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December 31, 2016

Good Readers Ask Questions

            Did you try the “think aloud” reading activities suggested in the last blog (Dec. 10, 2016) to help your struggling reader?  In this blog, you will learn how good readers ask essential  questions while reading. 
 A good reader must ask questions of the text as they read.  Such questions keep a reader engaged with the text and help the reader to monitor their understanding of the text.  Here is an interesting learning theory tidbit-  When we are confused about something, simply formulating a question about it can actually answer that question without any further effort.  When applied to reading, asking questions about the text keeps the reader focused on their understanding of what they are reading and motivates the reader to resolve misunderstandings.

           A basic question readers must ask is, “What did I just read?” A good reader should briefly stop after each paragraph or so and ask this question.  As a reader gets into more difficult text, such as in high school or college, this question helps the reader to monitor how well the paragraph was understood.  Sometimes, a reader finds themselves reading and rereading the same words without thinking.  Asking this question and then answering it requires forced recall.  It will often break the cycle of reading words without thinking.  A brief written summary of the paragraph in the margin of the book or on a sticky note is an effective method of forcing recall of what they just read.  Here is another interesting learning theory tidbit- Forced recall is one of the most effective strategies for studying important information (Reodiger, 1978).  Multiple readings are much less effective than reading and recalling.  (Those short written summaries can then be used to review before a test.)

           It is also important to be aware of when you are confused in your reading.  A good reader asks, “What was confusing about what I just read?”  For example, while recently reading a story about Hurricane Sandy in Reader’s Digest, I was confused about how a named person fit into the chain of events.   If I had not focused on my confusion, I would not have stopped, thought about the person, and then checked back in the story to resolve my confusion.  Often, readers will just keep reading without resolving their confusion and so their comprehension suffers.  Asking and answering questions increases the reader’s awareness for the need to resolve confusion.  Sometimes, poorly written text is the cause of the confusion.  (Even textbooks can be poorly written.)  By asking questions, readers learn to recognize poorly written text.

          Asking questions does not come naturally to struggling readers.  As discussed in previous blogs, struggling readers may need to see how questioning works by having a good reader model it for them through a read aloud.  Even high school students can benefit from modeling.  Continue focusing on what is happening in your own thoughts as you read to your child by asking questions and resolving text confusion out loud.  You may notice that your own enjoyment of reading increases as a result.
  

Let us know what you think of this blog and literacy strategies at   cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240

  


December 10, 2016

What is Reading?

            Have you ever asked your child, “What is Reading?”  Most children will respond that it is figuring out the words, but few children will put importance on figuring out the meaning of the words.  We need to help children understand that reading is thinking about text to make meaning as they decode the words.  Decoding alone will not engage children in text so that they will want to keep reading.  Teaching children how to engage with text is often needed, especially with struggling readers.
      
          In the last blog, we discussed making predictions about what will happen in the story (fiction) or what will be learned in the text (non-fiction) based on the title.  Making predictions is one way for children to engage with the text and support comprehension.  In this blog, we will take another step into comprehension with the practice of making connections with text.  Can you recall a story that really spoke to you?  A story that reminded you of a familiar experience or person, and as you read the story, you vividly pictured that experience or person?  This is making connections with text.  Such connections make you want to read another story by this author and it spawns your enthusiasm for reading.  Many children need modeling to understand how to engage with text.  They need practice making connections, so they too can develop an interest in reading. 

            To model making connections, I encourage you to read aloud to your child, even with children who can already read to themselves.  Choose a book rich in vocabulary and imagery such as something by Patricia Polacco.  She tells warm tales about her family and heritage as she shares her upbringing among a large extended family.  As you read such a book to your child, stop and share who the characters remind you of in your family.  When the characters play hide and seek in the woods, stop and tell about a game you played as a young child.  Ask your child if a character brings to mind anyone or anything in his or her own life.   As you read aloud, engage in a “think aloud” so your child can “see” what is happening in your mind as you read.  As you connect with something in the text, put it into words and share it with your child. 

