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  • Esther Friedman M.Ed.

Can you "CHAMELEON" that word for me?

What do the words "dread","great", and "read" all have in common when it comes to reading?

Attempt 1: They all have an "ea" in middle of them.

Attempt 2: You could either dread reading or be a great reader with nothing in between.

Correct Answer : They all require working memory to decode them.

As parents of developing readers, we are constantly bombarded with words like "working memory". What is it? Essentially, it is the ability to hold one thing in your head while doing, thinking, or saying something else. It is one of THE underlying skills necessary for English reading. You notice that I said English reading?

How is working memory connected specifically to English reading, you wonder, and how can I encourage my child to use it? Because English reading is full of "sound pictures" that can say more than one sound, as in the "ea" that could say /e/, /ai/,and /ea/ in the words dread, great, and read, our children need to learn how to hold a word in their pretty little heads, while trying out different sounds. Have you ever seen a child trying to read, and making wild guesses, changing the word around completely (and eventually the sentence so it will fit) instead of using a "working memory" approach where they change around the sound pattern that COULD be changed. This "working memory" approach is called the CHAMELEON strategy by those of us at Visionary Reading. Just like a chameleon changes his color based on his environment, we have to change around sounds based on the context of our reading and what makes sense using possible sound patterns that CAN change.

Here's the old scenario as you read (in the past) with your daughter with high vocabulary.

Okay sweetie, read this sentence, "I dread reading."

Attempt ONE: I dreed reading...I mean...

Attempt TWO: I freed reading. I mean...

Attempt THREE: I have a fee when I read...

Attempt FOUR: Oh, I am free to read.

Here's the new scenario using our chameleon strategy as you read with your daughter with a high vocabulary.

Okay sweetie, read this sentence. " I don't dread reading anymore."

Attempt 1: "I don't /dreed/ reading anymore. Wait that doesn't make sense."

YOU: Can you chameleon that word to make it make sense? Which sound can you chameleon or change around?

Attempt 2: "Um..the ea can say another sound... Let's see, is it, "I don't /draid/, I'll try the /e/ sound, /dred/... reading anymore? "I don't dread reading now it's easy and I don't mind doing it. Hey, that's talking about me! If I can chameleon a word, I can read anything. What's there to dread?"

I ask you the same question. What's there to dread if you can figure it out on your own? Chameleon, anyone?

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