Saturday, 14 March 2009

How to become a good reader?

Once the initial hurdles are crossed...
Once the child has learnt to take the first tottering steps...
Once the child can be called a READER...

The next milestone is in grooming the reader into a GOOD reader.

While the degrees of good and the acceptance of standards may vary, a good reader, essentially :

  1. Reads fluently and in flow.
  2. Understands what he reads.
  3. Is able to get meanings in context even when exposed to hitherto unknown words.
  4. Follows some basic techniques, knowingly or unknowingly, to make sense of the text presented.
  5. Is able to connect the text he reads to the real life requirements he faces.
All of the above require the basic steps in a hierarchical step ladder:
  1. Sound/ letter recognition
  2. Word decoding and recognition
  3. Vocabulary adequate to build flow and fluency
  4. Comprehension and motivation to move beyond the above mentioned into joyful, entertaining reading with expression- tons of reading...
When asked to operate the ipod, I am not at step 1; I donot recognise beyond the on/off and forward/ back controls. But my daughter can listen, play, shuffle, browse the web, read/ send her e-mails, download/ upload pictures/ songs/ text with ease that I find mind-boggling!

I could teach her a thing or two about reading, and strategic reading; she can, however, teach me loads on loads of other things in which I am a true illiterate!

I do have the strategies in place to achieve 1,2 and 3 by having the most important ingredient that children have abundance of but that which adults rarely do. tenacity. Stick-to-itiveness. Motivation.

We need to encourage all children that we connect to that the single most important trait that can help them in life is just 'showing up, everyday, despite all the odds.'

Introduce an element of excitement into the classroom or home. Play games that incidently teach the lesson you need to teach.

Spelling? Take it up from basics, build it up- mat-mate-material. Even complex words can be broken down into phonetic components that are easy to spot.

Grammar? TAke it up from basics! Words are formed from letters and words go on to form phrases, clauses and sentences. Sentences can be simple or compound/ complex. Sentences also grow. The very basic NOUN-VERB-OBJECT can transform into Adjective- NOUN-VERB- adverb-Adjective OBJECT or further into ones with several interrelated nouns/ pronouns and prepositions and so on.

The building that starts from the foundation is stronger and more resilient. Build everything from the basics. While it is easy to provide answers, it is infinitely more ewarding to provide strategies to look for the answers. A teacher who simply focuses on the curriculum to finished in an academic year is doing a great disservice to the task he has taken on- teaching.

Allow the children to make mistakes and proceed from these mistakes. In fact make a mistake diary! Use the initial mistakes as memory pegs for the corrections.

Be spirit whisperers.

Be mentors.

Be patient.


Prepare the young ones for their future. It is going to be very different from the future our childhood predicted.

Address the following issues when teaching languages/ linguistic skills:
  1. Vocabulary- use good language and encourage the children to madel the same behaviour.
  2. Flow/ Fluency- encourage reading out loud- with appropriate stops. Allow for smooth word recognition.
  3. Expression- reading can make sense only if read appropriately. A flat monotone without any stops or with very frequaent stops and word breaks impair comprehension.
  4. Comprehension strategies like predicting/ inferring/ analysins must be explicitly taught and make conscious practices rather than unconscious or subconscious behaviours.
EAch of the above can be taught actively and explicitly. This shall be the course of further chapters.

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