Read (and look) for meaning/inference

There’s always great excitement when a child begins to read. Even if it’s only a few words that are recognised consistently. Unfortunately this is only the beginning of reading being a useful skill. Word recognition (reading) is only useful if you get a message from it! At the one-word level this could be reacting appropriately to a door with Push on it. Once there is more than one word, the whole is more than the individual parts (words). A sentence might have a couple of key words (e.g. The blue car) where, if there is a choice of different vehicles and only some are blue, you have to get meaning from blue and car to find the right one to match the writing.

Children who read without understanding have been described as barking at print. Others may miss out key words or go so slowly they are unable to retain the whole long enough to make sense of it. Many youngsters find sums in words very difficult since they have to read the words, understand what sort of sum it is, and only then can they try to work out the answer. Making the resources uploaded for word sums, I was amazed (again!) at the incredible demands made on the comprehension of young children. Not only do they have four main operations to cope with in simple mathematics, but English has multiple ways of phrasing word sums. Many different key words for each operation have to be spotted and understood e.g. for addition: add/ plus/ altogether/ combine/ and/ how many/ total…

Seeing people read in the home, hearing them read stories, letters, newspapers – it all helps to build up knowledge that writing conveys what we can say when we talk i.e. it has meaning.

Symbol-support is just what it says. By adding little pictures or symbols to key words, a weak reader gets extra support and information. Non-readers may even be able to use such key word symbols to construct a sentence with something like the meaning of the writing. Symbol-reading is a term I use when there are no written words – just a row of symbols to be ‘read’. If this is an instruction, then it is easy to see if the child has made sense of it because he will do what it represents. Since some children will not have the reading skills to carry out an instruction in written words for years, this is an excellent substitute as it focuses attention, helps them say words in the correct order to make a sentence, and – most importantly – gives a permanent trace which can be looked at again. For a child with poor recall, this is great.

With this symbol reading you can also use normal vocabulary words which are way beyond the reading expectation level. It’s not that the child doesn’t know the words in an instruction like Stick a purple star on the elephant; he knows all those words, but his word reading recognition level might be cat, I, mum. There are some worksheets with symbol reading in the Activity Books listed.

MR GOODGUESS is a resource I designed but could not make myself. So Mr GoodGuess is for sale from Black Sheep Press. It draws attention to the need to infer information from pictures as well as text, and also helps children pay attention to heard information and pick out what is relevant, and what is not. NOW IN COLOUR!

All other resources listed here are free-to-download.

ZED STORIES rfm 1 The Zed stories are the ideas provided by a child. They show a developing complexity. Using the program Communicate:In Print you can help children with little speech but lots of ideas to get something on paper. Making story-boards provides the opportunity to elicit ideas, organise narrative, invite choosing, and make the child’s idea come alive. The adult can add text later and put symbol support on critical key words. Then an adult can read the text and the child can ‘read’ the symbolised words to tell the story. He will be practising some important pre-reading skills.

PRIMARY READING FOR MEANING (I) rfm 2 Pictures with captions to match, together with word cards to build some of the sentences. The matching of captions to pictures is to demonstrate reading for meaning. The word cards can be used for recall and sentence-building. Suggestions included. Three cut and stick worksheets require careful reading and choosing from two words with similar appearance (e.g. girls/grills). Symbols to show story sequence. Completed stories can be read. Non-readers can join in by listening and then using the symbol cues to tell the story.

DOGS and CATS and FISH and BIKES and CARS rfm 3 8 pages of bikes, cars, dogs, cats, birds and fish to be printed as four A4 pages. The fish are in two sizes. Print 2-up single-sided on A4. Use paper for the cut and stick activity, or card to make sorting cards. With one set of pictures on paper (printed 2-up single-sided), you will be able to do the 4 pages of reading-for-meaning cut and stick work. There is sufficient symbol support for many less able children to ‘read’ the symbols and succeed in finding the correct pictures. Tentative readers will be helped by the symbols too. The sorting grids should be printed A4 size, single-sided. Many children interpret pictures too literally and will say there are only two wheels on a car because those are all that can be seen. The grids are for sorting by 0/2/4 legs; different movement styles; and 2/4 wheels. Use the fish pictures to work on big and little.

MATCH SPEECH BUBBLES ETC. rfm 4 Print 2-up single-sided on paper. Do cut and stick pairing of cartoon and bubble. 4 sets of 6 per page. Errors can be useful as discussion starters. Extra page of cartoons has empty bubbles to be completed. Could be a useful activity for paired kids with mixed level of reading/writing skills. Also for EAL.

WORKING WITH CUISENAIRE RODS rfm 5 Six pages of activities with the coloured rods using some of the vocabulary and concepts from Yrs 1 and 2 Primary Strategy Numeracy Objectives and other texts. Reasonable reading level required. An attempt to make visible situations where these maths words and phrases are required.

