Weehawken Township School District

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My name is Rhondi Ickles and I am the Reading Specialist for the district. I have a BA in Psychology and a N.J. Teaching Certification for grades K-8. I received my MA in Reading and a Reading Specialty Certification in 2012. I obtained my Certification in Supervision in 2016. I have worked in district since 2002 at Daniel Webster School where I taught Basic Skills, Kindergarten and Second Grade. I am excited to share my love of reading and teaching reading with the students of Weehawken.


Please enjoy my page. If there is anything you wish to see that is not here or if you have any questions about your child and reading, you may email me at rickles@weehawken.k12.nj.us. Happy reading!


I'd like to give credit to Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS 


What is a proficient reader?  

Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

According to the University of New England, “proficient readers know what and when they are comprehending and when they are not comprehending; they can identify their purposes for reading and identify the demands placed on them by a particular text.  They can identify when and why the meaning of the text is unclear to them, and can use a variety of strategies to solve comprehension problems or deepen their understanding of a text” (Duffy et al. 1987; Paris, Cross, and Lipson, 1984). Good readers are metacognitive; they think about their thinking!  


Reading is exercise for the brain much like lifting weights is for our arms. This summer have your child do some lightweight lifting (read easy books), A LOT of middle weight lifting (read books around DRA level) and some heavyweight lifting (read challenging books) to keep his/her brain in shape. Reading is a skill that needs to be practiced. It is NOT a natural process.


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Proficient Readers!

Children learn to read by reading!  

Reading is a skill that needs to be practiced! It is NOT a natural process. Professional athletes and musicians practice their skills DAILY!  The higher they move up in status or rank, the MORE they practice!

Reading is exercise for the brain much like lifting weights is for our arms.  Have your child do some lightweight lifting (read easy books), A LOT of middle weight lifting (read books around DRA level) and some heavyweight lifting (read challenging books) to keep his/her brain in shape.  

Meeting students’ literary challenges

Read ideas on ways to MOTIVATE students: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/top-10-resources-reading-motivation

Read about BOYS and reading: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/boys-and-books

Please watch this video on Teaching Kids How To Reread as a strategy:

Working With Struggling Readers

Please watch this video from Reading Rockets ~ inspirational background to teach struggling readers: http://www.readingrockets.org/shows/launching/readingrocks

If Your Child is a Struggling Reader

Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

How can I help my child when he/she is struggling with reading?

  • Before your child reads a book, he/she should: do a picture walk, make connections with the pictures (What does this story remind him/her of?  What is happening in the pictures?), and make predictions about what the story will be about. This sets a purpose for reading ~ to confirm or revise predictions.
  • Try echo reading. The parent reads a page or paragraph aloud, and the child immediately reads it back.
  • Try choral reading. The parent and child reads text aloud at the same time.
  • Try partner reading. The parent and child each takes a turn reading a page or paragraph aloud.
  • Have your child get into the practice of stating who/what each page or paragraph is about after it is read.  Comprehension is even more important than decoding (sounding out) the words.
  • Have your child practice these chunks in words for instant word recognition.
  • Have your child follow along to books on tape or CD.
  • Read aloud to a pet.
  • Choose books that your child finds interesting.
  • If your child is stuck on a word, he/she should figure out the word on his/her own. Say the beginning letter sound, look for chunks he/she may know, sound it out, skip it, read on, go back, use context clues, ask what would look right, sound right, make sense? LAST RESORT-tell them the word as not to disrupt the flow of their reading and have them reread the sentence correctly.
  • KEEP READING!  Children learn to read by reading and by hearing fluent readers.
Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Reading with your Child Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Read to your child every day ~ at least 20 minutes each day!  There is much research on the importance of reading aloud.  Show that reading is FUN!  Talk about the pictures, events, favorite parts.  Reading aloud will expose your child to new words, ideas, places, events, and more complex plots and sentences than beginning reading books have to offer. If your child is learning to read he/she can read those books.  YOU, however, should be reading more difficult picture books to your child, such as the child’s library books.

Top 10 reasons why you should read aloud to your child:

  1. Your child will feel the love and attention.  Cuddle up together in a spot and make this time special.
  2. It encourages your child to become a reader/better reader when the parent acts as a role model.
  3. Listening to stories develops attention spans.
  4. Books help imaginations S O A R!
  5. The illustrations will help your child appreciate art.
  6. Books pass on parental values.
  7. Books are fun!
  8. Listening to a story read aloud well is magical to a child.
  9. This time with your child will create a lifetime of memories.
  10. Every teacher and librarian will thank you!  
Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS


 More on comprehension: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/seven-strategies-teach-students-text-comprehension


Check out http://www.familyreading.org/i-10reasons.htm


Twelve Comprehension Strategies Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Keep scrolling to learn about the WHY, WHEN, HOW of:  Monitor/Clarify, Predict, Make Connections, Infer, Ask Questions, Summarize, Subtext, Visualize, Retell, Synthesize, Nonfiction Text Features




Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Why do we Monitor/Clarify?

