Is Early Intervention in Foundational Reading Skills Needed?

image of a struggling kindergarten reader

Case Study #1, Avery

In this post we will take a closer look at Avery, whom we introduced on our Instagram page. We will explore whether or not early intervention in foundational reading skills is needed. Avery is a kindergarten student who has strong oral language skills, a robust vocabulary, a depth of background knowledge. All these strengths have resulted in Avery ‘reading’ and passing a level D book as evidenced by her running record. But, is she really reading? Let’s take a closer look.

Can a running record indicate whether Avery needs instruction in foundational reading skills?

Let’s face it. Many schools are still requiring the use of running records with leveled texts. And, while that may be frustrating for proponents of the Science of Reading, running records CAN provide insight into reading strategies. We have long advocated for careful analysis of data and basing subsequent instruction on that data. In fact, that is the basis of our Informed Literacy site. There are ways to analyze a running record to glean pertinent information. Here’s what to look for in a running record of a Kindergartner that will help you determine next steps.

1. When Avery encounters a decodable word in text, does she segment and blend accurately?

Often beginning readers may attempt to segment and blend a word but you may notice that sounds are inserted or omitted. We noticed this with Avery. When she tried tapping to blend, she inserted sounds. She also blended sounds out of sequence.

2. Is Avery relying on picture clues to read?

Remember Sam? Sam looked at the picture and guessed the word boy instead of reading the word lad. Avery’s running record indicates the same behavior. When Avery encounters words that she doesn’t remember as sight words, her first instinct is to look at the picture and guess rather than using the letters to solve the word. She is not yet connecting the printed word with accurate reading. Looking at pictures and guessing at words is NOT reading!

3. Is Avery attending to the pattern of the words or is she just relying on the pattern of the text?

Another thing to look for in an emergent reader’s running record is attention to print. Many of the early leveled readers incorporate a pattern. Occasionally the pattern changes. Does Avery notice the pattern change? If she does notice the pattern change, what strategy is she using to read the change accurately? Is she using print or saying something that makes sense? Anticipating the word, phrase or sentence and filling in something that sounds right is NOT reading!

If you’re not looking at the text along with Avery, she may sound like a strong, confident reader. But a closer look reveals that she is not reading what the author wrote. Instead, she is inserting words and phrases of her own volition.

I’ve noted behaviors associated with a student’s reading. Now what?

Scenario 1 – A tendency to add, insert, or change the sequence of sounds is an indication of a weakness in phonemic awareness. It could mean that Avery simply needs systematic direct instruction in this skill. It could also mean that she has a weak phonemic memory. The only way to tell is to administer a PA assessment to determine specific areas requiring remediation. Heggerty PA has a free baseline and midyear assessment. We also have a PA assessment available in our TPT store complete with guidelines for analysis.

This phonological assessment targets on important foundational skill of reading
This PA Assessment is available in our TPT store. This resource includes guidelines for analyzing.

Scenario 2 – Using the picture clues instead of using the letters can be indicative of several issues. First, Avery may not yet have mastery of her letter names and sounds. Avery must be able to recall letter names and sounds both accurately and automatically. If she does not have mastery of this skill then reading CVC words will be problematic. It’s important to take a closer look at what Avery knows about letters and sounds.

Our Guidelines for Analyzing students' understanding of letter names and sounds provides teachers with ideas of what to look for and activities to help lead students to mastery.
Our FREE Letter Name and Sound Assessment includes Guidelines for Analyzing.

Scenario 3 – Is Avery over-relying on the pattern of the story or is she attentive to print? If you’ve administered a PA assessment and a Letter Name and Sound Assessment and there are no trouble areas, then it’s important to determine Avery’s ability to tap and blend CVC words in print. Providing decodable texts so students can apply their phonetic knowledge to connected print is a crucial stepping stone for emergent readers. Without the opportunity to apply phonetic patterns to meaningful texts, students may inadvertently assume that phonics work is only useful during phonics lessons.

Decodable books help students apply phonetic patterns and develop automaticity.
Our decodable texts (available in our TPT store) include lessons on segmenting and blending phonetically regular words.
Early intervention in foundational reading skills can provide students with the tools to become lifelong readers and prevent them from “Hitting the Third Grade Wall” or reaching the “Fourth Grade Slump”


Similar Posts