Developing Reading Skills using Clozure

Reading skills

No-one questions that reading skills are vital to success but how do teachers teach reading? If you feel you need more skills, then you are in the right place.

How do you teach a child to read?

If you don't have all the answers you need to READ this?



Reading Skills and Clozure


Before Universities took control of teacher training, the teaching of reading was a critical element of all education courses. I don't see the teaching of reading in university courses so much anymore.

The teaching of reading seems to be by osmosis. I hate to be critical of teachers, but honestly, do you teach reading or do you give a kid a book in the hope that reading skills will somehow magically develop? If so you NEED this help.

I am NOT a Reading Skills Nazi but ...

Perhaps I am being unfair, but I doubt it. Reading skills development WAS a big part of the curriculum. Now it has been replaced by reading testing.

Testing - testing - testing!

Do our educational leaders realise that you don't fatten a pig by weighing it? Nor do you improve educational outcomes by ONLY testing.

I am sorry about the soap-boxing.

If you agree then you need to know about CLOZURE and how it relates to reading skills development. Let me just give you a quick (and over simplistic) view of reading. I don't mean to be condescending here and I hope I don't sound like a smart alec.

Reading Skills 101

I support the whole language philosophy of reading but it is not the only approach to reading skills development. It is fair to say whole language  flavours my approach to reading. I believe kids understand text by interpreting syntactic cues and semantic cues. There are also a graphophonic and pragmatic cueing systems but I am not going to deal with that now.

Syntactic Cues relate to the language of tense, number and gender, among other things.

For example.

  • It was so hot he felt like going for a ____________.

The word that makes most sense is SWIM.

Teaching Moments to develop reading skills.

Why wouldn't it be swimming or swam? Because the language would sound all wrong  because that is the wrong tense.

  • She couldn't find _________ bag.

The word that makes the most sense is her.

Teaching Moments to develop reading skills.

Why is it NOT his? Because her is a girl word just like she.

You know what? It could be his.

When could it be his? If she was looking for her brother's bag. What else could it be? It could be their if she was looking for Mum and Dad's bag. Certainly valuable discussion about the use of syntax.

Semantic Cues relate to how meaning is constructed through the understanding of the context.

Semantic Cues relate to how meaning is constructed through the understanding of the context.

For example - use the example above.

  • It was so hot he felt like going for a ____________.

Any number of words would make syntactic sense. For example RUN, BIKE RIDE, PARACHUTE JUMP. Teaching Moments to develop reading skills.  Why does RUN not make sense? Because he said he was HOT and going for a run would make him hotter. There may be scenarios where the kids know of people who go for RUN or a BIKE RIDE to cool down. In these clozure exercises, the important element is clarifying the answers with an explanation.

These two cueing systems are vital to reading skills development and particularly critical to reading comprehension skills.

I hope I haven't shown you how to suck eggs but it is important to understand those two curing systems to appreciate the power of CLOZURE activities.

Reading Skills through CLOZURE

Clozure activities were all the rage about one thousand years ago when I was a baby teacher.  These activities seem less popular today for some reason; and that is a shame because they afford excellent opportunities to actually TEACH reading skills not just TEST them.

How it Works.

It is not rocket science really. You simply present the kids with a text which has a few words deleted. Through discussion, you encourage the kids to use their understanding of the two cueing systems above the determine an appropriate word.

Purists will tell you than only the actual word is correct. However I hold that if the kids can give you a context in which the word would be true, then THAT word is correct.

I would select a text of from 100 words to 200 words and then delete a few words.

Herein lies the dilemma.

Obviously kids need a bulk of text to get meaning so the more you delete, the more difficult the text is to read. (Did I hear you say "Duh!")

Also if the language pattern is complex, say a science text, then the text is more difficult to read. (Again with the "Duh!)

So if clozure has not been in your reading skill repertoire, then hasten slowly.

I suggest you delete a different number of words based on the ability of the reader. For emergent readers delete 1 word in every 15-20 words. For developing readers, delete 1 word in every 12-15 words and for more capable readers 1 deletion every 8-10 words.

Selecting the text

I simple cut text out of known material. If it is skills development then it is easy to start with fairy tale text. I leave the first paragraph untouched so the kids get a gist of the story. I then delete words.

Sometimes you could select them at random. If you are working with adjectives, you might elect to delete more adjectives to instigate discussion about them in future lessons.

It is always amazing at how many kids enjoy working with fairy tales. Some people hate fairy tales for the unrealistic nature of the stories and the gender bias and the social inequities and ...

You could always discuss the negative elements of the fairy tale world if you wish. That would be another spin-off lesson.

However, back to reading skills ...

Once the text is selected and the clozure exercise is completed, the kids need to use their reading skills to find a suitable word or words.

The important part is explaining why. Get them to explain using all the reading skills you have taught them.

Reading Skills

You might be interested in the How to Teach Literacy online course for relief teachers. It is available for FREE for Executive Members.