  • To make sense of our reading

When do we Monitor/Clarify?

  • When the reading no longer makes sense
  • When we are stuck on a word’s meaning

How do we Monitor/Clarify?

  • Reread all around the word or area in question.  Make substitutions, use picture clues
  • Use your schema
  • Study the structure
  • Predict, infer, make connections, ask questions, summarize


Why do we Predict?

  •  Gets our mind ready to read
  •  Gives us a purpose to read

When do we Predict?

  • Before and during reading

How do we Predict?

  • Think about title, look at cover and pictures
  • Think about the text structure
  • Use what you know
  • Ask questions ~ I wonder. . .,  Who is. . .,  Why is. . . .
  • Change your predictions as you read
  • Can be proven or not

Make Connections

Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Why do we Make Connections?

  • Reading is thinking!  Good readers make connections that are text to self, text to text, and text to world
  • To better predict and understand text because of what you already know  ~ how the characters feel, what may happen based on another text. . . .
  • Everyone has different schema and different experiences which can be shared to help us understand more

When do we Make Connections?

  • Before, during, and after reading
  • Make connections when you’re figuring out unknown words!
  • When we are reminded of a similar event
  • That reminds me of . . .   I remember when . . .  I have a connection . . .  An experience I have had like that . . .  I felt like that character when . . .  If I were that character I would . . . .

Content ~ I’ve read another book on this topic

Genre~ this is a “mystery” (etc.) like. . .

Author ~ this author always. . .

Illustrator ~ I recognize these pictures by. . .

Setting ~ ___________ took place at this location

Characters ~ she/he reminds me of. . .

Illustrations ~ remind me of . . .

Plot ~ this story is like. . .

Structure ~ this story has a literary device (like a flashback) like. . .

Theme ~ this book had the same lesson as . . .

Language ~ the writer’s language reminds me of. . .

Tone ~ this book has the same feel as. . .

How do we Make Connections?

  • Chart connections.  What connections helped to understand the story, which didn’t?
  • Venn diagrams
  • Connect to the theme or main idea of the text
  • Start with “It helps me understand . . .”  (Character feelings, setting, events)
  • Activate prior knowledge before, during, and after reading
  • On nonfiction (T-W) make a KWL chart.  Do T-W with newspaper articles, too!
  • Use a double entry journal ~ one side is for key event, idea, word, quote, or content.  The other is for connections.
  • Always ask yourself “How does this connection help me understand the text?”


Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Why do we Infer?

  • Authors describe: characters’ feelings, events, setting. . . we have to infer to understand
  • To draw conclusions, make predictions, and reflect on our reading
  • To determine the meanings of unknown words

When do we Infer?

  • Before, during, and after reading
  • In life, we infer with our 5 senses ~ What is making that noise?  What is cooking?  How is that person feeling?  What is this sharp object?  What does a cake with candles on it mean?
  • When the author doesn’t answer my questions, I must infer by saying:  Maybe. . ., I think. . ., It could be. . ., It’s because. . ., Perhaps. . ., It means that. . ., I’m guessing. . .

How do we Infer?

  • Look at the picture
  • Think about the characters’ behavior
  • Ask questions as you read.  Some of our questions are answered in the text, others are not and must be inferred.
  • We use our prior knowledge + text clues to draw conclusions

What do we Infer?

  • Meaning of unfamiliar words
  • Setting
  • Explanation for events
  • What the character is feeling
  • What pronouns refer to
  • Author’s message
  • Answers to our questions when they are not directly stated

Fun Inferring Practice!  Read these sentences, and have a discussion about the character and setting.  Next, draw conclusions, and make predictions!

  • Sue blew out the candles and got presents.
  • Mary plays her flute for two hours every day.
  • The boat drifted in the middle of the lake.
  • John ran into the street without looking.
  • Meg was the star pitcher, but she had a broken finger.
  • We bought tickets and some popcorn.
  • I forgot to set my alarm clock last night.
  • When I woke up, there were branches and leaves all over the yard.
  • Yesterday we cleaned out our desks and took everything home.
  • Everyone stopped when the referee blew the whistle.

Ask Questions

Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Why do we Ask Questions?