             The novelist E. L. Doctorow says, “…any book, if it is good, is a printed circuit for your own life to flow through.  You are imagining the words…and you are thinking of the various characters in terms of people you’ve known, not in terms of the writer’s experience, but your own.”  When your child interacts with the text, reading becomes important (Harvey, 2000).  Active reading, such as happens when your child makes personal connections to text, changes how your child interacts with text.  Your child begins thinking about what he or she is reading.   Thinking about text is reading and is the active practice of comprehension.  As you read aloud to your child and you share your connections, you are modeling comprehension for your child.  Often, comprehension is an abstract concept for a child, but your modeling and sharing will offer concrete practice in comprehension. 

  
  
Let us know what you think of this blog and literacy strategies at   cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240

  
  


September 30, 2016

Improve Your Child's Comprehension Through “Thinking Alouds” 

          We have all heard how important it is to read to our children.  Reading to children develops their vocabulary, their interest in books, and their knowledge on many topics, to name just a few of the good things that reading does for our children.  Did you know that you can also develop your child’s comprehension if you learn to “think aloud” as you read his or her favorite book?  A “think aloud” is sharing what you are thinking about as you read. 
         Comprehension happens inside the head.  It is not something a child can see, and so comprehension can be a mystifying process to a struggling reader.  Comprehension can also be described as an inner self-dialogue about meaning (Block & Israel, 2004).  Think about how hard it is for a struggling reader to develop an effective inner-dialogue while reading if they can’t see it happening in a good reader.  You are a good reader, and you can help your child “see” what is happening in your head while you read.
         Try this-  Before you start reading a book to your child, read the title and tell your child that you like to make a prediction about what you think the book will be about (fiction).  If the book is non-fiction, make a prediction or statement about something you hope to learn based on the title.  Share your prediction or statement and ask your child to share what they think is coming in the text.  Then think about what you know about the topic or the title and share this with your child.  Tell your child that good readers take inventory of what they know and don’t know about a topic so that they can learn more and enjoy the book more as they read.  You have just verbalized the cognitive processes that you do automatically when you pick up a book.  You have modeled those processes for your child and have begun to learn the art of a “think aloud” to help improve your child’s comprehension.   You have already taught your child important information about being a good reader and you haven’t even opened the book, yet!       

Let us know what you think of this blog and literacy strategies at   cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240

 
 
    
September 2, 2016

Building a New Neural Pathway to Help Your Child Read and Spell Sight Words

               
          Often, students struggle with reading and spelling Sight Words.  These words are also called High Frequency Words.  These words are special because we can’t sound out these words- How would you sound out w-a-s? or o-f?  or c-o-u-l-d?  No wonder kids have trouble with these words!  For the most part, kids are instructed to memorize these words through their visual memory.  This works for some kids, but many others need additional strategies to master the reading and spelling of these difficult words.  Visual memory can become “full” or overwhelmed as more and more words bombard our kids.  We want to create a new way for the brain to remember these words- a New Neural Pathway. 

A Multisensory Strategy to Create a
New Neural Pathway f or Remembering Sight Words (and other words such as vocabulary)

Steps to Success:

1.   Write one Sight Word on each of five index cards (three is also fine if your child is struggling with five words).  Write it big and with red marker.  The red color reminds kids that these words can’t be sounded out like other words.
2.  Have your child trace the word with his or her finger, saying the letters aloud and finishing with reading the word as they underline the word with the finger.
3.  Repeat step two with another finger.
4.  Repeat step two using the red marker tracing directly onto the card.
5.  For the fourth repetition, have the child write the word on another piece of paper with the red marker or pen, saying the letters, and finishing by reading the word.

NOTE-  Make sure that your child reads the letters each time, looks at the card as they read the letters, and finishes by reading the word.  Also, make sure they ARE NOT SOUNDING OUT THE LETTERS.

     In this manner, your children are seeing the words/letters, hearing themselves read the letters/words, feeling themselves say the letters/words in their mouth, and feeling the letters as they trace/write them.   As a result, your children are creating new neural pathways for the brain instead of using only the visual memory.

