Friday, 5 July 2013

Reading Part 2

Reading Part 2

(This is still a work in progress I do not feel the entire blog is ready or edited properly but thought I would share it so long whilst I continue to put my thoughts together...)


This blog (Part 2) looks at the two types of reading: aloud and silent. It focuses on the importance of each style in a child's development and why it is vital to focus on both forms of reading.  It follows on from my Reading Part 1 blog. After some contemplation I decided to introduce Part 3 which will focus on comprehension. It will introduce and discuss the concept of comprehension as well as a few tips on how to develop reading comprehension.



Reading Aloud

The definition of reading aloud was stated in Part 1:
              "The ability to read aloud consists of fluency, expression and the correct application of punctuation. Fluent and effective reading aloud does not predicate a learner's capability of reading comprehension." (14 June 2013)
Reading aloud focuses on expression and reading accurately. A child who can read fluently with accurate expression and use of punctuation in their reading is considered a strong reader. They also articulate themselves correctly through effective pronunciation.  A simple example of expression is to sound angry when the text is angry and a basic example of the correct use of punctuation is to pause when full stops, commas or exclamation marks are used.
These skills indicate that a learner is establishing a feel for the text as well as an understanding of grammar. Their writing of sentences reflects good grammar even though they may not understand or know concepts such as the active and passive voice.
Reading aloud can show whether a child has grasped three of the foundational reading steps: phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency. A child who can articulate themselves shows effective pronunciation (indicating strong phonetic and word decoding abilities).  Skills such as word recognition (automatic identification of the word without using decoding abilities) and spelling also increase with a child's ability to read.
To determine understanding of vocabulary and comprehension questions and discussions about the text need to be presented toward the reader.
Expression: this shows that a child understand the emotion behind the text. A scary story may be read in a haunted voice or when a character gets a fright the reader reads using the correct "scared exclamation". A child or learner that battles to grasp poetry can benefit from reading aloud. This teaches them to try identify the correct tone for the poem. A poem about love should be read with a compassionate voice or a poem about fear should read using a scared or frightened voice. Using whispers or louder tones can express different meanings adding suspense and anticipation to the text. If a child is unable to achieve the correct emotion for the text this indicates difficulties in comprehension. Sometimes a child or learner can use expression but not apply it correctly for example an exclamation used to show an order (Bring me that!) can be read as an expression (Ouch!).

Punctuation: strong punctuation is shown by the application of long pause by a full stop, question mark and an exclamation mark. Sometimes a long pause is used when semi-colons are present. Shorter pauses are used for commas, dashes and brackets. The use of the appropriate expression for an exclamation mark and question mark versus a full stop (used to show a statement). Punctuation allows the reader to pause and gather their thoughts and understanding of the text.
A child or learner that uses the correct punctuation and expression learns strong oral and presentation skills. This means that the audience listening to them is also allowed to gather their thoughts about the reading or presentation. If the reading is paced and leisurely this provides the audience with the opportunity to process what is being presented. In comparison fast and interrupted reading or presentation skills leads to a distracted and 'bored' audience. This influences the ability to create motivational and persuasive orals or presentations (which are frequently used in high school for all subjects). This can be described as vocalisation. Solid reading aloud skills (vocalisation) opens the door way to powerful oral skills. Furthermore, a child with excellent oral reading skills often communicates and expresses themselves clearly and concisely amongst their peers. This is a useful and essential skill for life - the ability to communicate efficiently in a job interview means higher chances of being employed.
Never underestimate the value of reading aloud. This skills gives an individual an advantage in school, their career and their social life.
Children should be motivated to read aloud even past their earlier years. Frequently children start to read silently when many of their aloud reading skills are not achieved. This causes difficulties later and could be avoid with continuous reading aloud. Both aloud and silent reading have advantages - it is best to master both.