  • To clarify, wonder, determine author’s style or intent, to better understand, when the reading gets confusing, to monitor our reading, to synthesize new information, and to determine importance
  • To stay actively involved in the reading
  • To read with a purpose
  • To deepen comprehension (Thick vs. Thin Questions)

When do we Ask Questions?

  • Before, during, and after reading ~ just look at the cover and title and begin asking!
  • When you use the strategies:  Is my prediction good or do I need to change it?  What am I visualizing?  Do I need to change my mental image?  What’s happened so far?   Does this remind me of anything?
  • If we don’t have the background knowledge we need to ask more questions.
  • Hearing other people’s questions inspires more of our own questions.
  • As you read, does it make sense?
  • Just go outside ~ what questions do you have about nature?  What questions do you have about a painting or illustration?

How do we Ask Questions?

  • Start by using a wordless book ~ what questions do I have?
  • Before we read and as we read many of our questions are predictions.  Our “after the book has been read” questions are the most thought provoking.
  • Create an “I Wonder” chart before, during, and after the story.  Which questions were answered?  Which had to be inferred?
  • There are 3 types of questions ~ Predicting Questions move us forward, Monitor Questions pull us back, Thinking Questions makes us infer
  • Questions start with who, what, where, when, why, how, would, could, should, did
  • What happened?  Why did it happen?  Think about cause and effect.
  • Thick questions deepen our comprehension and thin questions can be found in the text
  • Questions can be related to the text type ~ narrative, expository, technical, persuasive, or text structure ~  sequence, problem/solution, cause/effect, descriptive, compare/contrast
  • We use connections to help us make meaningful questions
  • Ask ~ What does my question do for my reading?
  • Begin with a KWL chart for nonfiction texts
  • Give students a list of answers.  THEY come up with the questions!

How do we answer Questions?

  •  A – answered in the text, BK – answered from someone’s background knowledge I – inferred, D – discussion, RS – research needed C- signals confusion
  • We also use our own interpretation, the pictures, and rereading

Types of Questions

  • Does the question start with: What did, Who did, How many, What was, Who are, What does ___ mean, Define, What kind ~ then the answer is RIGHT THERE
  • Does the question start with: How do you, How did, What, What happened to, What happened before/after, How many times, What examples, Where did ~ then I must THINK and SEARCH for the answer.  The answer is found in different parts of the story.  Words to create the question and answer are not in the same sentence.
  • Does the question start with:  Have you ever, If you could, If you were going to, In your opinion, Do you agree with, Do you know anyone who, How do you feel about ~ then you are ON YOUR OWN and you need to think about the answer.  The answer is NOT in the story.

Questions to think about

  • What is the author trying to tell us?
  • Why did the author write this book?
  • Is the title appropriate?  What is my evidence?
  • What did the character learn?

Who/what is each paragraph about?


Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Why do we Summarize?

  • To identify and organize important information
  • To check understanding in a brief way
  • To find the main idea, and/or problem/solution
  • To put the story in order

When do we Summarize?

  • When reading, giving game instructions, talking quickly about our week-end, explaining newspaper articles. . .
  • Before, during, and after reading

How do we Summarize

  • In our own words
  • Before we read we preview to see how the text is organized by looking at cover, table of contents, illustrations
  • During reading we keep a graphic organizer and jot down what has happened
  • After reading we skim text and determine the most important parts in 3-5 sentences.  What can we leave out?  Use the graphic organizer to help
  • When it is nonfiction we use the text structure to create a summary:  descriptive, problem/solution, compare/contrast, sequential, main idea/detail, cause/effect
  • Pick out what’s necessary ~ title, captions, headings.  Cross out repeated items.  Highlight necessary ideas and key words, make a graphic organizer with key words and ideas for each paragraph, invent a topic sentence by using the first sentence of the text
  • Omit unimportant details


Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

What do we Subtext?

  • To understand perspectives and inner most thoughts of characters
  • To examine what the character is thinking, not saying
  • To comprehend the text more deeply

When do we Subtext?

  •  During reading

How do we Subtext?

  • Act out a character in a text by making personal connections and inferring the character’s thoughts by using the illustrations in the text
  • Become a character in a painting.  What are you thinking, feeling?
  • Write an advertisement for a product.  Who is your target audience?  What can you say to convince people to buy your product?
  • Subtext what various people think on the same issue.  For example ~ A child wanting candy thinks:  “It’s delicious!  It gives me energy!  It’s fun to eat!  I’ve been good!”  A mom may think:  “It’s bad for his teeth!  It’s supper time!  He’ll get sick!”  A store clerk would think:  “Buy the candy!  I need to make money!”  A doctor might think:  “He’s gaining too much weight.  Does he ever eat vegetables?”  An onlooker may think:  “What a mean mom.  One candy bar won’t hurt.” 

