Did I clunk on a word?

Did_I_clunk_on_a_word_When using the Dr. Goodreader chart, we need to teach students that it’s not that good readers don’t make mistakes when they read, but that good readers notice when something doesn’t make sense and go back to correct their mistakes.

Even the best readers misread words from time to time.  Our brains assume what the next word will be based on the first letter or two.  When it doesn’t make sense we need to ask ourselves some questions:

  • Did I read the word incorrectly?  (I have ample opportunity to model this when I read out loud to my students.)
  • Did I substitute a word?  (This as far as most older intermediate readers need to go.)
  • Can I try reading the word out loud? (This helps younger students and ELL students.)
  • Have I looked carefully at the beginning and ending sounds? (Some students are in such a hurry that they skip over important parts of a word.)
  • Do I need to point and slide? (Very helpful to younger readers.)

Mind Wanderer or Mind Distracted or Both?

We’ve been talking about how some of us have problems with external distractions when we read and others of us with our minds wandering.  Here’s what a few of my students have to say:

  • I have problems with my mind wandering.  I start thinking about going to recess.  I can read a difficult book if my teacher is reading out loud if I have a copy of a book.flying books That helps me concentrate.  For myself, I pick easier books with a topic I like.
  • Many times when I read I am planning the future.  What I do about it is try to stop my mind and say to myself, “Concentrate, let’s do it!”
  • My mind wanders and I can still read the words, but I’m thinking about something else.  I read better when I read at my desk away from everybody else.
  • When I read, the movie plays in my mind, but sometimes my mind plays a different movie than the book such as me playing soccer.  I just ignore it and try to concentrate on my book.  (He must be good at it, because as a second year English learner, he’s read all the Harry Potter books!)
  • When my mind wanders I reread until I get it and I am re focused.
  • I can block out outside distractions, but my mind wandering doesn’t allow me to think about the book.  To stop thinking about other things I stop, tell my mind to concentrate, then think about the book.
  • Sometimes when I read a book and find a connection I start thinking about that and don’t concentrate on my reading.
  • Distractions bother me because my mind has to stay completely on the book.  To be focused I need silence.  I try to ignore sounds or I cover my ears with a pillow.
  • When I read I get distracted by sounds.  I can read when everybody is silent, but not when there is lots of noise.  I can’t read in my house because my brothers are watching TV in one room and in another they’re playing wii.  What I do about it is I go in my closet and read there.

Photo credit:  spl225.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/flying20bo…

Did I get distracted or let my mind wander? Part 2

Being distracted and letting our minds wander can happen to any of us, but what can we do about it when we’re reading?whisper phone

First, we need to understand that distractions are external and letting our minds wander is internal. Making a list of our common distractions and wanderings helps make us more aware of these things, which, although counter-intuitive, is just what we need.  Once we’re metacognitively aware, we can do something about the problem. My students make long lists of distractions, but my personal distractions are pretty much limited to mosquitoes and fireworks (thus are the hazards of living in tropical, but festive, Ecuador).  Under the category of letting your mind wander, my students generally have short lists (what happened at recess, things not going well at home), where my brain often feels like popcorn as I battle with various to-do lists, obsessive replays of the day, and thoughts about what I should be doing rather than reading.

We explain that we all have good days and bad days with distractability and wanderability; it happens to the best of readers, but good reader DO something about it.  We brainstorm ideas with the kids, and if none of the following comes up in discussion, we suggest them:

  • Students often need to move away from others in order to have less distractions, and we have a number of hidey-holes around the classroom for those students.
  • Sometimes a student who IS a distraction needs to be asked to read in one of these spaces away from others.  Sometimes we even give them names:  Ricky’s Retreat and Charlie’s Corner.
  • Other students benefit from reading aloud to focus their attention.  We arm them with read-out-loud phones (see photo), move them away from other students and they read away!  (I have a class set of these that some parents made from PVC pipe.  We use them often with both reading and writing.  There’s nothing like reading your work out loud for sentence fluency!)
  • When our brain is wandering with to-do lists and remembered chores, sometimes the best thing to do is stop reading for a moment and jot down what we’re thinking about and then go back to the book.
  • The main strategy we use is to talk to our brains.  If the distraction is something we can’t do anything about, like the leaf blower running outside our window, we simply tell our brains to pay attention.  It works!  At the beginning of each year we study the different controls in our brains from the website All Kinds of Minds, and students are used to thinking and speaking about these controls.

Are you more bedeviled by distractions or letting your mind wander??

Photo credit:  thepeoplebrand.com/…/06/Photo_032707_001.jpg

Did I get distracted or let my mind wander?


When teaching children to use the Dr. Goodreader chart, our end goal is for them to use it enough that they internalize the information and eventually have an automatic checklist they use when they read for the rest of their lives.  Dr. Goodreader works for all readers.

After we ask the initial question, “Does this make sense?” if the answer is no, the next question to ask ourselves is, “Did I get distracted or let my mind wander?”  Children need to be taught how to deal with distractions in every setting.  I tell them that when I was reading last night, I found that I hadn’t understood a word for pages because my mind had wandered off to think about the day’s events.  My eyes were going across the words, but my brain was not actively engaged in my book.  Most students are nodding in recognition at this point!

There are many ways to avoid distractions, but it is difficult to create a perfect world in which to read.  So, our goal is to train ourselves to focus, no matter what happens.  To be so into the book that you have to be dragged out of Bookworld into reality.

In the classroom, we move from naming distractions, to brainstorming ways to surmount them, to learning to read deeply.  Some students my squirrel themselves away under tables or in corners to avoid the distraction of their fellow students.  By the end of the year, it’s difficult to drag them out of their books.  The room often stays completely silent when I announce that it’s time to jot down their reading in their reading journals.  Oh, the silence of success!

Does this make sense?

When you click on the Dr. Goodreader chart, you see that the first question readers need to ask themselves is, “Does this make sense?”   Does_this_make_sense_

Good readers subconsciously ask themselves this question as they read.  Other readers need to learn to purposefully question themselves as they read…otherwise they’ll just read words and not enjoy or understand what they are reading.  Yesterday I conferenced with Camila who was reading a “Clue” book.  In the story, the characters were playing charades and acting out clues for one another.  I asked her what one of the clues meant, and she turned pages back to show me Coronel Mustard with a candlestick.  There was absolutely no connection between the two.

It turned out that since Camila didn’t know what charades was, she couldn’t figure out what was happening.  Worse that that, she didn’t stop to ask herself if what she was reading made any sense.  She kind of floated along on a cloud of words that had no substance. 

Some students need their memory jogged, and I often have them put a sticky note in their book to remind themselves to ask the single most important question to reading comprehension.  Some students need to start with every paragraph, others with every page, and some at the chapter level.  If they are at the paragraph level, I try to work with them as often as possible to get them into the habit of asking, thinking about their thinking, and thoughtfully responding.

What are your ideas for having students think about their thinking while they read?