught in a hands-on way, using writing as the vehicle.


You might want to try using writer’s workshop to encourage your kids’ figurative language processing skills. Below is a list of types of figurative language that you can explore:

  • alliteration

  • onomatopoeia

  • rhymes

  • similes

  • metaphors

  • personification


If you do an internet search for children’s books and youth’s novels that serve as excellent mentor texts for each of these kinds of figurative language, you will be amazed at the multiple opportunities you can offer your students to dabble with figurative language and truly comprehend it.

(This post is part of a series on Micro-Comprehension. To start at the beginning, click here. To view the next post in this series, click here.)

Literary Techniques: What is Choral Reading?

If you’re looking for a unique way to keep your child engaged in reading over the summer, you might want to consider doing some choral reading at home.  In case you’ve never heard of it, choral reading is a literacy technique that helps students build their fluency, self-confidence, and motivation to read.  It takes a minimum of two people to participate, but the entire family can join the fun! 

During choral reading activities, the teacher is an active participant and helps set the pace and model proper pronunciation.  As participants rehearse a particular passage aloud in unison, they will learn to assimilate the following important reading skills:  (a.) decoding skills, (b.) effective and fluent oral reading skills, (c.) sight vocabulary, and (d.) pronunciation skills. 

It is important to make sure that choral reading is a fun learning experience, so you must find appropriate materials to use.  Rhymes, poetry, and lyrics are especially suited to choral reading because of their rhythm, meter, patterns, rhymes, and characters, but the choice is up to you. 

Here are some simple suggestions to help you get started:

1. Choose material that will be fun to read and have a printed copy available for each participant. One person reads aloud to the group or all read silently.

2.  Make sure the participants understand the meaning of the piece thoroughly by discussing the selection.

-Who is the speaker?

-What is the setting?

-Under what conditions was the piece written?

-What is the theme?  What is the author trying to say?  Explain the central idea of the piece.

-Define new words.

-Clear up vague meanings.

 3.  Teach the participants to:

- Begin together,

- Speak at the same rate of speed, and

- Finish at the same split second.

4. As you read the passage together, avoid the pitfall of a sing-song, dull, monotonous reading.  Work for variety.

5. Make it fun.


Here’s a great piece to help you get started with choral reading today.  I hope you’ll be inspired to look for more selections!

What Shall I Pack in the Box Marked "Summer"? 

by Bobbi Katz

A handful of wind that I caught with a kite

A firefly’s flame in the dark of the night

The green grass of June that I tasted with toes

The flowers I knew from the tip of my nose

The clink of ice cubes in pink lemonade

The Fourth of July Independence Parade!

The sizzle of hot dogs, the fizzle of coke

Some pickles and mustard and barbecue smoke

The print of my fist in the palm of my mitt,

As I watched for the batter to strike out or hit

The splash of the water, the top-to-toe cool

Of a stretch-and-kick trip through a blue swimming pool

The tangle of night songs that slipped through my screen

Of crickets and insects too small to be seen

The seed pods that formed on the flowers to say

That Summer was packing her treasures away.

Would you like additional information on Choral Reading? Take a look at this great resource…

A Chorus of Cultures: Developing Literacy Through Multicultural Poetry

Micro-comprehension: Figurative Language Processing

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If you are a reading teacher, or if you have a sweeping love of books, you probably know about literary devices, which include figurative language. In this series about micro-comprehension, I have been touching upon the kinds of connections students need to make with stories they read or hear. Those connections are possible when micro-comprehension is happening in the reader’s mind.


Most of the time, students get asked lots of questions during and after a reading lesson that focus upon macro-comprehension, an overall understanding about a passage. But teachers are often baffled when students perform poorly on comprehension checks and seem to have completely misunderstood what they were reading or hearing. That may be caused by students having poor micro-comprehension. Better macro-comprehension results if we can help students master micro-comprehension strategies.


Up to this point, I have introduced the importance of a rich vocabulary as a starting point. Then, I discussed gap-filling inference and sentence structure processing. Today, I want to get into the nitty-gritty of figurative language processing. 


Figurative language, sometimes called “picture language,” can be found everywhere in our culture, from the lyrics of our favorite songs to tag lines in commercials. But we can find almost every type of figurative language in poetry and in fine literature. Fortunately, many children’s authors use figurative language wisely to help young readers explore their imaginations—to actually see stories. It’s an ideal way to expose students to beautiful language which can be both literal and figurative at the same time. Learning how to process this kind of eloquent language is extremely complex. Figurative language processing pushes students cognitively, encouraging them to think in the abstract.


Notice the following strategies that promote figurative language processing.

  • Group literature study

  • Writer’s Workshop

  • Readers’ Theatre/Drama


Each of these strategies has a common attribute: They all include various kinds of figurative language, such as metaphors, personification, and similes—as well as a host of other types of literary devices. For an extensive list of these kinds of figurative language devices (also called rhetorical devices), check out this site and others like it.


