I was working with one of our students on reading when I discovered anew just how confusing words can be.

Avi (age 7) and I were working on a pyramid story, which gives the students practice in looking at one new word at a time with the end goal of building reading fluency and speed.  It looks something like this:


This is

This is a

This is a pyramid

This is a pyramid story.

By the last line, a student can confidently read the entire sentence and often understands it better than simply reading the sentence: This is a pyramid story.

Our pyramid story was about a bird who can fly very high. Avi started out strong:

“The; The b-ir-d… bird! The bird can…”

He stopped and looked up at me with a confused wrinkle in his forehead. He read all the words correctly, so I wasn’t sure what the problem was.

“Yes, Avi?”

He cocked his head, obviously concentrating very hard. “What’s a ‘bird can’?”

While it took a little explaining to clear up his picture of the words, Avi’s dilemma was actually good news. It showed that he is picturing what he reads and can discern when the words make an absurd picture. You see, in addition to working on Avi’s ability to decode words, we’ve been working on his comprehension which involves the integration of words with mental imagery.  We call it visual/verbal integration.  This aspect of Avi’s treatment is progressing well.

Rachel Phelps

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