Establishing Proper Directional Tracking

Key Points for Classroom Activities


Skill targeted/reading objective: For the student to acquire and automatically apply proper left-to-right straight line processing of print.


Key Points for Classroom Instruction:

· The necessary left-to-right straight line processing of printed English is not natural. To insure child acquires this essential skill, left to right tracking needs to be explicitly taught.

· Use direct instruction; explicitly demonstrate and teach proper tracking.

· Require physical tracking.

· Design activities to encourage/require proper tracking. Avoid activities that could inadvertently confuse proper tracking. 

· Inform parents they can directly help their child develop necessary tracking skills by simply using their finger when they read to their child. 


Techniques for Teaching Proper Tracking:

· Demonstrate Proper Tracking: Demonstrate proper tracking whenever possible by follow under words with your finger as you read. This simple act can occur anytime you read to your students. Children learn much from observation. Children whose parents have read to them with finger tracking left to right, often acquire this proper directional tracking skill long before formal reading instruction begins.  By demonstrating finger tracking, parents and teachers can help children engrain this necessary skill.

· Require Physical Tracking (Finger or Pointer Tracking): “Use your finger!” This very simple technique is a highly effective multisensory method of developing proper directional tracking. Have the student use their finger in all reading instructional activities. This kinetic process of finger movement is critical in helping develop necessary left-to-right processing. The motion works! In addition, the physical pointing also helps the student visually focus on the correct spot and improves attention to detail.   Finger tracking is highly effective with helping beginner readers establish proper directional tracking. Physical tracking is absolutely essential in remediation situations, as struggling readers often have not acquired this essential left to right straight line processing.

Age adaptations: Have younger children use their ‘reading finger’. Older students generally prefer to use a pointer (pencil, toothpick).

Note: As the student’s reading ability advances, they will eventually outgrow the need to physically track. This tends to naturally happen as the student builds fluency. When the student is automatically applying the left to right tracking and no longer makes tracking errors, you can discontinue the requirement for physical tracking.

· Design Activities to Teach/Reinforce Proper Tracking: Design and conduct reading activities to reinforce the necessary left to right directional tracking. Have students read word lists across the page instead of up and down columns. Have student write across the page. Avoid activities that encourage or allow the child to ‘hop’ around the page when reading. 

Further information on directional tracking is located in the article, Directional Tracking Explained: Why Directional Tracking Is Essential for Reading Development and How to Teach Your Child or Student Proper Directional Tracking


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