The 'guessing' habit

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The 'guessing' habit

Post by Judy » Mon Mar 02, 2009 4:45 pm

I’ve just found something that helps to eliminate the ‘guessing’ habit and I thought it might be useful to pass it on to anyone who is working with pupils for whom inaccurate reading has become a habit.

I have often felt very frustrated that quite a number of children who have reached the stage when they realise that they can read, through learning the correspondences, sounding out and blending, then become so enthusiastic about reading that they begin to tackle texts for which they do not know the correspondences, too fast and unsupervised, and the ‘guessing’ habit takes hold.

Generally I use the cursor to make sure that they sound out unfamiliar words but I can only do this in their weekly lessons and the habit goes unchecked and takes root in between lessons as they attempt to read more and more ‘non-decodable’ text at home and in school. The challenge then becomes to teach them to self-monitor for errors, which on the whole they don’t seem to do. But the way I’ve found to do this is by a simple system of rewards for accuracy and self-monitoring.

I award them ten points (by drawing ten dots on my whiteboard, but counters, sweets etc could be used just as well). Each time they read a word incorrectly without noticing, a point is deducted (as soon as they’ve gone on to the next word). But each time they stop and work out the word without prompting from me, even if they’ve taken a guess at it first, a point is put back on the board.

Of course it would be better if they were not exposed to text that they cannot decode in the first place but I have no control over that and this method seems to be getting the point across, even with one of my most determined ‘guessers’. For the first time she seems to have noticed how inaccurately she was reading previously and can see for herself that she is perfectly able to work out the words if she takes the trouble to do it. I am hopeful that the new habit of self-monitoring is gradually beginning to take root, just as the guessing habit did! And the element of earning and losing points makes it fun!

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Location: Minnesota, USA

Post by mtyler » Tue Mar 03, 2009 12:13 pm

This sounds great! Thanks, Judy. I will pass it on to some tutors I know.

Minnesota, USA

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