Reading Silently

The definition of reading silently in Part 1:
               "The ability to read accurately without reading aloud. Reading silently does not determine or demonstrate effective expression, fluency or the correct application of punctuation nor does it show a comprehensive understanding of the text."
"A definition of fluency in silent reading is the ability to read with sustained attention and concentration, ease and comfort, at adequate reading rates (for various grade levels) and with good understanding." (Taylor,  
Silent reading is used in a classroom setting for the following reasons: present an environment for all learners to participate according to their own level and not in groups, preparation for exams and to add variety to reading tasks. Silent reading also develops different skills like skim reading, identifying important information from text (from rereading), cover more information (reading faster) and to improve understanding (as you are focused purely on the text not your pronunciation of the text). 
Maija MacLeod states that there are two types of silent reading: intensive and extensive. (
Intensive silent reading: is the focused and detailed reading of a text. This text is usually short dealing with common or repeated ideas and topics.
Intensive silent reading develops rapid reading skills and focuses on comprehension development in areas such as word attack and text attack skills as well as non text information.
Extensive silent reading: is the general understanding of a text. The topic is usually larger and less detailed than intensive silent reading.
Extensive silent reading broadens vocabulary skills as the texts or information read are broader: different sources are used.
Skimming versus Scanning:

Skimming is the quick reading of a text to get a general understanding of the text. This involves getting an idea about what the passage entails, the structure of the passage and what is the author's intention. It tends be sequential.

Scanning is the quick browsing of a text to find or locate specific ideas or material. The reader is looking with the intention to find something in particular.

These two skills are steps in developing stronger comprehension and analytical skills with regards to reading and writing.

Reading Comprehension/Understanding of the Text

This section I intend to introduce as Part 3.  Keep an eye out for the next blog...

Friday, 14 June 2013

Reading Part 1


Reading without a doubt plays a central role in our education, communication and development. Poor reading skills can set a child back detrimentally in school. Although this blog in based on foundational reading it can be applied to all learners because if a learner has difficulty in any of the below sections their ability to read, write, comprehend and express is affected. This blog (Part 1) focuses on reading and reading development. The following blog (Part 2) focuses on the importance of different types of reading as well as their functions and introduces how to develop reading comprehension.


Reading Aloud

The ability to read aloud consists of fluency, expression and the correct application of punctuation. Fluent and effective reading aloud does not predicate a learner's capability of reading comprehension.

Reading Silently

The ability to read accurately without reading aloud. Reading silently does not determine or demonstrate effective expression, fluency or the correct application of punctuation nor does it show a comprehensive understanding of the text.

Reading Comprehension/Understanding of the Text

This is the ability to read text and interpret meaning from the text. The ability to understand what we have read.

Reading Development

This is where it begins - the learning of letters and sounds, the skill of combining these sounds to make words, building these words to construct sentences and sentences that come together to tell stories. This development starts with Foundation Reading Skills (FRS)

The 6 major categories or steps of FRS:

  1. Print Awareness
  2. Phonemic Awareness
  3. Phonics
  4. Vocabulary
  5. Fluency
  6. Comprehension

(Please kindly note that I am not the sole owner of this information, and this information is sourced from a variety of different educational researchers, institutions and schools. The information from below has been similarly or directly worded from my EduHelpSA facebook (2012) page.)

Print Awareness

Print awareness is the concept of book orientation. The actions of  holding the book the correct way (not upside down), understanding that the writing/words moves from left to right; top to bottom and when appropriate the left page should be read first, and that the pages are turned with the hand on the right side of the book. Once these concepts have been understood and developed the child will start to show a visual understanding of what a word is: that a word has a beginning and an end, the words have spaces between them - a word is a single unit separate and a part from other words physically on the page.

Learning steps: show the different parts of the book, let the child orientate themselves to the book and positioning the book. i.e. the spine, the cover, the title page, right and left page. Books can be opened or positioned incorrectly and allow the child to correct it. When reading hold the child's hand and move their hand in the direction of what you are reading, moving the index finger of the hand over the words as you read them (preferably use their dominant hand - the hand they use the most whether it is left or right), allow the child to turn the pages. Eventually, they should be able to hold the book or position the book and point as you read to them.

Tips for Print Awareness:
  • Print Awareness is everywhere: food packaging, newspapers, books and road/facility signs - when you and your child come into contact with various print awareness objects, discuss them.
  • Remember learning is to be kept short and repeated a little later (delayed repetition). For example: a book - show the front and the back... later that day ask your child to show you the front and the back of the book again! The older your child the more advanced your print awareness can be - for example where is the title?

