Often when I read with a pupil, I need to remind her/him (and myself) to point to the words. As fluent readers we don’t point to words on the page, but sometimes if we come across a difficult or new word we are trying to work out – we will use our finger to work through the word. Beginner readers are working to decode many words on the page. It is hard work. Here is why we should make it a habit to point to words as we read with beginner readers.
What are the benefits for beginner readers to point to the words in the text?
- Focus on the text. The clues for decoding are in the text. When we encourage children to point to the text we are discouraging them from looking for clues in the picture, the first letter, by reading on, or just pure guessing. We encourage them to decode the alphabetic code – to translate the symbols in the page into sounds and blend those sounds into words.
- Blending left to right through the word. By moving our finger under the word we remind the reader that we blend sounds in the word from right to left. A times we are just tracking what we are reading but we stop or go back with our finger to point to a word that was not read correctly, or if what we read did not make sense.
- Focus on matching letters to sounds. If we point to the words as we read, we can check that the letters on the page match the sounds we pronounce in words. When there is an error, we pause and sound out each grapheme. This way, the reader can check and self correct and reread the word. If the reader doesn’t know the sound for a specific grapheme the teacher can offer it and the child can blend the sounds together. Sometimes a reader will choose an incorrect alternative pronunciation for a grapheme. The teacher can explore if the child knows the correct alternative, and if not – offer it the reader. Here is an learning opportunity through error correction.
- Keep your place on the line and one the page. Some readers skip lines or lose their place on the page. Pointing to words helps them to keep their place. Later, once they are fluent readers, they can use a reading ruler but at the beginner stages, pointing to the words keeps the place on the page and keeps the place that the reader is reading.
Make pointing cool
Some children may feel that pointing to words is not cool. A fun way of make pointing to words cool is to have a selection of pointers that children can choose from. One of my pupils was a Harry Potter fan and he made his own Harry Potter miniature wand for this purpose. Here are some of my pointers. I had a few more in my classroom but some mysteriously disappeared…
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