Tuesday's Teaching Tip

One of the mistakes we make as reading mamas and as teachers is correcting a child’s reading miscue as soon as it happens, especially when the error doesn’t make sense.  Don’t get me wrong…I think we correct our children quickly out of good intentions.    But have you ever considered not saying anything…at least right away?

We want our kids to understand that text portrays a message to the reader, right?  The little black marks on the paper (we call them letters and words) are meant to tell us something.  We are meant to comprehend it.  With that being said, correcting young readers’ miscues for them can actually hinder their comprehension.  How so, you might ask…

Consider this example:

Let’s say Buddy reads, Some monkeys swing from tree branch to tree branch, never token (touching) the ground.

Notice that Buddy’s reading error does not make sense.  In this situation, the best thing I can do is wait (yes, wait).  What am I waiting for?  I am waiting for him to go back and correct it himself.  Buddy may get to the end of the sentence and realize it didn’t make sense.  He may need to finish the next few sentences as well for the context to help him realize something wasn’t quite right.  Hopefully Buddy will stop and think, “That didn’t make sense.  Text is supposed to make sense, so I need to go back and figure out what I read incorrectly.”  If he does so, I should encourage his self-correction by telling him he’s doing what good readers do.  Good readers attempt to make sense of text.  But if I correct him without letting him finish the sentence, I am neglecting to teach him how to make sense of (comprehend) what he reads for himself.

What if Buddy keeps right on reading with no thought of going back to correct his error?  This reading mama would stop him and say something like this:  “I’m going to read you what you just read to me.  I want you to listen and tell me if it made sense to you.  Remember that text is supposed to make sense.”  These are the steps I would take next: 1) help him locate the miscue, 2) take a look at the pattern within the word he misread, if applicable, and 3) have him re-read the sentence or sentences.

So when your child reads a word incorrectly and the miscue doesn’t make any sense, remember to wait instead of jumping in to rescue him.  We want our kids to become thinkers as they read and correcting their mistakes for them can create readers who rely on our strategies, not their own.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rebecca
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 15:59:42

    I just wanted to say that was incredibly helpful. I could say that about all your posts. 🙂 But this one was really timely. I was thinking about the right thing to do. On a related subject, what about spelling? When they start to write, do you always correct their spelling errors? Thank you. And what if it seems like they are just trying to read too fast and skipping words. Is this a normal stage? I have just tried to encourage her to slow down and ask her to reread. She is certainly starting to self-correct more frequently. Thanks.


    • thisreadingmama
      Mar 15, 2011 @ 20:23:22

      You’re sweet. Spelling…hmmm…no, I don’t always correct students’ spellings. I do ask them to correct it if it’s a word they have already studied. You might check under Literacy Development and look at Writing-Invented Spelling. If that doesn’t answer your question, shoot me another question and I’ll try and answer it.

      Trying to read too fast and skipping words is also normal. Sometimes I think kids figure if they read fast enough, we won’t “catch them” making mistakes. 🙂 You’re doing the right thing to ask her to slow down and reread. This helps her to see that she needs to make meaning and if she’s flying through it, skipping words, chances are text is not going to make sense. You might also try reading too fast and skipping words when you’re reading out loud to her to see if she can comprehend what you’re reading. And when she doesn’t understand, use it as an example of how she needs to read slower and read each word to help her comprehend. That’s awesome that she’s self-correcting more. I’m sure you’re doing an awesome job and I could learn a thing or two by watching you read with her!!


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