Causal process comments are the most effective way of promoting the belief that the important
information is how someone did (or could do) something, because that’s what we can learn from.
Coincidentally, just that morning one of my second graders was able for the first time to explain exactly how she figured out a word using strategies that had been demonstrated and explained many times. What a breakthrough for her!
It has become almost second nature for me to ask a student how they figured out a word when they are reading, or why they used a certain beginning or perhaps a particularly good vocabulary word in writing. With our youngest readers and writers, sometimes it takes awhile for them to understand that they did it for themselves and to put the strategy into words, but when it does happen there is definitely cause for celebration. Sometimes I think that day will never come, and I’ve learned that I need to be patient – sometimes very patient. My favorite response to the question “How did you figure that out?” is “My mother told me.” I suppose in the mind of a child, mothers are pretty much responsible for all good things! But eventually, like today, they learn what they were able to do themselves.
Once I was listening in to two first grade struggling readers doing some partner reading. When they got to the end of the page and were ready to turn, one of the boys said to the other, “Let’s go back and look at this word. It made sense and sounded right, but it doesn’t look right!” They then proceeded to figure it out together. It was an important moment for them (and for me!). For some the learning takes time, but it’s always worth the wait.