what to say when kids make reading mistakes
I’ve been asked this question so many times by my friends, by parents of students I tutor, and by many, many readers of this blog.
And because we’ve run into this situation most recently this week after our trip to the library for fish books, I thought I’d share some ways that parents–and teachers–can handle those tough, uncomfortable times when kids make reading mistakes.
These are ways that I handle times when Maddy makes mistakes, these are the things I said when I listened to her classmates read when I volunteered at her school, and these are things I say when I’m tutoring and working with students.
- What to Say When Kids Make Reading Mistakes: Sure, our first inclination is to just give kiddos the word–especially if we’re in a time crunch or if the child is an especially slow reader.
Child: Something must be wr-wr wh-whh. Wrrroooo. Wruu. I don’t know.
Parent: It’s ‘wrong’. ‘Wrong.’ ‘Something must be wrong with. . .’
Child: Oh. ‘Something must be wrong with the sun to-today.’
The kiddo gets off easy and will soon learn that all he has to do is make some feeble attempts at sounding out a word in order to get Mom or Dad–or teacher–to throw him the rope. We’ve all done it, but it sure isn’t a great habit.
There are ways we can use these exciting and (sometimes) trying times during emerging reader read-alouds as jumping off points for learning. If we just keep a few phrases in our back pockets, our kids really might start to become stronger readers before our eyes. . .
When kids won’t even try to sound out a word or they won’t budge, say:
- Think about the letters you recognize and the sounds they make. What sound does this letter make (point to first letter)? Let me hear you make the sound. Now what sound does this letter make (point to second letter)? Let’s put the sounds together. . .
- Look at the letters you know in the word and the picture on the page. The picture is here to help you. Think about the sound this letter makes (point to first letter of word) and what you see in the picture. . .
- Think about what’s going on in this story. You just read, (read previous line). Look at the picture, look at the word, and think about what might happen next.
- Skip the word you don’t know and move to the next word you can read.
- You might not recognize this word, but I know you know this word (cover the first letter and let him read the part he knows—at from ‘bat’). Think about the sound that ‘b’ makes, put the sounds together, and you’ll have it!
- You just read this word on the previous page, and you read it correctly. Use your detective eyes, find the word on the other page, and see if that helps.
When a child makes an error on a page and moves right on by like nothing happened, even if what she read makes no sense:
Let her go! Don’t interrupt mid-reading; instead consider saying at the end of the sentence, phrase, or paragraph:
- Are you correct?
- Read it again and check closely.
- Can you find the tricky part?
- It’s in this line.
- I’ll point it out and help you find it.
Use this prompt occasionally even when your child reads the words correctly! That way she’ll get in the habit of self-monitoring while she’s reading solo. Remember also to use the above prompts in order–that way beginning with an open-ended question (Are you correct?) will have her go back and check her work without your help and specific direction!
If you’d like to have these prompts as a pdf, you may download What to Say When Kids Make Reading Mistakes. It has a little more explanation and information and will hopefully be something worthwhile to keep on hand!
Cheers, and happy reading during this incredibly exciting journey!