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to comprehend and understand the sounds and how they are put together to make words that creates the spoken language we use. A phoneme is a single sound that is refers to a specific letter for example the letter “b” is connected /b/ sound (our 26 alphabet sounds). When learning phonemic awareness it is the sound that is the focus and not the symbol of the letter.

Below are learning steps and strategies to develop your child’s phonemic awareness:

    • Phonemic Isolation is the ability to recognise the sound at the beginning, middle and end of a word. Initially start with 3 letter words only. An example is the word “cat” – the first sound is /c/, the middle /a/ and the end /t/. Please remember to stress the word out slowly, “ccccc aaaaa ttttttt”.
    • Phoneme Identity is the skill to identify the same in different words. An example is what sound is the same in the words: “hat”, “hall” and “hit”? The matching sound is /h/.
    • Phoneme categorisation is the opposite of phoneme identity it is the skill to identify the word that does not belong. An example is what word doesn’t belong: “bug”, “bag” and “hat”? The sound that does not match is /h/.
    • Phoneme blending is the ability to combine and blend phonemes to create bigger sounds and eventually words. The child should understand that single or smaller sounds can be put together to make bigger sounds, or words. The ability to sound a word out is different to the ability to blend the sounds together. An example is a child may say “cat” /c/ /a/ /t/ (sounding the word out) whereas blending “cat” /ca/ /t/ - the first two sounds have been combined. This is how a child learns that sounds worked together to form a word. A useful technique is to slowly stress the sounds together without separating them: “ccccccaaaaarrrrr” and then ask the child to say the word.
    • Phoneme segmentation is when a child is able to break a word into its separate sounds. A useful technique is tap out the sounds as the child hears them. An example is when you say the word “ran” and say it slowly “rrrraaannn” and ask the child to tap each sound out, the child should tap 3 times. This also will assist when a child needs to recognise syllables.
    • Phoneme deletion the ability to drop initial letters from a larger word to make a smaller word. An example is the word “rand” if we drop or remove the /r/ sound the word becomes “and”. This is a fairly difficult skills to learn – so be patient with your child.
    • Phoneme addition is the skill to create new words by adding a phoneme. An example is when pronouncing the sound “an” slowly to the child. Then say “If I add “ccc” to the beginning to the word what word does “ccc” and “aaannn” make?” It is suggested that on first attempts of this exercise to help the child combine the sounds. When they progress allow them to combine and sequence the sounds independently.
    • Phoneme substitution is substituting or using another letter in place of the previous word. An example is if I say “rat” and you take away the “r” it gives you? /at/. Then ask your child to add /b/ to /at/ - the new word is “bat”. 

      EduHelp Tips for Phonemic Awareness:
        • Using dough to build pictures to relate to the single phonic sounds /b/ can be "ball" this exercise is great as it address four types of learning: movement (building the ball with dough), touch (feeling the dough as we say the sound), hearing (saying/repeating the sound after the parent has said the sound) and visual seeing the "ball" as we say the sound.
        • Using taste is also beneficial an example is tasting a piece of apple for the /a/ sound.
        • Walking the letters out as we say them - use rope to shape the letters on the floor for your child to walk on as the say the letter. This is wonderful for movement learners.


          Phonics is different from phonemic awareness because it teaches your child that there is a connection between the sounds/ phonemic awareness and graphemes. Graphemes are the letters and spellings that symbolise the written form of the spoken word.

          When we learn phonics we are taught that the letters and the relationship between the sounds and the symbols of letters: the sound and the name idea. At a later stage I intend doing an article on phonics and spelling rules.

          Phonics and Books: Using books based on patterns and rhyming is a very good starting point, asking your child if they can identify the patterns or rhymes. This develops your child’s understanding between what is spoken and what is written, it also helps define phonetic relationships. Remember when reading to point at the words - ask where does the word start and end,
          ask your children to spell the word out aloud using the previous foundational reading skills we have discussed. Please read the books on a repetitive basis, but also be aware that child who having learning challenges are quick to memorise the books, so cover pictures, ask them to identify words, matching words and words that have similar sounds.

