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Collin’s Story: The Reading Finger

Collin and I are continuing to read and write together one or two times a week. I hope that as I share our stories with you, you are able to take bits of learning for yourself to use with your own students.

After students have gained some comfort and experience in reading, I look to help them move toward independent reading. Once a student has firmly established one-to-one matching and has started to develop a core of words they can recognize in print, I begin to ask them to take away the ‘reading finger’. The ‘reading finger’ refers to using a finger to point to each word as a student reads. This helps them attend to the print and keep track of where they are.

As a student stops using the reading finger, I first have them stop using it with familiar text, and then I encourage them drop it when reading new text. Reading without using the reading finger may cause a student to make more errors and they may have some lapses in one-to-one matching. There is no eyeball on the end of the finger to help them along. Beginning readers need to learn to orchestrate looking and saying.

A reading finger most often negatively impacts fluency. Sometimes teachers will see a child make an error and will ask them to read it again using a reading finger. I think that is often a mistake and sends the wrong message. Yes, ask them to read it again – but tell them to check more carefully!

In previous posts, I have shared with you my work with Collin, as he learns to read. In my last few sessions with Collin, I have started asking him to try reading without his reading finger. You will see in this video that he can do it, but he often forgets and needs to be reminded. I feel that reading without using his finger makes him slightly more fluent. I don’t think he needs that finger anymore. Watch this clip and see what you think.

Michèle Dufresne is author of many Pioneer Valley Books  early readers (including the Bella and Rosie series), Word Solvers (Heinemann), and an early literacy and literacy intervention consultant.

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