Eye on the Sky Project FIRST: Fostering Reading Through Science and Technology
Tutor Guide to Early Literacy
tutor guidelines
tutor techniques
skill development
reading technique
wrting technique
student activities
Updated: 04/23/02
reading techniques
Reading with your student is an important part of the tutoring session. Below are some techniques for helping students get the most out of their reading. Good readers rarely pick up a book and simply start reading. Here are some suggestions for increasing student comprehension. Don’t forget--reading is not just decoding, but understanding what is being read.
reading with your student
Before Your Student Starts Reading…
  • Talk about the title, pictures, and author and illustrator of the book and ask children to guess what the book might be about.

  • Do a Picture Walk to get students familiar with the book. Go through the book, looking briefly at each page. Make predictions as you go through the pictures.

  • Encourage your student to connect the book to her own experiences. Have you ever done anything like what you see on the cover?

As your Student Reads…

  • When your student comes to an unknown word, encourage her to “give it a try.”

  • Let your student make some effort and finish a sentence before you stop and correct.

  • Give your student a prompt to help figure out a word.

  • Ask children to tell in their own words what they just read.

After Your Student Reads…

  • Talk it over and ask questions--

    —Who was your favorite character, why?
    —What was interesting to you?
    —How else could this story have ended?
    —Why do you think certain events happen in the story?
    —Were your guesses about the story right?

  • Add information about the subject to enrich background information.

reading out loud with your student
  • Scan the story before you start to read with your student.

  • Identify the words your student may not know.

  • Pre-teach the unknown words.

  • There should only be a few unknown words. Make sure that the book is not frustrating to your student.

  • You may want to read part of it aloud before asking him or her to read it.

  • Keep interruptions to a minimum. Only correct those miscues which affect the text’s meaning.

  • Try to make a note of consistent errors to work on later after the reading is finished.

What do effective readers do
  • Look at pictures in the book for information about the story and clues about what a new word might be.

  • Look for a known chunk or small word (e.g., “child” in “children”).

  • Read a new word using only the beginning and ending sounds.

  • Think of a word that looks like the difficult word (e.g., if the word is bat, think of a word that looks like this word, only with a different first letter).

  • Find the small words in the big word (e.g., “book” and “case” in “bookcase”).

  • Skip the unknown word and read to the end of the sentence. Go back to the beginning of the sentence and try the word again.

  • Substitute a word that makes sense. Think about the story, does the word you are using make sense? Does it look right, does it sound right?
  • Link to prior knowledge about the book’ s topic.

  • Predict and anticipate what could come next.

From: Weaver, C., Gillmeister-Krause, L., and Vento-Zogby, G. (1996). Creating support for effective literacy education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann


It is a good idea to ask questions before, during and after a story is read.

Before Reading

Ask students to make predictions about what they are reading. You can ask questions like—

“What do you think the story is about?”

“Who do you think is the main character?”

“What do you think will happen? Why do you think that?”

During Reading

Asking questions as students read is appropriate for all readers, but it is especially helpful for more independent readers. These questions encourage students to continue reading for a purpose and help them to comprehend the text. These questions should be used at important points in the story. Examples of questions are:

“What do you think will happen next?”

“How do you think the problem will get solved?”

“Why do you think the character decided to do what s/he did?

After Reading

Asking questions at the end of a story allows the student to reflect on the reading and to relate it to her own experiences. It also allows you to see how well the student has understood what she had read and whether she has grasped the main ideas.

“Tell me the story in your own words.”

“Were your guesses right?”

“What surprised you the most in the story?”

“What did you like best about the story? Why?”

“Who was your favorite character? Why?”

“How would you change the ending?”

Questioning Tips…

  • The questions should be brief and more like a discussion or conversation. Your student should not feel like they are taking a test!

  • Pose questions that invite a personal response—for example,
    “What would you have done if you were the main character in the story?”
    “What have you ever done that is like the story?”

  • Questions should help student make connections between the reading material and experiences she has had.

  • Ask students to infer something from their reading.

  • Ask students to put themselves in the shoes of another character.

  • Pose open-ended questions and avoid those with a yes or no answer.

encouraging independence as students advance

There are many ways to work on reading with students

  • They can read aloud to us
  • We can do a shared reading
  • We can read to them

Most students really enjoy reading with a tutor in a supportive learning environment. But as they become more competent readers, it is important to encourage students to become independent, successful readers. Our goal is to help students internalize good strategies for reading and understanding when they are reading without our help.

Here are suggestions to encourage independence with more advanced young readers--

In the tutorial:

  • Select a book and do a picture walk. The content area should be familiar to your student. Ask your student a few questions about the book, encouraging him or her to make predictions. Work on enriching background information before you start reading.

  • Ask your student to read silently. You will have to judge for yourself how much to read. Start with a short passage, or perhaps a page or two and see how much your student understood. You can read along silently too.

  • Assess your student’s comprehension. Ask your student to retell what they just read and ask questions to check for comprehension.

  • Your student can then read the passage to you and you can go over it together. You can talk about strategies for reading by yourself and discuss what you do when you read alone.

At home:

  • Start a dialog journal. Begin by giving your student a writing prompt. It can be connected to what they have been doing in your tutorials or more personal (birthdays, losing a tooth, things to do on the weekends).

  • Ask them to write at home and bring it back for the next session. You then write a short response to their writing and a dialog begins.

  • Give them the journal with your comments at the end of your next tutorial and ask them to respond to you. This encourages them to read and write on their own about things they like.
©2002 UC Regents