In an earlier post, I talked about the ‘four roles of the reader’ and how there were some good tips available for targeting activities at each of these roles, provided by Holliday’s text ‘Strategies for Reading Success’. For my own learning process I wanted to focus on doing a bit of research into each of these.

The code-breaker

A reader who is a code-breaker knows how to decode the print information in a text (Holliday, 2008, p. 6). To do this they rely upon their knowledge of the world, the topic and vocabulary of the text, their knowledge of the English language and sound/letter relationships, and an understanding of how to ‘read’ images. This process involves cross-checking one source of information against another to correct errors and rereading or reading ahead to sort out problems of meaning (Holliday, 2008, p. 6). To teach for code-breaking success, the focus should be on:

  • Vocab and topic knowledge
  • Language knowledge, and how English word order affects meaning
  • Knowledge about onset and rime, diagraphs and blends
  • Knowledge that helps them to analyse images (pictures, graphs, maps, diagrams)
Teaching strategies for code-breaker success

To build semantic knowledge: 

  • Orientation to the text – talk about the topic before reading and ask students to share what they know
  • Use the illustrations to introduce new words and link to what students already know
  • Cover key words with sticky notes and reread the text. When each covered word has been reached ask ‘what word would make sense here?’

To build grammatical knowledge:

  • Teach grammar explicitly. Use a picture book to focus on nouns, and ask students to name what they can see. Write each word on a sticky note and place it on the page. Show how to add adjectives to make noun groups (an old house, a black dog)
  • Make sets of colour-coded word cards for sentence making games. Students make sentences and then replace words with another word of the same colour (i.e. adverb or adjective cards)
  • Use a section of the text to focus on a particular grammatical element, such as past tense action verbs. Read the section aloud and isolate the verbs, one at a time, highlighting the ‘ed’ endings. Ask students to find other past tense verbs.
  • Use cloze passages with choices of verbs in past, present and future tense.

To build graphophonic knowledge:

  • Identify the graphophonic knowledge needed to read each new text and teach it explicitly
  • Guessing game – discuss the cover of a text and, covering the title, model how to combine graphophonic, semantic and grammatical knowledge with the illustration, to work out the title
  • Focus on the graphophonic item you want to teach and use a ‘window card’ to isolate it. Get students to build a list of words from the text using the same sound/letter match
  • Build wall charts as new letters and letter clusters are learnt
  • Give students a ‘have a go’ book to try out different spellings and draw on their knowledge of other words to work out spelling
  • Use word cards, letter cards, magnetic letters, flip books, matching tasks etc.

To build visual knowledge:

  • Demonstrate how to extract information from an image and use this as the basis of a factual description i.e. you could use an image of an animal or an object
  • Use big books to demonstrate how visual features work. Ask questions where the answers are contained in the image
  • Read and discuss books where the illustrations and text provide very different information. Similarly use illustrators such as Jeannie Baker to discuss the visual meaning conveyed. Get students to write an accompanying story
  • Do an informative survey and show how to graph results
  • Read a text and use a comparison table to show ‘the print tells us’ and ‘the illustration tells us’


Holliday, M. (2008). Strategies for Reading Success. PETAA: Newtown.


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