Alternatives- Use big paper instead of smaller index cards.  Use a dry erase board for step four.

          Let us know what you think of this blog and literacy strategies at   cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT


Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240




    

August 6,2016

Some Final Thoughts About Reading Fluency

          There are a few more things I would like to say about Fluency before moving on to another subject regarding literacy.
          Fluent reading comes together without conscious thought for most of us, but for those who struggle with fluency, practice is needed.  Think about the skill of driving- we do many things simultaneously like braking, checking mirrors, steering, changing the radio, talking to someone, etc.  These behaviors are automatic once we have been driving for awhile.  When we were learning to drive, we needed to think about each step and practice each step.  I can remember learning to drive a car with manual gear (a stickshift).  If I wasn't thinking about each step, I stalled out the car with every gear change.  It is the same with reading.  A reader needs to practice the act of reading over and over until certain words are known automatically, punctuation is attended to when reading aloud, and less known words are decoded quickly.  Getting beyond basic reading skills takes a great deal of careful attention and practice.
          Beginning readers need to read word by word reflecting the fact the reader's mind is consumed with trying to process each word.  In contrast, a strong reader processes words automatically, as if without effort.  Research shows that the eyes of even good readers linger instantaneously as they process each word and even each letter.  The difference is that strong readers do it automatically while weaker readers need to consciously focus their attention on the process.  The more the reader reads the same words and sounds over and over, the more automatic this process will become.  
          Here's something interesting-  some learners can do a new skill after only 2 or 3 repetitions, others need 12 or more reps, and still others need 44 or more repetitions to learn a skill.  Now, let's relate that to reading.  One child will learn a high frequency word after only a few times seeing that word, but the struggling reader may need to see that word 40 or 50 times before the word sticks and can be identified the next time they see or spell that word in text.  That's only one word!  Think of all of the words we need to know automatically to be good readers.  In the next blog, I will address ways to increase these repetitions and how to create a new neural pathway, other than the visual pathway, to learn to read and spell these words.
     I find research about learning fascinating, and I hope you do as well! Let us know what you think or need!

Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT
Sugarcreed Educational Concepts


    
Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240



July 15, 2016

A Little More About Repeated Reading to Increase Reading Fluency

         Now that you have learned about Repeated Reading and have hopefully included it into your daily routine to support your struggling reader, you should be seeing an improvement in your child’s reading fluency.  Learning a little more about this strategy will help you to understand why it is so beneficial to your child’s reading success.
         Struggling readers are typically reading below grade level.  In school, text a child is expected to read is often several grade levels harder than his or her current grade level (especially science, social studies, and math text). For this reason, students need to be exposed to grade level text and above in order to be successful and confident readers. Repeated Reading is a research-based method to provide this exposure.  You might be asking yourself,  “Isn’t it too much for my child to read a level that they are not ready for?”  Or you might be asking, "Why not just let my child proceed at his or her own pace in reading level?  Why expose him or her to higher level text?"  There are several reasons to expose your child to challenging text.  First, you want his or her vocabulary (reading and oral vocabulary) to be challenged.  He or she may not be able to read the text independently, but that doesn't mean that he or she can't understand the vocabulary.  Secondly, they will also see more sophisticated sentence structure in higher level text which will enrich their writing.   Finally, you never want to underestimate your child's ability to pick up words, vocabulary, and spelling through challenging text.  Repeatedly seeing the same words will increase the likelihood that your child will be able to read those words in new text. 
       Many schools have small group reading instruction where the child gets the opportunity to master their instructional level and move to a higher instructional level.  This is very important!  While you child is mastering his or her instructional level, the class as a whole is expected to be reading at grade level or above and the class keeps moving forward.  There is a gap between where your child is currently and where your child is expected to be.  This gap will increase if an intervention is not in place.  Repeated Reading can address the gap and close it over time. 

        Here is another simple Repeated Reading method you can try-
1.  Read the challenging text for one minute to your child as the child follows along.
2.  Reread the same text for one minute with your child as you set the pace and demonstrate good expression and attention to punctuation.
3.  Your child reads the same text for one final minute independently.  Repeat phrases or sentences if it is not read fluently.
Three minutes a day can make amazing gains! 

