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How to Teach Students to Fix Their Reading When Meaning is Lost

What strategies can we teach our readers to enable them to fix up their reading when meaning is lost?

When meaning is lost and children need to know what to do to continue their reading by themselves, they need to use fix-up strategies.

The best way to teach fix-up strategies is by modelling, for example:

Through using a Big Book or enlarged text from a current Read Aloud or significant text via an electronic whiteboard or large chart. Children need to see you model what you do when you try to work out a word before you continue reading.

  • Model reading the text, coming to a word that you need to work out how to say.
  • Model recognising that this is a time to use a fix-up strategy so that you can continue reading with meaning.
  • Choose the fix-up strategy that will best support you. Model using the strategy. Have students practise using the strategy with you.
  • Have children consciously use the strategy as they engage in their own independent reading.

How can you teach and reinforce fix-up strategies during Reading Conferences?

As you observe students reading during a Reading Conference, you may notice students needing reinforcement for understanding through using fix-up strategies.This on-on-one opportunity is a powerful time to provide some further teaching and practice.

  • Provide further modelling and on-the-spot teaching of a relevant fix-up strategy that can be applied immediately.
  • Have the student practise using this strategy as they continue to read to you.
  • You can set this as a reading goal for use as they read independently.
  • Check the student's use of the fix-up strategy and set as a reading goal when you next confer with them.

A Reading Conference sheet  is a helpful tool for tracking the teaching and learning of reading strategies.

Which fix-up strategies should I model at each year level?

You should choose to teach your students the strategies that best fit their needs at the time.

All strategies should be introduced in the first year of school. The same strategies should be revised and taught again in all year levels enabling students to practise automaticity.

What are the fix-up strategies for working out how to say a word?

Each of the strategies should be seen by the reader as the 'good reader action' they can use when they are working out how to say a word to maintain meaning.

It is most helpful to guide students with explicit and specific actions. Telling your students to 'use chunking' or 'Chunky Monkey' doesn't provide a clear action for the reader to take, nor does it relate to meaning. Instead provide students with explicit actions such as 'chunk the beginning of a tricky word to figure it out'. These actions explain to the reader what they need to do to be successful. Consistent use of explicit language throughout the year levels will enable students to more successfully integrate these fix-up strategies independently.

  • Look at the illustrations or graphics (if available) to figure out what the word might be
  • Stop at an unknown word, and then go back to re-read either the word, or a phrase, or the beginning of the sentence
  • Stop at an unknown word, then look at the picture, and then look at the initial letter in the word and reread the sentence or phrase, getting your mouth ready to say the word
  • Get your mouth ready for the initial letter in a word, and then look at the picture to see if it makes sense
  • Skip the unknown word, and read on to establish meaning, then go back to re-read.
  • Use context clues to work out an unknown word, when possible
  • Sometimes substitute a word to maintain meaning
  • Chunk the beginning of a tricky word to figure it out
  • Chunk a prefix, and then ‘slide’ through the word
  • Chunk the beginning of a word, and then ‘slide’ through the word
  • Ask yourself, “Does that make sense?”
  • Ask yourself, “Does that sound right?”
  • Ask yourself, “Does that look right?”
  • Read the punctuation, and listen to hear if it makes sense
  • Read with phrasing and fluency, attend to the punctuation, and sound like you’re talking
  • Use known words to figure out a new word (if you know ‘day’, then you will know ‘say’)
  • Use chunking through a word, to figure out a longer word (word segmentation or syllabification)
  • Find known words inside words to help you figure them out
  • Monitor your own reading in your head, so that self-corrections are made promptly

Modelling explicit and actionable fix-up strategies empowers your students to draw on a vast range of actions to restore and maintain meaning as they read.






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