          Parents and children are noted for having difficulty in selecting reading readiness appropriate books, when visiting your library or selecting books to buy the general rule is the book should be easy enough for your child to read, but also have a few challenges on the page: for example new words that your child may have to sound out, or longer sentences, or slightly smaller print. Please make sure that the experience is not stressful, reading must be easy and fun – it is not suggest to select books by grade level, but rather on the level that is best suited to your child.


          Vocabulary plays a valuable role in reading and should not be ignored. Good vocabulary is applicable to early learners, intermediate and high school. The value of developing your child’s vocabulary continuously CAN NOT be underestimated. Vocabulary is the ability to refer to the words that we must recognise and understand in order to communicate effectively (comprehend and express). Vocabulary includes: listening vocabulary, speaking vocabulary, reading vocabulary and writing vocabulary. Vocabulary is learnt.
          Tips to develop vocabulary:
          1. there are child friendly dictionaries - appropriate to your child's age. When purchasing a dictionary look at the print, the style (does it have pictures for younger children) and what words can be found in the dictionary?
          2. Vocabulary is learnt without awareness (through reading, listening to audio books, conversations with adults and peers) or with awareness and direction (with specific instruction and taught strategies).

          Exercises to try:

          • Learn new words every week: spelling, meaning and pictures to relate to the new word.
          • Always ask your child about words, explore their understanding and application of words (for example – What does 'design' mean? How do use 'design' in a sentence?)
          • Using sound, sight, touch, smell and movement techniques to incorporate holistic learning



          Fluency is a child’s ability to read accurately, fluidly and effectively. Fluency is pivotal to indicating word recognition and expression. Fluent readers do not have to concentrate and focus on decoding words this skill allows them to start focussing on understanding the text.

          Three tips:
          • start showing your child how punctuation works whilst you are reading together, indicate when to pause and when to be more expressive. Explain long pauses, such as full stops, question marks and exclamation marks; and short pauses: commas, semi-colons and dashes. Describe and explain how to be expressive and how to interpret what they are reading so that they use the correct expressive voice
          • Ask your child to read aloud, then read aloud yourself asking them to follow you in the text as you read and once you have finished ask your child to read the text again. You can repeat this exercise. Suggestion: use smaller sections of texts that are appropriate for your child’s reading skills; you may even wish to use easier materials and move forward from there – building your child’s confidence in their reading skills as you progress.
          • Invest in an audio CD and book story so that your child can follow the text in the book as it is played from the CD. They may also read out aloud in conjunction with the CD.



          Comprehension is the ability and skill to understand and interpret a text and creating meaning from it. This is the final step in foundation reading skills.

          To comprehend a text your child will need experiential background (prior knowledge) that will add to the comprehension and develop understanding. Skills such as remembering facts, sequencing, and main ideas are fundamental to developing comprehension skills.

          There are several types of comprehension questions - below provides a basic foundational outline:

          Textually explicit comprehension questions are when questions are aimed at the literal understanding of the written text; these questions are information that is direct and targeted towards the main idea – they are direct conclusions. Examples: Who took the cake? Where did the girl hide the cake? What day was her birthday?

          Scripturally clear comprehension questions require background knowledge (being able to apply and evaluate the question). Examples: What happened at the beginning of the story? If you went to the beach where would you find shells?

          These questions become more advanced as your child progresses. Children learn comprehension strategies so that can easily derive meaning for the text (these strategies are taught).


          This blog covers the basics of reading and gives a foundational starting point to developing your child's reading skills. I intend discussing the importance of different types of reading in Part 2 and also writing a blog on Comprehension. I look forward to your feedback and suggestions. Comments, questions and advice are always welcome.


          Thursday, 23 May 2013

          Touch (Tactile Learning)

          Touch (Tactile Learning) the Basics

          Explanation of Touch (Tactile Learning)

          This refers to your ability to learn by feeling, touching and sometimes tasting. You need to have contact with something to remember it and you remember it. You are able to recall information that you have had contact with.

          Do I do any of these?