INFERENCE – READING FOR MEANING AND INFERRING PT 1 (READING FOR MEANING PROJECT) rfm 6 A resource under development aimed at children with fair reading skills who do not pick up on all the meaning behind the words. Three stories with suggested activities based on published research as to what helps children focus on implied information.

SPACE – READING FOR MEANING rfm 7 Pictures with captions to match. Use to check knowledge and reading for meaning accuracy. Early reading vocabulary and simple sentence construction.

ANCIENT EGYPT – READING FOR MEANING rfm 8 Pictures with captions. Use to check knowledge and reading for meaning accuracy. Early reading vocabulary and simple sentence construction.

READ, MATCH TO PICTURE, SEQUENCE rfm 9 Four events presented in a similar format with 8 pictures to each.

CHRISTMAS – READING FOR MEANING rfm 10 Illustrated with Widgit CIP. Pictures with captions to match. Use to check reading for meaning accuracy. Early reading vocabulary and simple sentence construction. Can also be sequenced to build nativity story.

ANTARCTICA – READING FOR MEANING rfm 11 Pictures with captions to match. Use to check knowledge and reading for meaning accuracy. Content has been simplified as much as possible but many special words are needed for the topic.

VIKINGS – READING FOR MEANING rfm 12 Illustrated with Widgit or PCS symbols. Pictures with captions for fairly easy reading and discussion.

INFERENCE – READING FOR MEANING AND INFERRING  PT 2 rfm 13 Illustrated with Widgit symbols. Three further stories following the same format as before. Text for retelling, straightforward questions and suggestions for inferential questions. Includes mind-map about reading for meaning.

TIME – WHEN SHOULD I START? (SCHEDULING) rfm 14 Worksheets introducing scheduling tasks to be solved by working backwards from the ‘end time’. Problems presented in short narratives.

INFER WHAT IS MISSING FROM PICTURE SEQUENCES rfm 15 4-picture sequences with one picture is omitted from each. The gap is intended to promote discussion and inference. The missing pictures are included for later use. Can be used for writing missing links and/or whole stories.

READING FOR MEANING – ANCIENT GREEKS rfm 16 Two resources with pictures and captions. Firstly to introduce some vocabulary and information, and secondly to check that the captions can be read and matched correctly. Illustrations from Widgit and ClipArt.

READING FOR MEANING – THE TUDORS rfm 17 Cut and match pictures and captions. This set requires some inferring. Mind-maps repeated here from another resource. These also require word recognition and comprehension. They could be used as word mats.

INFERENCE: INFER WHAT IS MISSING FROM SEQUENCES 2  rfm 18 4-picture sequences illustrated with PCS or Widgit symbols. One picture is omitted from each sequence and the gap is intended to promote discussion and inference. The missing pictures are included for later use. Can be used for writing missing links and/or whole stories.

INFERENCE: WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY HOMOGRAPH SYMBOLS rfm 19 Poorly chosen Widgit symbols illustrate that words can be misleading. Scope for discussion and correction.

PRIMARY READING FOR MEANING (II) – NON-CONTENT WORDS rfm 20  Illustrated with PCS or Widgit symbols. Sets of pictures with text captions which include many of the ‘little words’ that affect meaning. Captions can be read by child or adult as appropriate. The child must choose the correct picture to label. The choice he makes will help the adult to check comprehension.

MATHS CONCEPT WORDS AND PHRASES – WORKSHEETS rfm 21 (Numbers refer to pages in illustrated maths concept words and phrases.) 2: all, some, none, pair, first, last. 3: bigger, smaller, lots, a few, too many, not enough. 4: equal. 5: all, some, only one. 6: all except one, both, the other one. 7: whole, half, quarter. 8: position in row. 10: some, more, the most, less. 11: 1st,2nd,3rd. Illustrated with PCS or Widgit symbols.

WORD SUMS: 2 GAMES (ADDITION & SUBTRACTION ONLY) rfm 22 Designed for children who can read and do simple calculations but who struggle to make sense of word sums and need to learn to spot the key words which help.

WORD SUM WORKBOOK (ADD & SUBTRACT ONLY) rfm 23 For children with number skills and reasonable reading skills who have difficulty sorting out what the word sum means they have to do. 8 pages of questions about a situation, working towards 2-step problems. Illustrated with PCS or Widgit symbols in Numicon layout.

PRIMARY READING FOR MEANING III – PRONOUNS WITH SYMBOLS (NON-CONTENT WORDS 3) rfm 24 A further set of cards with captions for working specifically on understanding and using pronouns for people. Widgit pronoun symbols have been added to the text. Adaptable for listening or reading.

