Tag Archives: reading

Scholastic Article

A helpful article from Scholastic:
Scholastic Parents: Raise a Reader

3 Magic Words for Reading

Learn 3 words to keep in your back pocket that will help your child become a stronger reader.
on April 22, 2013

Reading is tough – there’s no denying that.

Part of our goal as parents and reading teachers is to help our children read fluently and comprehend what they read as easily and naturally as possible.

One way to do this is by inserting three magic words into each and every reading ‘session’ with our kids.

If we say these three magic words during read-alouds – whether kids are reading books, magazines, signs, newspapers, whatever the text may be – then we will be on the road to raising readers who naturally self-monitor while reading.

What are the three magic words?

They are: Are. You. Correct.

In question form, of course: Are you correct?

That’s right. Try it. During a read-aloud, when your child finishes a full page, before he turns to the next one, ask, “Are you correct?” Avoid  a condescending or directive voice, but more in a level, light, straightforward question: Are you correct?

And see what happens.  Even if every word was read correctly, ask anyway.

Your child may look at you like you’ve grown three heads at first, but then he will (or should!) look back at the page, scan the words, and do a mental ‘re-check’ of what he read. And that’s key.

We want our kids to become better at self-monitoring and self-correcting. These three magic words will get kids on the road to becoming better at both.

If everything was read correctly and your child turns to you and says, “Yep. I’m correct.” Then woo-hoo! you’re good to go. Say something like, “Okay, awesome. Just wanted to be sure. Carry on.”

But what if you ask, “Are you correct?” and your child says, “YES,” even though he made an error while reading? Then he needs a wee bit more prompting. Say, “Read it again and check closely.”  And if he reads it again incorrectly, he needs even a bit more help, but it’s okay! You can offer it.  Try questions like:

  • “Does it make sense?”
  • “Does it sound right?”
  • “Try to use the picture to help you figure it out.”

See where that gets you. We certainly don’t want to hand everything over to our child on a silver platter and we don’t want reading to become more difficult than it already is.  Rather, we want our readers to be comfortable enough and driven enough to work a bit to construct meaning while they read. And hopefully those three magic words will get us on the right track.




First Grade Literacy Skills

This link has a good outline of ideas for things that can be done at home to help your child retain kindergarten skills and be prepared for reading in first grade.


Summer Reading Ideas

It’s not too soon to make plans for summer, is it? :0)

Making reading a family experience looks like a lot of fun in this link from Learnist:


The author gives ideas about how to celebrate authors’ birthdays by reading their stories and involving the family in related art work, cooking and field trips among other things.  There is even mention of catching fireflies in July!

Once kids get interested in an author they often like to read every other book written by that author.  Getting the family involved could be the answer to keeping kids involved in reading –and keeping skills sharp — over the summer.

Recent Photos

phonics game

Phonics game

letter formation

Letter formation

computer practice

ABCya.com reading practice


Letter B:  beans and blue paper


A visit from Misty and Alita

Sight word practice trace, color, cut and paste

Sight word practice


A visit from Hoppy

Reading Comprehension

Understanding what we read is an essential component of the reading process.  Here is a good list of questions to ask during and after reading with your child.  If you would like the printable version, here is the link: http://www.playdoughtoplato.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Reading-Comprehension-Questions.pdf

                                 Reading Comprehension Questions
Ask two to three of the questions below when you read with your child.
Questions to ask as you read:
• What do you think will happen next?
• What does _____ (the name of a character) want?
• Where does the story take place?
• Do you think ____ (the name of a character) made good or bad
choices? Give an example.
• How does this story make you feel?
Questions to ask after you read:
• What is the same about this book and _____ (the name of another
book you have read together)?
• What do you think happened after the story ended?
• Do you think _____ (the name of a character) liked the way the story
• If you could choose one character from the story to be your friend,
who would you choose and why?
• Pretend that I have not read the story. Tell me what happened.
• If you were in the story, what would you have done differently?
• What lesson did the main character learn?
• Would this book be a good movie? Why?
• Who is the most important character in the story?
• What does this story make you think about?
• What was your favorite part of the story? Why was that your
• Why is the title of the book ____ (insert the name of the book)?

             ©2011-2012 Playdough to Plato. All rights reserved.