Visualize/Sensory Imagery

Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

What do we Visualize?

  • Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, a football game on the radio, menu items, instructions, magazine articles, a vision from a song or nature cd. . . .
  • Visualize a birthday cake, sketch it, compare ~ no 2 sketches will be alike!

Authors rely on us to Visualize.  Why?  TO:

  • Keep us interested
  • Enhance understanding
  • Draw conclusions
  • Recall details and text after it has been read
  • Help us understand new words
  • Make texts personal and memorable
  • Form unique interpretations
  • Clarify
  • Help us when we write

When do we Visualize?

  • During and after reading
  • When there are no illustrations but WARNING:  illustrations can have an effect on our mental images.  Try covering the illustrations with post-it notes and use your own mental images
  • Our schema, or background knowledge, helps us visualize
  • Hearing other people describe their mental pictures changes our own

How do we Visualize?

  • Using our senses and emotions
  • Pay close attention to the adjectives and adverbs
  • Picturing the characters, setting, events
  • We infer meaning as we create images
  • Quickly sketch what you saw and compare ~ no two sketches are alike!
  • As you read, revise your images when new information is added


Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Why do we Retell?

  • To create a mental image in great detail to someone who was not there, or to someone who has not read the text
  • Learning to retell a story thoughtfully is critical to learning to write a story
  • To build comprehension

When do we Retell?

  • After reading or after an event (after a movie, vacation, week-end, etc.)

How do we Retell?

  •  Read the story 3x ~ (1st for impression, 2nd for detail, 3rd for comprehension)
  • Use retelling cards, small props, puppets, story guideline posters, and even the book to help as you learn to retell.
  • Tell the story. Don’t memorize the author’s words but develop a personal, storytelling voice.
  • Use an expressive voice.
  • Pick what is most important to tell.
  • Tell details in the right order.
  • Recall the story structure and formulate retelling around that
  • For Fiction:  beginning/middle/end, characters, setting, theme, plot episodes/events, resolution, sequence of events, in great detail the beginning, next, then, after that, in the end
  • For Nonfiction:  problem/solution, descriptive, compare/contrast, sequential, main idea/detail, cause/effect, use the table of contents to help


Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Why do we Synthesize/Evaluate?

  • Our thinking evolves
  • We infer
  • We connect to a larger and more meaningful whole by finding the “big idea”
  • To see relationships between ideas ~ do we agree or disagree with the author?  Why?
  • Makes the reading more memorable

When do we Synthesize/Evaluate?

  • When there is something to think about, such as an unfamiliar point of view, new information, a new theme
  • When making connections
  • Before, during and after reading
  • Before:  What connections am I making?  What does the author want to teach me?  What is the message going to be?  What am I thinking?
  • During:  Now what do I wonder?  What are my connections?   How have my opinions, ideas, feelings, and thoughts about the characters, ideas, or problems in the reading change?
  • After:  What did the authors want me to learn?  What was the theme?  How have my ideas, thoughts, and feelings about the characters, ideas, or problems change?  What visual images will I remember?  What thought will I take with me?

How do we Synthesize/Evaluate? 

  • By filling in these blanks:
  • At first I thought but now I think . . . .
  • At first I felt but now I feel . . . .
  • I have been changed by this text in this way. . . .
  • From reading this text I will remember. . . .
  • The theme in this text was. . . .
  • An “aha” I got from the reading was. . . .
  • A light bulb went on in my head and I realized. . . .
  • My opinion on this topic now is. . . .
  • I will remember the visual I built in my mind for. . . .
  • I now agree/disagree with the author because. . . .
  • I feel the author’s style is. . . .
  • Start by synthesizing fables
  • Use your schema or background knowledge

Nonfiction Text Features

Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Why do we read Nonfiction?

  • To learn
  • To build a better home/school connection ~ nonfiction resembles parent interests and will spark a conversation between parent and child
  • A great way to learn about the reading strategies

When do we read Nonfiction?

  • To get information
  • When we have questions about the world
  • Start reading nonfiction at a young age!

Examples of Predictable Features of Nonfiction ~ each child should create a journal giving examples of each.  Spend one day on each convention:

  • Table of contents helps reader to find key topics in the text in order
  • Types of print helps reader by signaling what is important
  • Headings/subtitles helps reader determine what is important
  • Maps help reader understand where things are in the world
  • Cutaways help reader understand something by looking at it from the inside
  • Comparisons help reader understand the size of one thing by comparing it to the size of something familiar
  • Captions help the reader understand a picture or photograph
  • Photographs help reader understand exactly what something looks like
  • Labels help reader identify a picture or photograph and its parts
  • Tables help reader understand important information by seeing it listed in a table or chart form
  • Glossary helps reader understand key words in text
  • Index helps reader by showing an alphabetical listing with page numbers to find information
  • Close-ups help reader see details

How do we read Nonfiction? 

