* What should readers do when they come to a word they don't know? This seemingly simple question is at the heart of learning to respond appropriately to students' reading. Yet many teachers I have worked with have never considered the implications of the traditional ways in which they respond to readers, and their responses fail to recognize what we know about the process of learning to read. For example, what do teachers demonstrate about reading when they immediately correct students' reading miscues (or allow other children to do so)? What strategies will students learn if teachers respond to each hesitation by automatically telling them to "sound it out"?
There is a growing understanding in the educational community that the interaction between teacher and student is critical. How teachers respond to readers will affect their understanding of what reading is and their motivation toward reading and may be one of the most important ways in which teachers can scaffold students' development of reading strategies. Clay's (1991) research showed that children who learn to read successfully develop and monitor strategies for dealing with print. They call upon their knowledge of the world and of language to make predictions, sample enough of the text to confirm their predictions, and monitor their own meaning making. Having a repertoire of strategies to call upon allows young readers to learn more about reading each time they read, in what Clay termed a "self-extending system." The purpose of this article is to provide classroom teachers with guidelines for responding to readers in ways that support the use of strategies for making sense of text.
Traditional responses to readers
How should teachers respond to readers? Let's begin by examining a fictional but realistic reading situation for clues about what not to do. Patricia Reilly Giff's (1984) picture book Today Was a Terrible Day describes a familiar reading experience: Second grader Ronald Morgan is called upon to read aloud during round-robin reading with his low-ability reading …