How to Help With Reading

Here is an article for parents from PBS.org that is worth a look:

Seven Tips for Early Literacy Learning: From Knowing Your ABCs to Learning to Read

By Amy Mascott

learning to read

Hooray! Your child can sing the alphabet like a pro! Now what? Once your child has mastered letter recognition, what can you do to help her get on the path to literacy? Here are seven important tips to consider after your child has learned the letters of the alphabet, but before she’s reading fluently.

  1. Focus on the letters of her name. Names are the most important words for children, so it makes sense to begin literacy learning with the child’s name. Acknowledge the “child’s letter”—the first letter of his or her name—by pointing it out whenever and wherever you see it. Then do some letter scrambles using blocks, magnetic letters or letters on index cards. Mix up the letters of the child’s name and work together to put them back in the proper order. Repeat this often with your child’s name, and then introduce “Mom,” “Dad,” and the names of siblings, friends, family and pets.
  2. Recognize each letter and know their sounds.It’s one thing for the child to know the letters in order, but it’s a bit harder for her to recognize each letter individually. When you see “her letter” on a sign, cereal box, or book, remember to point it out. Say, “Hey! Look here! I found your letter, Maddy! Here’s an M for Maddy. Mmmm, mmmm, Maddy!”Talk about the sounds that letters make and return frequently to easily relatable objects or things that interest the child. For example, say: “There’s a letter B for ‘blankie.’ I know you love blankie and sleep with it every night. Blankie begins with the letter B, like ‘ball’ and ‘butter’ and ‘baby bear.’ What else can you think of that begins with the B sound?”
  3. Introduce uppercase and lowercase letters. Your child will not likely be reading books that have all uppercase letters, so it’s imperative that you talk about uppercase and lowercase letters early on. Play games that involve matching uppercase and lowercase letters and spell her name using both cases.
  4. Practice early writing techniques. If children practice creating several simple letters, they will most likely be able to write the majority of the alphabet. Begin with X and O and then move on to a square and a triangle. Encouraging kids to “write” on sand, paint with water, or use their finger in shaving cream will make creating these shapes fun, and before you know it, they’ll be ready to move on to the letters of their names.
  5. Connect objects with words. Because reading involves creating meaning by combining words, pictures and prior knowledge, early readers lean on illustrations when reading—and that’s okay. Label everyday objects and point to the word as you say it. Play games where children connect simple words with pictures, like “cat” with a photo of a cat and “dog” with photo of a dog, etc. Model how to do it by pointing out the first letter of the word and saying the sound that the word makes, followed by the word, and then pointing to the picture.
  6. Practice print referencing. Print referencing is a simple yet meaningful way to enforce early literacy skills. It involves pointing out print elements in texts: pointing to the title of the book as you read it, running your finger under the words as you read the text on a page, or talking about anything related to the text. This helps children learn the basics: every book has a title and an author (and sometimes an illustrator), and we read from left to right, followed by a sweep down to the next line. Later, consider touching on basic grammar conventions and punctuation marks, differences between fiction and nonfiction texts, and different genres (news, magazines, poetry, short stories, etc.).
  7. Read, read, read! Read with your child every day, many times a day. Read books, signs, posters—anything with words. Read in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night. Read at the park, in the living room, at the pool. Read print everywhere you can find it!

Most importantly, make an effort to celebrate your child’s successes, because learning to read is something to smile about!

Letter Reversals

Wow, what great attendance for conferences!  Thank you so much for your involvement in your student’s education.

Several of you wondered about reversals you are seeing in your child’s work.  The following is an excellent article from Make, Take and Teach explaining what is happening when your child reverses letters.

Why Students Reverse Letters

Many parents become quite concerned when looking at their child’s writing and see that their child is confusing letters such as b/d, p/q or m/w.  Letter and word reversals have become so strongly associated with dyslexia that it’s no wonder why parents are anxious when they see such confusions.  As educators, it is important for us to understand why students reverse letters and to provide parents with the best information possible.

Learning to Read

Before we talk about reversals, let’s take a moment and think about what we are asking children to do when we are teaching them to read.  In our system, learning to read is based on the alphabetic principle.  This means that a child must understand that letters have sounds that make words when combined together.  Letters are “abstract”.   There are 26 letters of the alphabet and letters consist of a series of sticks, circles and curves that when combined in different ways, make different letters.  Each of the 26 letters has an uppercase and a lowercase letter.  Sometimes the letters look similar and sometimes they look very different.

