RMA Helps Readers Revalue Themselves

Retrospective Miscue Analysis invites readers to explore their own sense making. One result is a positive shift in how readers view themselves. That’s revaluing. In her post Reading That Makes Sense, Susan Warren shares another result—a shift in reading proficiency.

Reading That Makes Sense: A Reader Revalued by Susan Warren

“By exploring our miscues, James was developing the idea that reading was not about reading words fast and accurately. He was beginning to understand that reading was about comprehending. When James came to a word he did not know, he needed permission to make a meaningful substitution. We practiced this until he was doing it on his own. Instead of begging me to tell him the word, he started demanding that I not tell him the word, but give him a hint about what it might mean. Success!”

The potential of bringing about these sorts of changes in our readers fuels our enthusiasm for doing RMA.

Read the full blog post here.

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WHO NEEDS TO KNOW MISCUE? by Alan Flurkey

For retrospective miscue.com

This past summer, my colleagues and I hosted another of our biennial conferences on miscue analysis at Hofstra University. One thing that keeps coming back to me is a question asked by some participants after learning the basics of miscue. “Why haven’t I heard about this?” It’s an important question, and its complicated answer is rooted in the entwined histories of such diverse disciplines as cognitive psychology, sociolinguistics, literary criticism, child development, and anthropology, and in the competition among those disciplines over the past 50 years to influence theories of education. It is a competition of ideas that has itself been influenced by shifts in politics and economics—all of which have had a bearing on educational policies and classroom practices. To put it bluntly, “Why haven’t I heard about this?” is a question that gets asked because, as Frank Smith would say, education has “backed the wrong horse.”

As the miscue conference progressed, a second question soon followed the first. “Why doesn’t everyone know about this?” This question was asked, I believe, for the same reasons I asked it myself when I first learned miscue analysis several years ago. I asked it because of the sudden and unparalleled insights miscue analysis afforded me—insights that came from directly observing the strategies readers used as they went about making sense of print. Simply put: miscue changes things. Grasping the miscue concept in reading, and rejecting the concept of “error,” changes the way a teacher views the capabilities of learners. And when RMA is used to share these views with students, they themselves begin to change the way they think about their own capabilities. For teachers, these insights lead to more questions: How do we change our teaching practices to take advantage of the newly recognized capabilities of our students? How can we rethink curriculum to build on students’ interests and curiosities? If education is our social arrangement for fostering our young, then miscue analysis provides the nursery for ideas about growing curriculum up from the roots of learners’ experiences with language and their interests in exploring the world.

I believe that miscue analysis is the shortest, quickest path to understanding reading as transactionLouise Rosenblatt’s term for a reader’s personal response to text. I also believe that miscue analysis is the shortest, quickest path to understanding reading as a language process—that what’s true of language must also be true of reading, as Ken Goodman puts it. These two key constructs, transaction and reading as a language process, are crucial to understanding how reading works, and to effectively supporting reading development. But miscue also puts us on a path that runs headlong into the official policies of the Common Core and the educational-industrial complex that influences those policies.

So who should learn miscue analysis? All teachers, of course. And parents. But then imagine what would happen if your principal and superintendent and school board members grasped the essentials of a transactional socio-psycholinguistic model of literacy and language learning. What would happen then to the sweatshop classrooms, and the joyless day-in day-out routines that pass for curriculum in many of our country’s classrooms if administrative leaders were to do a few miscue analyses on a few typical readers? Imagine the implications of members of Congress coming to terms with insights that result from doing just one miscue analysis. Would they think again about the pipeline that funnels public money to global publishing consortiums? The cost of doing miscue analysis is quite low in terms of time and materials, but the returns would be very high.

Miscue changes things. In the previous post to this blog, Yetta Goodman asks us to just get started. In this post, I ask the uninitiated to just. do. one.

Alan Flurkey for retrospectivemiscue.com

Twitter In the First Grade Classroom

For retrospective miscue.com

Molly Meck’s blog post is a wonderful illustration of how young children begin to control written language conventions at early ages. They do it because they have the need to communicate and because they’re in a place that encourages and supports their efforts. It’s exciting to read about. What will the upcoming school year bring?

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Three years ago as I began my journey at a new tech focused school,  I set up a classroom twitter account. Through that whole year I gained 12 followers about half of which were spam twitter accounts. The next year I didn’t touch my classroom twitter account once. A great deal of this was due to my discomfort and misunderstanding of the technology. I wasn’t sure how to use twitter to share anything other than reminders directed towards families.  Last summer I traveled to NYC to be part of the Teachers College Writing conference. TC heavily uses twitter to tweet out quotes, information, articles, the list goes on and on. Bravely, one day I tweeted out a quote that struck a chord with me and hashtagged it #tcrwp and was thrilled when my tweet was retweeted. I began to follow teachers and presenters I met at the conference. From this…

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READING IS THINKING by Alan Flurkey

For retrospective miscue.com

A colleague recently wrote to tell me that her school had just adopted a DIBELS-like evaluation system, even though she had argued against the idea. Her main objection was the use of the oral reading “fluency” measure that counted correct words per minute. She was sure there was something wrong with this assessment, but she wasn’t sure how to put it into terms that would support her argument.

I agree with her that adopting this reading assessment is a terrible idea. Renowned reading researcher P. David Pearson said in reference to the original, “DIBELS is the worst thing to happen to the teaching of reading since the development of flash cards.”

The topic of “reading fluency “is fresh on my mind because I am currently working with a 5th grader who reads slowly and tentatively. Using miscue analysis, I timed his uninterrupted oral reading of several pages of The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen. His reading rate was about 60 words per minute, and he produced several substitution miscues. All of the miscues were either uncorrected high quality miscues (i.e., they did not disrupt meaning), or they were partially acceptable miscues that were then corrected. His understanding of the text demonstrated through his retelling in which he was able to summarize the plot and describe the characters without any prompting. His retelling was complete.

So, why then did he read so slowly? The brief answer is that he was engaged in solving problems he encountered, and that he was savoring the story—commenting aloud on the text as he read.

There were several instances in which he read very slowly, or paused and took several seconds to produce an oral response. For example, he read the second half of the following sentence very slowly: “The inner walls of the [small intestine] were covered with tiny “fingers” called villi.” Then he paused for a couple of sentences and said “‘Fingers,’ okay, I get it.” Our subsequent RMA conversations revealed that it wasn’t a pronunciation that caused him to pause, it was the placement of the particular word in a new context that caused him to reflect and integrate this new information with what he previously knew. It was the word “fingers,” a word he knew, that caused him to pause and reflect, not “villi,” a term that was new to him.

There were other instances in which he seemed to be wondering aloud about some problem he had just encountered. For example, he read crunching and munching for churning and mashing in the sentence, “The walls of the stomach moved in and out, churning and mashing the food into a thick liquid.” At the end of the paragraph, he stopped orally reading and said “One thing I don’t get about this is ‘crunching’ and ‘munching.’ If you’re munching, don’t you have to, like, grind it against something like your teeth?” And then moments later, after glancing back at the text he said, “Oh, that’s mashing…Well, it kind of means the same thing, so it doesn’t bother me.”

Each miscue observation and RMA conversation has  helped me understand that reading is so much more than quickly identifying words, as the DIBELS-like assessments would lead us to believe. Reading is thinking, and thinking takes time. Readers deserve time to think.

Alan Flurkey for retrospectivemiscue.com