Correcting Errors While Teaching Your Child to Read

While your child is reading text to you aloud, he or she is likely to make errors.  Your job is to correct your child’s errors with respectful guidance.  No one likes to be told that they are wrong or doing something wrong so please proceed with caution when it’s time to correct an error.  Your child needs to feel that his/her reading errors are an opportunity to learn something new, and not a situation where they’re being criticized.  Your language and tone of voice when pointing out errors set the stage for positive error correction.  When I hear a mistake when listening to a child read, I say something like, “whoops, let’s go back and take another look at this word” or “hey wait a second, that doesn’t make sense does it?”  This gives the child the opportunity to look for the error herself and try to find out where she went wrong. 

When the word with the mistake is identified, it is important to not allow the child to guess another word.  Without using letter names, point to the part of the word that was mispronounced and ask for the correct sound.  For example, in the following sentence, the word “break” may be pronounced “breek” while reading:

“Be careful not to break the mirror!” 

This is when I would mention that something doesn’t make sense.  I would point to the word and say, “you said ‘breek’ here but that’s not a word, what’s another sound you could try right here? [pointing to the sound picture EA].  If the child doesn’t know what else to try, I tell them immediately to try ‘ae’.  I also recognize what they did correctly by noting that “…yes, this sound picture can represent the sound ‘ee’ in a lot of words, but in this word its ‘ae’.  After we finish reading let’s take another look at all the sounds this sound picture can represent.”  This is a great time to pull in a review of all the sounds for EA (‘ee’, ‘ae’, and ‘e’).

I mentioned above that I tell the student what sound to try immediately if she doesn’t know because I don’t want to cause frustration.  If the correct sound doesn’t come to mind right away, just tell her the correct sound and move on.  If you spend a lot of time saying things like, “come on, you know this one”, or “this is easy, you just saw this in another word earlier” your child is going to resent the correction process and likely start guessing.  You want your child to have the correct information as quickly as possible so she stays in a positive frame of mind and learns the sound.  By struggling with identifying the correct sound your child has already proven that she indeed, did not know it, and that even if she pronounced it correctly in another word, she doesn’t know it well enough to transfer to other words.  Perhaps the word she read the sound correctly in was already a sight word. 

It is very important to discourage a child from guessing when they don’t know a sound or a word.  Always model how to correctly sound out a word or how to “dissect” it to show where all the sounds are.  If his pronunciation of the word is very close, its okay to re-read the sentence and have him try his pronunciation of the word.  For example, the word “please”, could be read with the pronunciation “pleass” because the student used the ’s’ sound instead of ‘z’ for the sound picture SE.  It is likely that based on the context of the sentence, he will then hear what the word is supposed to sound like.  This can happen a lot with words with more than one syllable.  Often, a child will have the entire word sounded out just fine, but not hear the right word because he’s not put the accent on the correct syllable.

Always praise and confirm your child’s self corrections.  She may initially mispronounce a word and then quickly change it when she realizes her mistake.  Point out what she did correctly.  For example, I would say, “Good, I’m glad you noticed that didn’t sound right with the sound ’s’ at the end. You’re really getting the hang of this!  Let’s keep going.”

Finally I want to advise you to only correct one problem at a time.  Let’s go back to the word “break”.  This time the student says, “breeks” when reading the sentence.  Start by correcting errors by leaving out, adding, or reversing the order of a sound.  So in this word, we want to bring attention to the ’s’ sound he added to the word.  You could say something like, “I noticed you said breeks. Where is the sound picture for ’s’ in this word?  [await response] You’re right, it’s not there.  Now let’s take a look at this sound picture….”  [then error correct for the sound picture EA as stated in the first example]. 

If you find that your child is having more than one error in each sentence, the reading material is probably too difficult for him at this time.  You want your child to be challenged but not to the point where he cannot remember what’s he’s read  by the end of the sentence.  I always have my students go back and re-read the sentence with an error in it to ensure comprehension. 

Ok, that’s it!  Keep error corrections a positive learning experience by providing assistance quickly and focusing on where the sounds are in the word.  Avoid letter names and praise your child along the way.  Learning to read is a process and your child deserves recognition for his or her efforts!


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