MISCUES I’VE KNOWN AND LOVED by Yetta Goodman

For retrospective miscue.com

Dorothy Watson, our colleague, highlights the power of miscue analysis with her concept “Miscues I’ve Known and Loved” (Watson & Stansell, 1980).  Miscues helped Ken Goodman discover a window into the reading process and when teachers working with readers discover the miscues they and their students make, they discover windows into their students’ knowledge about language and understandings about their reading. Miscues reveal readers’ sense making.  There is no reading without meaning making/comprehension. That is the goal all readers share.

In this post, I select a few of my favorite high quality miscues I’ve known and loved that reveal the successful predicting and confirming strategies readers. These miscues result in sentences that are semantically and syntactically acceptable that make little or no change to the meaning of the text.

Brian, an eighth grader, is reading a short story.  Attached is a transcript of the first seven lines of text marked with his oral miscues. He makes three miscues in these four sentences.  Let’s look at each separately.  In the first sentence, (line 012) Brian reads fruit for fruits.  In coding this sentence, I read it as Brian did: “having fresh fruit and vegetables.” I code this miscue and the sentence in which it occurs as semantically (Y=Yes) and syntactically acceptable (Y=Yes).  In other words, the sentence sounds like language (grammatically acceptable in English) and makes sense in the whole story.  I also code it as causing no change to the meaning (N) of the story.  Fruit is a high quality miscue. According to our research, these are the kind of miscues proficient readers make. Brian predicts fruit for fruits because in English grammar both fruit and fruits can be treated as plurals depending on the context such as this one.   Just a Short Trip

In the next sentence there are two miscues: the substitution of to for a and the omission of of the prior to apples.  Brian reads, “I turned to….  self corrects immediately, repeating the beginning of the sentence with the expected response: “I turned a sharp corner” continuing into the next clause reading: “and apples rolled a…  all over the floor of the car.”  I code this sentence as semantically and syntactically acceptable.  The sentence makes sense now that Brian self corrected his prediction of to.  “I turned to….”   is perfectly acceptable with the prior language of the sentence but not with what follows. His immediate self correction shows that he knows “to sharp corner” would not be acceptable as he disconfirms his prediction. He does not self correct the omission of the prior to apples because this sentence is semantically and syntactically acceptable without the determiner prior to apples.

Brian is selective about what he chooses to self correct. He self corrects miscues that will not result in an acceptable sentence, but doesn’t bother with miscues that do not disrupt acceptability. He uses the meaning of the story and its grammar to make decisions about when and where to self correct. Because readers focus on meaning making, they are usually unaware of their high quality miscues and their predicting and confirming strategies in such contexts. In the next sentence, Brian again does not self correct his omission when he predicted “kick some apples” which results in acceptability and again there is no need to self correct.

As teachers do miscue analysis, they also discover the power of such high quality miscues and understand that miscues are an aspect of how we all read. I have similar miscue data throughout Brian’s reading of this story and can share his reading patterns with him to help him understand that all readers make miscues. His fairly complete retelling also corroborates his comprehension

We also have research data on large numbers of readers that provide corroborating evidence. (Y. Goodman, 2016).  Brian is an efficient and effective reader. He gathers the least amount of surface information from the print in the text (efficient) in order to make sense (effective). And he brings his background and linguistic knowledge to his reading.

It is inefficient for readers to correct all miscues. In our large database studies, no group of readers reading a whole text overtly self-corrected more than 40% of their miscues. Efficient and effective readers make decisions about when to self correct. When readers make miscues that are fully acceptable in a sentence, they are usually unaware of those miscues. They confirm their miscues silently (no need for correction) and continue reading. Readers disconfirm and self-correct miscues that disrupt the acceptability to a much greater extent than acceptable miscues in fractions of seconds. Self-correction strategies are rarely for the purpose of accuracy nor do they need to be. They are for the purpose of the reader constructing a meaningful text.

So what does this mean for reading instruction? Encourage lots of reading for Brian so he becomes confident as a reader. Most important is for teachers to understand that miscues are an ongoing part of the reading process and that not all miscues should or need to be corrected.   Readers’ miscue patterns in a whole story plus their retelling provide evidence about readers’ sense making. Readers should become aware of the nature of their own miscues through conversations with their teachers. This is the central theme in The Essential RMA. In future posts, I’ll discuss other miscue patterns with alternate suggestions for instruction.

Yetta Goodman

The Essential RMA:  http://www.retrospectivemiscue.com

Richard C. Owen: http://www.rcowen.com

Goodman, Y., Martens, P., Flurkey, A., (2014) The Essential RMA: A window into readers’ thinking. Katonah, NY: Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc.

Goodman, Y. (2016) Miscue Analysis: A transformative tool for researchers, teachers and readers (p. 1-19).  Literacy research, theory, method and Practice. Literacy Research Association Yearbook.

Watson, D. & Stansell J. (1980) Miscues We’ve Known and Loved. Reading Psychology 1(2). 127 – 132.

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