  • First, build and activate prior knowledge to get ready to learn/make predictions
  • Learn the new vocabulary in context ~ engage learner through photographs or artifacts and student questions, explore through graphic organizers, develop through dramatization and analogies, and apply through a project
  • KWL charts:  what do I know, what questions do I want answered, what have I learned ~ synthesize the information for yourself and others
  • Make connections
  • Recognize text structure:  problem/.solution. descriptive, compare/contrast, sequential, main idea/detail, cause/effect
  • You don’t need to read nonfiction in order
  • Reread and paraphrase
  • Skim (very rapid reading of whole text in order to grasp sense of main idea and some supporting details ~ goal is to get a quick sense of the entire piece, as the reading progresses concentrate only on key sentences and phases, concentrate on last paragraph which is a summary)
  • Scan (quick location of material, forms a mental image of key words and phrases)
  • Highlight important information to remember/use sticky notes
  • Start by reading biographies
  • Take notes of main ideas and details

How The Brain Learns To Read

Conditions for developing readers:


Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS

Visit:  What Works Clearinghouse at http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/WWC/topic.aspx?sid=8 which includes the very latest best practices based on research!

Research is important:  http://www.ncte.org/cee/positions/researchandteaching

Five Big Ideas in Beginning Reading, which are Phonemic Awareness, Alphabetic Principle, Fluency with Text, Vocabulary, and Comprehension.  Click on the links within the site for valuable charts and information. http://reading.uoregon.edu/big_ideas/

The National Reading Panel states that the best approach to reading instruction must incorporate:

  • Explicit instruction in phonemic awareness
  • Systematic phonics instruction
  • Methods to improve fluency
  • Ways to enhance comprehension

The Panel found that a combination of techniques is effective for teaching children to read:

  • Phonemic awareness—the knowledge that spoken words can be broken apart into smaller segments of sound known as phonemes. Children who are read to at home—especially material that rhymes—often develop the basis of phonemic awareness.
  • Phonics—the knowledge that letters of the alphabet represent phonemes, and that these sounds are blended together to form written words.
  • Fluency—the ability to recognize words easily, read with greater speed, accuracy, and expression, and to better understand what is read. Children gain fluency by practicing reading until the process becomes automatic; guided oral repeated reading is one approach to helping children become fluent readers.
  • Guided oral reading—reading out loud while getting guidance and feedback from skilled readers. The combination of practice and feedback promotes reading fluency.
  • Teaching vocabulary words—teaching new words, either as they appear in text, or by introducing new words separately. This type of instruction also aids reading ability.
  • Reading comprehension strategies—techniques for helping individuals to understand what they read. Such techniques involve having students summarize what they’ve read, to gain a better understanding of the material.





Credit: Mrs. Judy Araujo, M. Ed., CAGS


Conditions for developing readers:




Information about the DRA

Developmental Reading Assessment or DRA’s are an individually administered assessment of a child’s reading capabilities. It is not a pass or fail test and they do not receive a grade. It’s simply a tool that will be used by teachers to identify a students reading level by assessing their accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Once levels are identified, a teacher can use this information to guide planning and instruction. It will also help the teacher focus on specific goals that the student needs to achieve. DRA levels will indicate which books a student can read independently. Parents and students can use DRA levels as a guide to find books that are ‘just right’ for their needs.

Students will be tested several times a year in grade levels K-8. It will be exciting for teachers, parents and students to see their DRA levels increase as they gain knowledge throughout the school year.

Children should be reading books that interest them. They should be reading a variety of books from both ends of the reading spectrum including ‘easy reads’ to more challenging text depending on the child’s mood or interest level. Most of the reading your child does should be books that are around his/her DRA level. Reading books below his/her DRA level can improve fluency and accuracy. Reading books at their DRA level can increase reading stamina, enhance comprehension and build character knowledge.

Link to information about DRA levels:



Information about the Achieve 3000

This year all students in grades 3-11 will be assessed in reading using the Achieve 3000. It is not a pass or fail test and they do not receive a grade. It will be administered in a group setting on their Chromebooks and then each student will be given a Lexile level. The results will focus on specific goals that the student needs to achieve. It will allow teachers to determine who is reading at grade level. If a student is found to be below grade level, they will receive additional support through Achieve 3000.