Group Literature Study

In the classroom, literature study unlocks a universe of figurative language. Students of all levels benefit from focused attention about this exciting way of thinking! Be aware, however, that very young students may or may not be developmentally prepared to handle such abstract thought at first, so start small. I’ll get to the younger students later. For now, let’s deal with students who already know how to think in the abstract. Below, I have outlined how I conduct a literature study group:

 1. Establish groups: I like to have literature study groups in lieu of traditional reading groups, which have often been determined by ability. I prefer interest-based arrangements. In other words, I present to the entire class three or four short novels for them to choose from. I make sure the genres are varied and that the books have in-depth story lines with well-defined characters. I present a sort of “Book Commercial” to the students about each book and then have them choose one of the novels to study. Since the study may take up to a couple of months to finish, I strive to be as comprehensive as possible when I “advertise” a novel. I want my students to have a strong desire to study it thoroughly.


2.  Determine frequency: Sometimes, your schedule will allow you to meet every day with your literature group. Since I prefer to have four groups (four novels), two of my groups meet M-W-F one week, and then they meet T-Th the following week. The other three groups are set up with the same schedule with two groups meeting every day. Each session lasts between 30-45 minutes.


3. Pre-read: Pre-read the novels to be studied before your students get into the groups—you cannot talk about what you do not know! However, if you prefer, you can just make sure you stay one or two chapters ahead of where your students are in the books as you go along. The pre-reading phase is all-important because this allows you to make notes in the margin of your book…notes that highlight author’s purpose, unique features of the story, special character attributes, and of course the figurative language the author uses.


4. Reading assignments: During the actual studies, I always want my students to feel free to read aloud during the group meeting, as opposed to round-robin reading. Think of the meetings as the kind of book club meetings you may participate in as an adult reader. Keeping the literature discussion as casual as possible make the study less intimidating. You’re establishing a literacy culture when you do this.

I don’t force my students to read aloud during group, but I highly encourage the risk-taking involved when they do decide to take a turn. For those who do not volunteer to read aloud, make sure you have the chance to hear them read at other times when the stress is low. After a short time of read aloud by the students (10-15 minutes), I assign independent reading before leaving the session for that day. Try to cover a chapter every other day. You must determine the volume of reading you wish to cover with your students. Marginal readers cannot handle as much volume, so go easy at first. Increase their independent reading gradually.


5. Literary discussion: The rich discussion and conversation that results from literature study is the most exciting part! Teachers do well to use a give-and-take approach to help students get the most out of the discussion. I discussed in previous blog entries about the importance of teacher modeling. Modeling a think-aloud is easy when you take a turn to read aloud in group just like you want your students to do. When I take my turn, I strategically “think out loud” about a specific use of language, a specific character’s role in the story, or whatever, so that students can start to pick up on how to think about literature. And, since my focus for this entire blog series is promoting micro-comprehension, let me add that during my own think alouds, I make a pretty big deal about how authors use figurative language. This segues to a review of my overall theme for this blog series: encouraging micro-comprehension.


Next time, I will dig into Writer’s Workshop with you and show you how both Literature Study Groups and Writer’s Workshop serve as a dynamic duo to help students get a firm grasp on figurative language processing.

(This post is part of a series on Micro-Comprehension. To start at the beginning, click here.)

Summer Learning: How to create a positive summer reading experience

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Summer vacation is supposed to be a break from the usual routine of school, but many parents worry their kid’s reading skills will digress without some sort of action plan.  According to the "Kids and Family Reading Report," a survey done by Scholastic, an American publishing company, those fears might not be far from the truth for some.

Scholastic’s most recent report showed that among kids ages 9-11, 14% did not read any books during the summer of 2018, compared with 7% in 2016. Among kids ages 15-17, 32% did not ready any books during the summer of 2018, compared with 22% in 2016. 

Now, before you hit the panic button, it’s important to let you know that the same report found that nearly 60% of kids ages 6-17 did have a positive experience reading books over the summer.  So, what can you do as a parent to help increase your child’s odds of having a positive reading experience during their time off from school? 

First, give your child permission to read as many books as possible this summer for pleasure.  Let them choose their own books whether they are easy or hard, long or short.  The truth is that it doesn’t matter as long as they enjoy them.   Also, let them know that you are not going to ask them questions to find out whether they understood the books or not.  If they can understand enough of a book to enjoy it and want to go on reading it, then let them!

Secondly, if a child doesn’t want to finish a book they’ve started, that’s okay!  They should give an author a chance to get the story going, but if they don’t like the characters and don’t care what happens to them, it’s perfectly okay to find a different book.

Lastly, you must keep in mind that reading is reading regardless of the venue.  Let your child select what they want to read from hard cover books and magazines to online versions.  Giving a child permission to read for pleasure will be the best thing you can do for them over the summer!  Too often, reading is associated with comprehension questions and vocabulary checks.  When you remove them, reading for pleasure becomes the focus!