Developing Attention to Detail When Reading

Key Points, Information& Techniques


Skill targeted/ objective for reading instruction:

The targeted skill/objective is for the student to develop the ability to carefully and accurately process all the letters/sounds in a word. This attention to detail is critical for accuracy and the development of proficient reading. Skilled reading involves focus on the internal details of the word.

To read proficiently, the student must process all sounds in order, without skipping any sounds or adding sounds that are not actually there. Words are too similar (insist-insect-inspect) (stain-strain) (play-ploy) (stay-stray) (form-from) (tree-three-there) (then-than) (change-charge) (strange-strong-string).  Only 26 letters make up ALL our words!


Key Points for Classroom  & Individual Instruction:

· Attention to detail is critical for accuracy. The details do make a difference!

· The internal details, paying close attention and correctly processing every sound within the word are critical to the development of proficient reading.

· Teach ‘careful’ reading from the very beginning.

· Focus on accuracy! Speed will develop with time/practice as the student builds fluency. Fluency is build word by word from repeated practice of correct accurate phonologic processing. If the student is not processing carefully they will not develop the accurate ‘fast/fluent’ neural model of the word necessary to build the fluency! Correct and accurate phonologic processing is the necessary foundation for developing fluency. See the article Fluency Explained for additional information.

· Paying attention to detail is closely intertwined with helping the student develop skills in proper tracking and correct phonologic processing. Remember individual skills are not isolated. See the article Overview of Skills Needed for Proficient Reading.

· Many struggling readers need explicit work on careful attention to detail. Common reading errors often reflect the need to develop this essential skill.


Techniques for Teaching/Developing Attention to Detail:

· Directly teach the student to look carefully! Emphasize care and accuracy.

· Encourage accuracy over speed in beginning reading.

· Correct the student to help the student develop attention to detail. Stop the student when they miss a sound/add a sound that is not there. Have the student reread the word. Remind them to look carefully, if they need the verbal hint. 

· Avoid using materials where a child can succeed without looking carefully (For example, rhyming word lists where the student can develop the habit of only looking at first letter and simply rhyming it with the previous word)

· Avoid teaching word families or blended consonants as a cluster/unit. 

· Avoid situations where the student is more apt to rush and get in the habit of ‘fast & sloppy’ reading. Avoid timing the student with a stopwatch as this tends to make students ‘rush’. The teacher obviously may need to track time/ but avoid ‘timing the student’. This is particularly important in the beginning stages.

· Some students have a ‘rush’ personality trait. These students tend to rush through much of their work. They make errors not because they can’t perform the skill but because they don’t take the time to perform it correctly. The best way to slow these ‘impatient’ readers down is to STOP them every time they make a mistake and have them back up and re-read the entire sentence. Because they remain impatient to finish they begin to pay closer attention so they are not forced to stop. It takes  direct correction, but it does help them build the careful attention to detail that is important to proficient reading. 


Additional free information on teaching students to read is located at Reading Information and Information & Resources for Teaching Reading pages of the Right Track Reading website. 


This article was written by Miscese Gagen a mother with a passion for teaching children to read proficiently by using effective methods. She is also a successful reading tutor and author of the reading instructional programs Right Track Reading Lessons and Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons. The purpose of this article is to empower parents and teachers with information on teaching children how to read. We CAN improve reading proficiency, one student at a time!  More information is located at ~ Copyright 2008 Miscese R. Gagen