Dynamic Reading and Writing  - Expert Techniques by Sylvia Hannah Sinclaire


  1. Using Comfortable Reading Material
  2. Children are often required to read material that is too hard for them. Here's a simple way to select comfortable reading material.

    5 Finger Method
    • Open a book to the middle.
    • Count 100 words.
    • Have your child read this passage aloud.
    • Each time he or she makes a word reading error, bring down 1 finger.
    • If you bring down more than 5 fingers, then this reading material is too difficult.

    NOTE: Children can use the 5 finger technique to select their own reading materials.

  3. Determining the Instructional Reading Level
  4. At this level, your child can read over 90% of the words in a book accurately, on his or her first reading.

    He or she might need a little support from you, e.g. helping to read a character's name, etc.

    This is the level for teaching and instruction.

    And learning.

    This is the level at which children should be reading their storybooks, novels, and textbooks in their classrooms.

    NOTE: When you teach your child how English words work, using techniques from my book, you'll find that your child's reading level will grow before your eyes. It will be like a reading growth spurt!!

  5. Determining the Independent Reading Level
  6. This is comfortable reading.

    After children/students have read material once, at their instructional level, and been taught any unknown words and concepts from that material, that material is now at their independent reading level.

    They can read it on their own. Independently.

    This is likely the reading level of the material we choose, as adults, when we read just before we go to sleep. Children will likely do the same.

  7. Frustration Reading
  8. When children are reading material that is too hard, you'll notice that:

    • their shoulders become tense
    • their voice becomes higher, and unnatural
    • their feet swing rapidly, back and forth
    • their body might rock
    • their eyes might dart away from the page of print

    You might notice other behaviors as well.

    There's a sense of panic.

    One of my students described it like this: " I feared reading as if English was an alien language forced upon me."

    We want reading to be a pleasurable activity for our children.

  9. What If Storybooks, Novels, and Textbooks Are Too Hard?
  10. Sometimes our children/students are given reading materials that are at their frustration reading level.

    What can you do as parents?

    • You can get their school to select easier material.
    • You can read the storybook, novel, or textbook to your child. Aloud, or on tape. You can get a taped or CD version.
    • You can help your child learn words more quickly through coaching, tutoring, or intensive support, which will give them the tools they need, to become more successful readers.

    Students will learn little if they are frustrated and angry about what they have to read.

  11. What If My Child/Student Is Interested In A Hard Book? Should I Let Them Read It?
  12. Your child/student might be willing to read difficult reading material if he or she is interested in it.

    If someone is interested in a topic, they may be familiar with a number of the longer information words. They might understand the material because they are interested in understanding it.

    In this kind of scenario, interest, not difficulty, will (and should) probably take priority.

    You could also attempt to find an easier book on the same topic.

  13. Spelling Hard Words
  14. Certain words, or parts of words, are hard to remember, e.g. the "cause" part of "because".

    Learn these hard parts by using techniques that good spellers use:

    • Picture the hard part as a bubble coming out of a cartoon character's mouth.
    • Look up to picture the cartoon character and the word.
    • Say the letters, looking up at them.
    • Say the letters, looking up, after you've taken them away.
    • Spell the letters (word) on paper.
    • Look up to see if you spelled what you pictured.
    • If you didn't, go through the steps one more time.

  15. Spelling Long Words
    • Listen for the number of syllables.
    • Draw lines for each syllable, e.g. ___ ___ ___, for "pretending".
    • Figure out the accented syllable by humming the word. The accented syllable will sound longer, or higher, or stronger.
    • Raise the accented syllable, e.g. ___ ----- ___.
    • The vowel sound in the accented syllable will sound clear.
    • Spell that syllable first, e.g. ___ tend ____.
    • If you hear beginnings or endings that you know, spell them next, e.g. pre tend ing.
    • Spell the whole word as you normally see it, e.g. pretending.

  16. Spelling Unclear Vowel Sounds In Long Words
    • In long words, there is one vowel sound that is easy to hear. It is the vowel sound in the accented syllable, e.g. PRO-bab-ly.
    • The other vowel sounds are harder to hear. That makes them harder to spell.
    • These unaccented vowel sounds are called "schwas" and they are spelled in the dictionary like this: [ə]
    • Usually, the real spelling, for the schwa sound is: "a", "e", or "i".
      • e.g. ə-BOUT for "about"
      • b ə-TWEEN for "between"
      • d ə-VIDE for "divide"

    There seem to be a lot of "i's" in English words, so I tell students to try the letter "i" first, when they're not sure of the spelling of an unclear vowel sound, e.g. ən-də-VIS-ə-blə for "indivisible".

  17. What Are Open And Closed Vowels?
  18. Most people don't know about open and closed vowels.

    Let me show you why they're so important for reading and spelling success.

    • Some vowels in syllables are followed by, or closed up by, consonants, e.g. cap, sub-mit.
    • These vowel sounds are easy to predict. They say the following sounds: "a" as in "cat", "e" as in "pen", "i" as in "rib", "o" as in "dog", "u" as in "rug". These are called short sounds.
    • Some vowels in syllables are open. They are not closed up by consonants, e.g. he, go, a-corn, por-cu-pine.
    • These open vowels could say two sounds, not one. They could say a short sound, or, what we call a long sound (which is the letter name of the vowel), e.g. ae, ee, ie, oe, and ue.
    • When you find open vowels, it's important to try each sound, until you produce a word that sounds real, e.g. "a-tom" or "ae-tom", "o-pen" or "oe-pen".
    • In long words, we don't print the letter "e" behind open vowels to show that they are long sounds, like we do with short words, e.g. "ride" versus "hi-ber-nate".

  19. What Is Linguistics? How Does It Help With Reading And Spelling?
  20. Linguistics is, partly, the study of the sounds people make when speaking.

    Because reading and spelling are essentially "sounds written down", we should all know more about what we say, and how we say it.

    Linguistics explains:

    • Why we have three pronunciations for the past tense "-ed", e.g. "dropped", "hummed", "handed".
    • Why we print the letter "d" in words like: "ledge", "dodge", etc.
    • Why we print "-es" and not "-s" for some plural words, e.g. "churches" not "churchs", "dishes" not "dishs", etc.
    • Why children make certain spelling mistakes, e.g. "jress" for "dress", "chrain" for "train", "sad" for "sand", etc.


My book, "Why Your Child Can't Read And Spell And What YOU Can Do About It", explains all of this and more, and shows you how to help your child. To purchase my book, visit this website.