Have you ever needed to use your finger to help you focus on letters and words while you are reading? This small finger movement helps with a key process in reading development: directional tracking. Miscese Gagen from Right Track Reading explains, “We read and write English from left-to-right. This left-to-right horizontal arrangement of print is an essential component of the written English language. Proper directional tracking is looking at and processing all the letters in order from left-to-right. Proper directional tracking is essential for reading success.”
GrapeSEED Students at Buckeye Elementary, Salem City Schools in Ohio
Directional tracking is a process that experienced readers take for granted. We know that we are supposed to read English from left to right and process letters and words in that order. However, these concepts about print can be a difficult concept to explain to young children just learning to read or English language learners (ELLs) using home languages that do not follow left-to-right, top-to-bottom ordering in writing. That’s why it is important to demonstrate directional tracking as you read with these young learners. By showing them how to track the letters, words and lines of text, they can see and begin to understand the correct way to read.
Mr. Jason, from Timothy’s Angels Child Development Center in Louisville, Kentucky, helps a 4-year-old student use his GrapeSEED book for the first time.
Children love to move – they learn through moving. It may sound like such a small, simple movement, but having children use a finger or pointer to follow along as they read text can have a major impact on their literacy development.
GrapeSEED Student in Southern Huntingdon County School District in Pennsylvania
Without learning directional tracking early on, children may struggle with reading and fall behind. Gagen explains, “Poor readers have frequent tracking errors where they improperly process letters out of order. Poor readers often exhibit erratic eye movement as they look around for ‘whole words’ or jump around searching for familiar hunks or word families. These incorrect tracking strategies contribute to reading difficulty.”
In addition to helping children focus on and process letters in the correct order, directional tracking helps them with phonological awareness, or the ability to hear the sounds that make up words. As they track each letter, they can speak and process its sound, putting all the sounds together to form the word.
GrapeSEED encourages young learners to track letters and words while reading. One student from Clintondale Community Schools explains why it’s important. “Because GrapeSEED is about school language and you get to be better readers and writers. The more you touch the words and the more you look at them, the more you can learn trickier words.”
GrapeSEED Student at Robbie Hall Parker Elementary, Clintondale Community Schools
During GrapeSEED Foundation Training, new GrapeSEED teachers are instructed to model directional tracking for students and to encourage them to use their finger or a pointer for reading the GrapeSEED materials. Directional tracking is also demonstrated in GrapeSEED videos.
GrapeSEED Unit 1 Shared Reading Poem “Monkey”
As children become more confident and successful in their reading skills, they will need to use their finger as a guide less and less. Like most developmental milestones in a child’s early years, each child develops at a different rate and some children may need the support of their finger longer than others. Even the most advanced and experienced readers need a little help with directional tracking from time to time.
Mastering phonological awareness, concepts about print and print awarenessskills is critical for young students to become successful readers. Directional tracking is a simple way to teach many of these concepts and get your young learners on the right track.