WORD SUM WORKBOOK (2) (ADD & MULTIPLY ONLY) rfm 25 For children with number skills and reasonable reading skills who have difficulty sorting out what the word sum means they have to do. 8 pages of questions about a situation, including a few 2-step problems. Numicon layout. Building on workbook 1 (add and subtract) to improve recognition of some of the key words that identify which of the operations that result in a bigger number is needed.

CALENDARS AND WORKSHEETS rfm 26 Calendars with opportunities to talk about the season, the weather and special days. Designed for regular work to develop knowledge of how the year divides, how we talk about days and dates etc. Suggestions for questions and a worksheet to complete.

TRADITIONAL TALES – THE FROG PRINCESS rfm 27 A Russian fairy tale retold at three levels: simple plus symbol support of Widgit/PCS symbols, early reading with illustrations, longer version to read aloud with many opportunities for additional spoken language tasks. Additional activities: colouring, sequencing, read and match.

Each version of the tale has opportunities for evaluating the text and/or pictures and drawing out meanings of new vocabulary, making inferences about the characters and what they do, predicting what will happen next and so on.

TRADITIONAL TALE – BLONDINE, BONNE-BICHE & BEAU-MINON rfm 28 A French fairy tale retold at three levels: simple plus symbol support of Widgit/PCS symbols, early reading with illustrations, longer version to read aloud with many opportunities for additional spoken language tasks. Additional activities: colouring, sequencing, read and match.  See above for ideas about working on meaning/inference.

TRADITIONAL TALE – THE REAL PRINCESS rfm 29 A Danish Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale (AKA The princess and the pea / The princess on the pea). Retold at three levels: simple plus symbol-support of Widgit/PCS symbols, early reading with illustrations, and a version as a poem to read aloud (or for readers with RA 10-11y). Additional activities: colouring, read / match caption to picture and sequence.  See above for ideas about working on meaning/inference.

TRADITIONAL TALE – LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD rfm 30 A fairy tale retold at three levels: simple plus symbol-support of Widgit/PCS symbols, early reading with illustrations, longer version to read aloud with many opportunities for spoken language tasks. Additional activities: colouring, read / match caption to picture and sequence.  See above for ideas about working on meaning/inference.

TRADITIONAL TALE – THE TWELVE BROTHERS rfm 31 Traditional tale – The Twelve Brothers. A Brothers Grimm German fairy tale retold at three levels: simple plus symbol-support of Widgit/PCS symbols, early reading with illustrations, longer version to read aloud with many opportunities for spoken language tasks RA 11y approx. Additional activities: colouring, read / match caption to picture and sequence, tessellations with suggestions. See above for ideas about working on meaning/inference.

TRADITIONAL TALE – CINDERELLA rfm 32 A tale which is known in many countries. Retold at three levels: simple plus symbol-support of Widgit/PCS symbols; early reading with illustrations; longer version (RA 11y approx.) to read aloud, with many opportunities for spoken language tasks. Additional activities: colouring, read / match caption to picture and sequence the story; Write-about outline booklet with 8 pictures as prompts; tessellations. With Guide. See above for ideas about working on meaning/inference.

TRADITIONAL TALE – THE MAGIC HORSE (from 1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS) rfm 33 A tale originally called The Ebony Horse from 1001 Arabian Nights. Retold at three levels: plus symbol-support of Widgit/PCS symbols; early reading with illustrations; longer version (RA 11y approx.) to read aloud, with many opportunities for spoken language tasks. Additional activities: colouring; read / match caption to picture and sequence the story; Write-about outline booklet with 8 pictures as prompts; tessellations. With Guide. See above for ideas about working on meaning/inference.

TRADITIONAL TALE – THE LADY AND THE LION rfm 34 Rather similar tales by the Brothers Grimm have been used for reference. Retold at three levels: simple plus symbol-support of Widgit/PCS symbols; early reading (RA 6-8y) with illustrations; longer version (RA 10-11y) to read aloud, with many opportunities for spoken language tasks. Additional activities: colouring; read / match caption to picture and sequence the story; writing frame booklet with 12 pictures as prompts; tessellations. With Guide. See above for ideas about working on meaning/inference.

RECALL, RETELL STORIES rfm 35 Print single-sided on A4. 12 pictures with 3 sentences to be read out to make a ‘story’ as the child sees the picture. Read twice through and then ask the child to retell the story. Then put the suggested questions. You can also use the text and questions for more able children to read and answer the questions by writing. All answers available from the text.

WHAT CAN I INFER BOOKMARKS rfm 36 Bookmarks with reminders about the sort of information for which there might be clues in the text: what happened, when, who is it about, how do they feel, where did it happen, why and how. (An excellent prompt for the sort of information needed for comprehension tests!)