As always, let us know how you are doing and if we can support your progress!

Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT
Sugarcreek Educational Concepts (contact info. below)

  

June 8, 2016


Repeated Reading to Support Fluency and Reading Comprehension

       In the last we blog, we promised to give you a research-based method for improving Reading Fluency and Reading Comprehension Repeated Reading is an easy and effective method to achieve these goals.  (You may want to reread the last blog to refresh your memory.)

Here is how to do Repeated Reading with your child:

1.  Read a paragraph (or sentence by sentence or a few sentences at a time) aloud to your child as you make sure they are carefully following with their eyes.  Don't slow down for your child.  Instead, you set a normal pace with expression and good pauses at periods and commas, etc.
2.  Reread the same passage as your child tries to read with you as you set the pace.  Be careful not to slow down too much and don't allow your child to race you.
3.  For the third reading, your child reads the same passage by him or herself.  If a sentence is choppy, if the child doesn't stop at punctuation, or if expression is not used, have the child repeat the sentence.

  You want this to be a positive experience.  Your child should be experiencing high levels of success because the text is familiar to them after three reads.  You can do use this method for just a short amount of time each day so that the experience remains always positive.  Read a paragraph or two each day, a whole page, or work through a book in this method.  It is better to do small amounts of successful reading, than push forward and have the child dread the experience.  If you do a little of this method each cay, these small  lessons will add up to lots of gain in reading fluency!

   You can track your child's fluency progress by letting them read a paragraph each week by themselves before you start the repeated reading.  You should notice that your child recognizes more words automatically.  You should start to see a gain in reading confidence as well as fluency and prosidy (reading with expression).

Give this method a try and let us know how it works for you.  If you have any questions, you can contact us!


Mary Bower, M.Ed, Master Teacher, COGT
Sugarcreek Educational Concepts Certified Orton-Gillingham Tutor (contact info. below)





May 22, 2016

Lack of Oral Reading Fluency May Be Why Your Child Struggles with Comprehension

          Oral Reading Fluency is the ability to read "like you speak".  When we speak, we accurately choose words to communicate, we use a rate of speech that keeps the interest of the listener, and we use expression to help make our point clearer.   Oral Reading Fluency is the same thing while reading out loud-  words are read accurately, are read at a steady rate (not too fast and not too slow), and are read with appropriate expression.  (Expression in reading is known as prosody.)   You know a reader lacks fluency when you notice that he or she has to sound out many words, there is difficulty with Sight Words (also known as High Frequency Words or Word Wall Words), and their reading sounds choppy, hesitant, or robotic.  
          Oral Reading Fluency is highly correlated to comprehension.  If you are wondering why your child doesn't comprehend what is read, lack of Oral Reading Fluency could be the problem.  In a study conducted by Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, and Jenkins using four comprehension measures, Oral Reading Fluency was shown repeatedly to be highly correlated to good comprehension.
         You may be thinking that the struggling reader will catch up if he or she would just spend more time reading.  Well, according to the National Reading Panel Report from 2000, www.nationalreadingpanel.org , reading alone will not significantly impact the fluency of a struggling reader and thus will not address comprehension problems.  Here's why-  When a fluent reader reads for ten minutes, he or she reads about 2,000 words while the struggling reader only reads about 500 words for the same amount of time.  The fluent reader will get stronger while the struggling reader will not read enough words to make up the difference.  Their fluency will not improve fast enough and their comprehension will continue to suffer.

          Now that you are asking how you can improve your child’s Oral Reading Fluency, look for the next blog in about two weeks for a research-based answer!

Mary Bower, M.Ed, Master Teacher, COGT
Sugarcreek Educational Concepts Certified Orton-Gillingham Tutor (contact info. below)
  




5-7-16

Dear Friends,

Every two weeks we will be adding insightful blogs about education on this page. We encourage you to visit this site to gain insights into educating your child as well as education in general.

Enjoy!

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240