Cueing Systems

Cueing Systems

Teaching your child to read can seem like a daunting task.  There’s just so much involved in the English language; you may feel like it’s impossible to even start trying. Seeing the task of reading or not reading, as a “whole” can be problematic for many parents and learners alike. When we try to teach a child everything at once, it is likely they will become overloaded and overwhelmed. By incorporating a well thought out program that involves “chunking”, we are breaking down the whole task into tangible parts; we are taking the English language and teaching children one piece at a time in a structured and planned manner.  Most children don’t just wake up one day able to read.  Reading takes time, practice and encouragement.  Celebrating small victories is  important.  For example, if a child is now able to recognize that a “k” makes a /k/ sound every time they see it, let’s celebrate and encourage them to continue using their reading skills.  As they progress from their letter sounds, children will learn to put those sounds together to make words, which will eventually lead to reading.

It is important to understand how children learn to read.  Children learn to read by using 4 cueing systems.  As parents and educators, we can help support them by asking the questions they should ask.

  • Semantic cueing: this is a strategy where a child uses prior knowledge and experience to understand the text. By using their own experiences (schema), they understand that the words in books need to make sense. For example, if a child is reading a book about cupcakes and reads the word “sweat” instead of “sweet”, they would use their prior knowledge about cupcakes and correct their mistake, as they know cupcakes don’t sweat. The main question they ask is, “does this make sense”?
  • Syntactic cueing: this is a strategy where a child uses the structure of English language to determine if something makes sense through their schema around the oral language of English. For example, if they read the word “ran” as “runned”, they would use their knowledge of the English language to correct their error. This means they will ask, “does this sound right”?
  • Graphophonic cueing: this is a strategy where the child understands the sound-symbol relationships and applies this as they read. For example, if the child read the word “woke” as “rock” they would look at the letters and know it was incorrect based on their prior knowledge of the letter-symbol relationships. This means the child asks, “does this look right”?
  • Pragmatic cueing: this is a strategy where the child understands the structure and purpose of the text. It helps children to predict and understand. For example, if they were reading a book about lions, they would know the text is informational and use that knowledge to inform their reading. The child would ask, “why am I reading this”?

By understanding how children learn to read and the systems they use, we can better support their learning. Some other ways we can help to support literacy, to help your child become a better reader, include:

  • Incorporate reading into your everyday life/routine
  • Have your child read words on signs (on the drive to school for example)
  • Have your child read menus, phonebooks, information brochures, recipes, etc.
  • Read to your child as much as possible
  • Model for your child how to read, demonstrate your enjoyment of reading and follow through with questions based on the text
  • Have your child read to you
  • Actively listen to your child read and ask questions
  • Have them chose and share new books they are reading
  • Don’t tell your child the answers, encourage your child to use their strategies to find out the words
  • Play reading games with your child
  • Make reading fun!
  • A Guide to Effective Instruction in Reading, Kindergarten to Grade 3, Ontario, 2003,

By: Marissa Boccongelle, Director of Education
Prep Academy Tutors of Durham
t. +647.494.3065 | e. [email protected]