It’s a Miscue Not a Mistake

This semester, students in READ 6329.10  were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By B. Leal

We teach what we know.  We see this everywhere, from the way we teach our children how to do something to the way we teach our students any given subject.  We use worksheets because that is what we are told to do, or it’s what we know.  We correct students who are struggling with reading because that is what we have always seen. We, at least I, have never stopped to wonder if this is the best for our students.  What if what I know is wrong, and now I’m passing this on to my students?

When children are struggling to read, most teachers help them along by correcting them when they say an incorrect word.  It is such a common practice, that no one ever questions it.  Yet, it doesn’t matter how many times we correct students, some of them continue to struggle with their reading.

Part of the problem may be with our definition of reading.  Instead of looking at reading as simply saying words, we need to start looking at it as a way to make meaning.  In this way, miscue analysis would be a much better assessment for reading proficiency than the common fluency assessments we use in school.  We are not looking at how many words they say correctly, but rather at how the miscues affect meaning.

Instead of looking at how many words children read correctly for one minute, like fluency testing does; miscue analysis looks at the types and quality of miscues children make while reading.  Rather than looking at children’s mistakes, we look at miscues which provide a picture of what children can do rather than what they lack.

Using miscue analysis as a form of testing to determine what our students can do while reading allows us to develop a better plan to help them.  Most children are used to being told over and over again of their failures, so many of them eventually stop trying.  Our students seem to truly believe they will never become proficient readers.  By analyzing the miscues children make while they read, we can begin to instill a sense of belief in themselves.

By using miscue analysis, we can determine which cuing system our students use proficiently and which they need to practice with.  We need to stop telling our children to sound out words when they don’t know a word – we have been telling them this for years, and their reading hasn’t improved.  Our children need to use syntactic and semantic cues to help them read.  They need to know what they can do well so that they can get better, and miscue analysis is our best tool.


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