Sometimes letters look very different depending upon if they are handwritten or typed.  Even typed letters look different depending upon the font.

There are certain letters that have the same stick, circles and curves, but if you switch the direction, they are different letters with different sounds.  Up until this point, the child knows that an object is an object no matter if it’s upside down or turned about, but not so with letters.  Direction now matters.

Well, then each letter has a sound.  Wait-not so simple-some letters have two sounds.  The letter “c” has the /k/ sound as in the word “cat” and a /s/ sound as in the word “circle”.  The sound that is used depends upon the position it is in the word and the other letters around it.  Sometimes letters are in a word, but they say nothing at all (like the “e” in “name”).  Sometimes two letters are put together to make a whole different sound (“s” and “h” together make the /sh/ sound).  When you think about it, it is amazing that most of our young children learn to read relatively easily.

What we know about reversals and dyslexia/reading disabilities (RD)

Fortunately, neuroscientists have at their disposal brain imaging techniques (fMRI, PET) that allows them to see exactly what is happening in the brain as a person reads.  Such techniques have helped us understand the nature of learning to read as well as differences that are present in people who struggle with reading.  Based on these and other studies, what we know about reading has strong scientific basis.  Current research tells us that the root cause of dyslexia/RD lies in the way the brain processes sounds.  With the large majority of children, the issue is with language processing at the phoneme (sound) level and not a problem with visual processing.  There is no evidence to suggest that children with dyslexia/RD see letters and words backwards.  Backwards writing and letter reversals are very common in the early stages of writing.  Students who have dyslexia/RD do not “mirror write” or reverse letters with any greater frequency than those who do not have reading difficulties.  When children reverse letters, it is a sign that orthographic representation (forming letters and spelling) is not fully developed.  While it is true that children with dyslexia/RD continue to reverse letters longer than children without reading difficulties, this is primarily due to delayed development in reading rather than a separate issue with visual processing.

Addressing Reversals

Although reversals are common in kindergarten, first and second grades, students who continue to reverse letters past second grade should receive targeted intervention.  A screening by an Occupational Therapist may be helpful at this point.  There are several strategies that can help cue students, regardless of age, that can be used.

    • For students who reverse multiple letters (b/d, m/w, p/q), address one discrimination at at time.  Over-teach one of the letters before introducing the other.  For example, if you are addressing the b/d reversal, over-teach writing of the “b” before introducing the “d”.
    • Use multi-sensory materials while teaching the letter(s).  Making and tracing the letters using playdoh, wikki sticks, shaving cream, hair gel in a baggie, yarn, puffy or glitter glue will help.  Be sure the child says the letter name and sound while tracing the letter (“b” says /b/ while tracing the letter-repeat multiple times).
    • Use visual cues to cue correct letter formation.  A common visual cue is to teach the “b” as a “bat with a ball” to cue that the stick is formed first while writing the letter.  The “d” is cued as a “drum and a drum stick”.  Placing a visual cue on the student’s desk or in front of the classroom also helps.
Click the following link to download free b/d cue cards for student desks. Reversal Cue Cards for Student Desks
  • Another strategy that one of our reading teachers shared is using mouth formation as a cue.  I like this strategy because it doesn’t “take the student out of the reading process”.  Using this strategy, students are taught that when they make the /b/ sound, the crease between the upper and lower lip is straight just like the line in the “b”.  When making a /d/ sound,  the tongue is curled just like the curl is first when writing the “d”.

With any child who struggles to learn to read, it is important that vision is tested.

Note:  The word “dyslexia” means “difficulty with words”.  Dyslexia is a term most commonly used by the medical profession, researchers and clinicians.  Reading abilities exist on a continuum.  Whether a clinician determines whether an individual has dyslexia is based upon an arbitrary cut-off point on how far behind age/grade level he/she feels an individual needs to fall.  In the school setting, the term “Specific Learning Disability” (SLD) is used to describe students who are significantly below grade level to the point that the student requires special education services.   Within this post I used the term “Reading Disability” (RD).  It is certainly possible that a student may have an outside diagnosis of dyslexia; however, not qualify for special education services in the school.

If you would like more information on dyslexia/reading disabilities check out my favorite reference book:  Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Probles at Any Level by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.