          1. Touch
          2. Trace 
          3. Feel 
          4. Remember information from a feeling (like the biology of a plant from working with it in the garden)
          5. Is your memory stimulated if you can touch something whilst learning

          If you said yes to a few of the above...

          or similar behaviours you may want to adapt your learning and performance to a more touch orientated method.... and see if you have any changes in your work or education.

          Writing (Auditory Learning)

          Writing (Auditory Learning) the Basics

          Explanation of Writing (Auditory Learning)

          This refers to your ability to learn by writing. You write information down and you remember it. You are able to recall information because you have written it.

          Do I do any of these?

          1. Writing Notes 
          2. Write notes to remind yourself
          3. Take notes with ease whilst some is talking or if you are reading
          4. Copying information

          If you said yes to a few of the above...

          or similar behaviours you may want to adapt your learning and performance to a more writing method.... and see if you have any changes in your work or education.

          Speaking (Auditory Learning)

          Speaking(Auditory Learning) the Basics

          Explanation of Speaking (Auditory Learning)

          This refers to your ability to learn by talking. You tell someone something and you remember it. You are able to recall information that you have said.

          Do I do any of these?

          1. Discussions and debates
          2. Talk aloud
          3. Learn from conversations  
          4. Enjoying asking question and giving verbal explanations 
          5. Do you remember or learn from teaching something

          If you said yes to a few of the above...

          or similar behaviours you may want to adapt your learning and performance to a more spoken method.... and see if you have any changes in your work or education.

          Reading (Auditory Learning)

          Reading (Auditory Learning) the Basics

          Explanation of Reading (Auditory Learning)

          This refers to your ability to learn by reading. You read something and you remember it. You are able to recall information that you have read.

          Do I do any of these?

          1. Reread  
          2. Read and write summary notes 
          3. Enjoy reading off the board than listening to the teacher 
          4. Like presentations on the overhead or projector 
          5. Learn from study notes or textbooks

          If you said yes to a few of the above...

          or similar behaviours you may want to adapt your learning and performance to a more reading method.... and see if you have any changes in your work or education.

          Tuesday, 15 January 2013

          Preparation for the new High School Year (and before)

          Preparation for the new High School Year (and before):

          It is assumed that children just know how to do things and that when they reach a certain age new skills are just suddenly obtained. This assumption could never be more wrong and creates dangerous expectations that we place on our children.

          As a parent what you may not realise is that instinctively you have always directed your child (and this is expected) but as they get older the expectations that they must be able to organise and be responsible grow and this is unrealistic as they have always followed your directions and relied on you.

          For high school learners this comes as a huge shock they are suddenly expected to be responsible, independent and organised. The next few blogs look at how to offset this shock and help prepare learners already in high school but also learners in intermediate phase.

          Where to Start?

          How to be organised?

          1. Know your Information : your class, your class teacher, your subject classrooms and teachers, your timetable, what subjects you are taking and what you need for each subject (books: text and blank, stationary and any other materials).
          2. Have a Diary and a Notebook.
          3. Create a List of your subjects (from favourite to least - and rate them as easy (little work), medium (moderate work) and hard ( a lot of work).
          4. You should plan 5 to 6 days a week to revise work (on each day you should have two to three subjects: easy, medium and hard)
          5. Your diary is to record information and a notebook is used for lists or information.
          6. Know your schedule and stick to it (for any first timers this is the hard rule - this should be your objective, aim and goal)
          The difficulty with being organise is most of us, including your child, has had someone direct us and tell us what to do. Suddenly, we are left mid stream with no paddle. So start small... and allow yourself room to make mistakes and adjust.

          The simplest way to stick to your new organised and responsible self is to stick to the plan - if you falter return back and try again - always return to the same plan just adjust it to offset your mistake.

          The other difficulty is that some personalities are just "organised, disciplined and responsible" and others are not. It has become so easy to categorise the "other personality - disorganised, undisciplined and irresponsible" as unchanging. The key to remember here is that change is possible and that the "other personality" can adapt. It is just harder and takes more time and patience.

          I can relate as I am that "other personality" in many ways and many of the methods I intend to share stem from my own experience to become more prepared.

          The key focus is the transition period of being directed to being independent... so for the next blog make sure you or your child have started with the above...