Tips and tools for more successful reading mentoring sessions
Martha Conradt • Feb. 21, 2022
At our Practical Reading Mentoring Tips Lunch & Learn, Lead to Read KC’s staff of experts — with more than 100 years of combined educational experience — shared information on the science of reading — and tips for working with beginning readers, advancing readers and reluctant readers.
Many thanks to everyone who participated in the training! Our goal? Making reading mentoring sessions more successful and enjoyable for students and Reading Mentors alike.
Here are some highlights from the training:
Science of Reading
We use four areas of the brain when reading:
Visual Cortex — Recognize written letters and words.
Auditory Cortex — Identify the sounds that make up words.
Angular Gyrus — Connect sounds with letters and letters with sounds.
Inferior Frontal Gyrus — Make speech sounds, form words, and understand what we listen to and read.
Four decoding skills help develop these different parts of the brain:
Phonological Awareness — Recognize all 44 sounds in the English language.
Print Concepts — Recognize letters and parts of a book.
Phonic and Word Recognition — Sounding out words.
Fluency — Putting it all together to read sentences and books.
All the skills create word recognition, which when combined with language comprehension creates a skilled reader.
Tips for Working with Beginning Readers
Learning a new concept takes repetition (25-50 exposures).
Reading to a student is incredibly valuable. You can never read too much to a student!
Build strong knowledge of letters and the sounds they make.
Reinforce the difference between High Frequency/Sight words and Sound-It-Out words. Most sight words cannot be sounded out. (e.g., the, to, you, what, was, said)
Read aloud. Demonstrate how punctuation signals the end of the sentence and the thought.
Make reading fun!
Sound Detectives — Read to the child and have the student raise a hand or snap their fingers anytime they hear the “D” sound.
Identifying Words that Begin with a Targeted Letter Sound — Say Rhyming Word Pairs, and ask the student to name the word that does not begin with the letter sound you are working on. (e.g., “B” yarn, barn; “G” coat, goat)
Rhyming Words — You supply a word, and ask the student to think of rhyming words. (e.g., tree, bee, see, me) Words can be either real or nonsense.
What word doesn’t belong — Say four words. What one doesn’t start with the letter “D”? Dinosaur, caterpillar, dentist or day?
Sight Word Hunt —Page through the book, and look for sight words.
Silly Sentences — Make up silly sentences that use targeted sight words. (e.g., I like to eat rotten bananas. My dog has purple stripes.)
Tips for Working with Advancing Readers
Reading aloud is always beneficial. You are modeling fluency, attacking words, inflection and enthusiasm.
Take a Book Walk. This is good if the student is slightly hesitant, or if you are previewing a book for the next week. Look through the pictures and see if you can identify the main characters, what might happen, etc.
You don’t need to correct every error. A student doesn’t need to understand every word, or pronounce it correctly, to understand a story or message.
Reinforce the student’s strengths, such as sight words, inflection, pacing, sounding out words or understanding. Use specific praise to point out what the student does well. (“You’re really good at sounding out words!”)
Never discourage reading a harder book. If the book is too hard, put the difficulty upon yourself: “It’s too much for me to concentrate on this right now.”
Lead the student to make predictions, connect actions, create endings and place themselves in the story or connect it to real life.
Build the student’s vocabulary. Read definitions if given, and put words in real context.
Model expressive reading, different voices for different characters, pacing and inflection.
Tips for Working with Hesitant Readers
A wiggly or disinterested student is often a student who is anxious and can’t express it. “Something happened at home or school, and I’m unhappy.” “Math was too hard, and I’m tired.”
Students like choices and decision making. “Would you rather book A or book B?” “Can you …” or “Help me … ”
Engage the body to relax the mind! If reading about a dance, ask your student to demonstrate a dance.
Frustration is contagious. Whatever you are feeling, the student will mirror.
You don’t have to finish an entire book during a session.
Shift focus from “reading” to “engaging with” letters, words, books and stories.
Read aloud! Model sounds, pacing, intonation and pronunciation.
Create a “hook”. Be the Mentor who can read super-fast, read with different voices, make lots of rhyming words, or whose pet always says “hello!”