Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday Words - Assessing Reading - Running Records

My teaching year begins this week, so I will have new Reading Intervention students as well as catching up with some from last year. I will be assessing the students’ reading levels, using levelled books/reading sheets and taking running records, as well as using other tests.

Running records are very valuable for getting a quick overview of the strategies children use as they read, and for picking up areas needing to be worked on.

You can use unfamiliar text (but always tell the child the title), or you can use familiar text or introduced text. I prefer to use unfamiliar text but I will do a quick introduction with the main story line, names and any difficult or unfamiliar vocabulary or expressions used in the text.

Here is a blank Running Record form that you can download, print and copy. You just need to use a tick for each word the child reads correctly; write in words that the child gets wrong (errors = E) and self-corrections (= SC). Note if the child repeats words or phrases.

In the E and SC columns (if there are any errors or self-corrections on the line), note the strategies the child used to attempt to decode the troublesome words: M = using the meaning in the text/pictures; S = using the structure in the text/sentence/phrase; V = using visual information (the letters in the words, guessing a similar-looking word).

Work out the ‘accuracy’ as a percentage: You need have an idea of how many words you have recorded on the record. If you have recorded 100 words, or 150, it’s easy to work out the percentage of errors (you don’t need to count self-corrections here, and an error with a names is only counted once, even if the error is repeated). 
If you have a text with fewer than 60 words or with a lot of repetition, you may want to do a couple of texts to give a better idea of the child’s skills.

Once you have worked out the percentage of errors, you can subtract that number from 100 to get the ‘accuracy’, and you can grade the text as
Easy - 95% accuracy or better
Instructional – 90-94% accuracy
Difficult – less than 90% accuracy.

Note general strategies used and if there is a mix of M, S and V; also if more than one strategy is used to ‘cross-check’ when decoding a word. Pace, phrasing, expression and fluency are all worth noting. 

It can also be useful to note if the child is reversing words, using a finger to point (using left/right hand -or both), or showing any indicators of possible problems such articulation difficulties, missed words/lines, face very close to the page, etc.

You may want to circle (or note on the back of the page) any areas to follow up with your teaching or referrals to specialists.

Remember that one running record is only one glimpse of the child’s reading ability, and more testing will be needed, but a good running record at Instructional level (or a little harder) can quickly and easily give you quite a lot of information and it’s a handy record to keep for future comparisons.   

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday Words - Sight Words Practice - free printable game for January

This week I'm offering my latest printable board game for free download in January - February. It's designed to be printed on A4 paper or light card (laminate for best results).

Use the game with 'sight words' cards (use thick paper or light card, and write the words with pencil or light felt pen so the writing doesn't show through). You can use words that your child is learning at school or that he finds difficult, as well as some that he 'almost' knows - and a few easy ones as well.

Here's a sheet of blank cards that you can print if you like on white or coloured light card (or just cut up light card to use). Click on the picture to open the .pdf file:

 Blank Word Cards to print

A suggested balance of words for the cards would be: 4 'new' or hard words, 7 'don't quite know' words, and 4 easy words.

You'll also need a die or spinner and some little tokens or 'movers', e.g. counters, little buttons, little coloured card squares etc.

Here's the game to print (click on the picture):

Star Quality_game to print

You can use this game with one child or in a small group. It doesn't take long, so you may want to play it twice to give more players a chance of winning. If you want to make it less competitive, explain that the goal is for all the players to reach the end... and that a player can ask for help if he doesn't know a word.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wednesday Words - Early Reading Skills: shapes and relationships - jigsaws

Jigsaw puzzles are fun for young children, and they are also great to help develop awareness of patterns, shapes, lines and detail as well as eye-hand coordination. These are all useful skills for reading and writing.

You can make simple jigsaws by cutting up old Christmas or birthday cards*, or pictures glued onto card. 

 (*TIP: glue the card closed before cutting for extra strength).

You can also find many jigsaws online that your child can do on a computer, when they have mastered using a mouse, touchpad or touchscreen.

I have made a range of ‘computer jigsaws’ for my reading students, from very simple 4- to 16- piece puzzles to harder jigsaws; some are a challenge even for adults. They work as an .exe file on Windows computers. 

Most of my ‘intermediate’ jigsaws have a word or words to piece together as well as the picture, so the children are practising making words without really realising.

You can download computer jigsaws for free from my site

including First jigsaws- 4-16 pieces and 20-20-piece jigsaws here: epuzzlejigsawslinks

and Melbourne Zoo animal jigsaws, 20-35 pieces here: newharderjigsaws

(Note: when I downloaded some of my jigsaws, the security on my computer didn't want to open them...I had to click on 'open anyway').

You can find many other jigsaws, and even make your own jigsaws from your favourite digital pictures or family photos, on

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wednesday Words: Alliteration

Here it is the first Wednesday of the new year... and time to get Back To The Blog. I got distracted by other tasks, work and website activities, but this year I have had my work hours cut back and I will have Wednesdays free... so I intend to write something here each Wednesday. 

I thought of calling my posts Wednesday Weekly Words of Wisdom,Weird Wednesdays,or Wednesday's Work (you  can tell I like alliteration!), but I have decided to just aim for "Wednesday Words".

This week, I'll focus on alliteration. This is a fun and easy activity for children, and it helps them to begin to recognise a basic element of phonological awareness: 'beginning sounds'. 

Children love to hear and even make up alliterations using their own name, friends' and family members' names, etc. 

You can find some simple poems I have made up using children's names on  
Many of these use alliteration.

Tongue-twisters also use alliteration. You can download a list of tongue-twisters (at least one for each alphabet letter) here: 

Free Download:      Alphabet Tongue Twisters

Free printable worksheet: here is a Tongue Twister worksheet to print -