Phonemic awareness instruction
Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds — phonemes — in spoken words. Phonemic awareness is important because it improves children's word reading and reading comprehension and it helps children learn to spell.
Phonemic awareness can be developed through a number of activities, including asking children to:
- Identify phonemes;
- Categorize phonemes;
- Blend phonemes to form words;
- Segment words into phonemes;
- Delete or add phonemes to form new words, and
- Substitute phenomes to make new words.
Phonemic awareness instruction is most effective when children are taught to manipulate phonemes by using the letters of the alphabet and when instruction focuses on only one or two rather than several types of phoneme manipulation.
Phonics instruction helps children learn the relationships between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language. Phonics instruction is important because it leads to an understanding of the alphabetic principle - the systematic and predictable relationships between written letters and spoken sounds.
Programs of phonics instruction are effective when they are:
- Systematic - the plan of instruction includes a carefully selected set of letter-sound relationships that are organized into a logical sequence.
- Explicit - the programs provide teachers with precise directions for the teaching of these relationships.
Effective phonics programs provide ample opportunities for children to apply what they are learning about letters and sounds to the reading of words, sentences, and stories. Systematic and explicit phonics instruction significantly improves children's word recognition, spelling, and reading comprehension and is most effective when it begins in kindergarten or first grade.
Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and quickly. Fluency is important because it frees students to understand what they read. Reading fluency can be developed by modeling fluent reading by having students engage in repeated oral reading.
Monitoring student progress in reading fluency is useful in evaluating instruction and setting instructional goals and can be motivating to students.
Vocabulary refers to the words we must know to communicate effectively. Oral vocabulary refers to words that we use in speaking or recognize in listening. Reading vocabulary refers to words we recognize or use in print. Vocabulary is important because beginning readers use their oral vocabulary to make sense of the words they see in print and because readers must know what most of the words mean before they can understand what they are reading.
Vocabulary can be developed:
- Indirectly, when students engage daily in oral language, listen to adults read to them, and read extensively on their own.
- Directly, when students are explicitly taught both individual words and word learning strategies.
Text Comprehension Instruction
Comprehension is the reason for reading. If readers can read the words but do not understand what they are reading, they are not really reading. Text comprehension is important because comprehension is the reason for reading.
Text comprehension is purposeful and active. It can be developed by teaching comprehension strategies:
- Through explicit instruction.
- Through cooperative learning.
- By helping readers use strategies flexibly and in combination.
This very brief summary of effective reading instruction has been excerpted from "Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read" by The Partnership for Reading, a collaborative effort of the National Institute for Literacy, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the U.S. Department of Education.