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Teaching the Skill of Self-Correction

By Jennifer Johnson
 | Feb 11, 2016

80284960_x300As teachers, one of our goals is for every student to read and comprehend at or above grade level. We want students to take ownership of their reading, monitoring themselves while they are reading and self-correcting when they need to. I have struggled with this as a teacher. Students look at the first letter or letters of a word, make a guess, and continue reading. They rarely go back and self-correct when the word does not make sense. When students are reading aloud to us we are able to draw their attention to their mistakes, but what happens when they are reading by themselves? Are the students self-correcting or are they just reading on? What effect is this having on their comprehension? To address this, I focus more instruction on students identifying the mistakes they have made while reading and reading accurately the first time.

One strategy is to have students record themselves reading into a computer or tablet. Students have a passage in front of them that is at their reading level. They record themselves and then go back and listen to their reading, marking any errors on their paper. If students are able, I have them mark what they said. They record the number of errors that they made and then repeat the process.

This took modeling and practice, but once students had the hang of it, I could set them up on the device and they could do it themselves. Hearing second and third graders talk about what errors they had made and how they could not believe they did not read the right word when they knew the word was amazing. This strategy brings students’ attention to how they were reading and what they needed to pay more attention to while reading.

Another strategy I use with students as early as first grade is to write down the misreads they make while they are reading. I then read it back to them and have them follow along. I will read what they said, not what the text actually says. They catch on quickly that what they said was not correct. They tell me that what I read was wrong. The students start to get their eyes on the word and read more carefully, paying extra attention to what they are reading.

Similar to the previous strategy, I write phrases and sentences on notecards from the lessons that we have already done. The students each get one notecard and read it aloud. If they read it correctly the first time, they get to keep the card. If they do not read it correctly, then I get the card. Their goal as a group is to get more cards than I do. This has made a huge difference in how much attention students pay to the whole word. They even have made improvements on identifying if the letter is a b or a d.

Many students have shown improvement in the number of words that they read correctly in a minute, but, of course, there are still some students who are making the same mistakes and are not paying attention to what they are reading. Our goal is to get students to pay more attention to what they are reading and to read accurately the first time. The more attention we can draw to students’ misreads and the more we can get students to see that they are not looking at the entire word, the fewer mistakes they will make and the better readers they will become.

Jennifer Johnson is a reading specialist working with children in grades kindergarten through fourth grade in Shenandoah Community Schools in Iowa. 



Leave a comment
  1. Lauren | Jun 28, 2017
    Do you have a document with the words and phrases you wrote on notecards? Or how you came up with them? I love that idea for a game and would really like to use it. Thanks! 
  2. Nancy Wright | May 24, 2017

    Thanks for sharing your techniques,  Jennifer!  It's neat to see a post from our corner of Iowa!

    Another SW Iowa educator

  3. <a href="">com</a> | Feb 19, 2016
     Thanks man.
  4. Monte Munsinger | Feb 17, 2016
    Thanks for sharing your strategies Jennifer!  
  5. Mark WF Condon | Feb 16, 2016

    I have a slightly different take on the problem you seek to address here.

    One distinction that we need to teach primary children to make is that there's a difference between SAYING a text and READING a text. The phonics-first,-last,-and-only kids are focused on SAYing it just as they have been taught by well-meaning teachers and parents. If they were actually READing, they would, as you say Jennifer, naturally BE self-monitoring and self-correcting. Focusing on the meaning of the text and the range of linguistic elements that authors use to show us that meaning helps keep their reading balanced. 

    Teaching kids to abandon comprehension destructive habits based on misconceptions like SAYing=READing is very hard. They've learned well that saying is what they are supposed to do. That lesson is built upon the kinds of feedback they have gotten that focuses solely upon mispronouncing a word's spelling versus the more comprehensive (and frankly much easier to deliver) feedback that guides them through their miscuing on any of the cue systems that the author has crafted into the text: phonics, syntax, semantics, illustrations &/or pragmatics. 

    "Does that make sense?" "What else is here that could help you decide what the author was trying to share?" form a very different foundation for becoming fully literate than solely "Sound it out..."

    Thanks for your thoughtful suggestions here, Jennifer.

  6. Waconda Clayworth | Feb 12, 2016

    these are very good ways to improve reading and i think

    they would help struggling adults as well..

  7. Ms. Gonzalez | Feb 12, 2016
    Great suggestions. I will try them asap!!

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