A note on teaching reading
The teaching of emerging reading is a very difficult task, especially when it is a second language. There are different approaches that can be taken. We all know that pupils become successful readers by learning to use a range of strategies to get at the meaning of a text. Successful readers use as many of these strategies as possible.
When teaching reading, the strategies below should be kept in mind and classroom activities should be planned in such a way that pupils get exposure to, and opportunities to practice these strategies. When teaching reading, the approaches below, when correctly used can help teachers do this;
1. Whole word recognition
The student learns words from flash cards or by sight. The student learns to recognise the shape and structure of the word and also uses his/her knowledge of letter sounds as clues
2. Whole language approach
This includes speaking, reading and writing, which are taught at the same time. Teachers emphasise storybooks rather than worksheets and offer many opportunities to do their own writing.
This can be done during shared reading sessions and these sessions have a number of specific functions in the teaching of early reading:
- exposing the children into the world of the print, and that understanding print carries meaning and that one can respond to this meaning in different ways and that this can be an enjoyable experience
- providing rich opportunities for increasing children’s stock of words and teaching early reading behaviours
- serving as a vehicle for extending children’s understanding of what is being read; their language comprehension
- providing opportunities to apply acquired decoding skills in context, reinforcing children’s developing phonic knowledge and skills gained from discrete, daily phonic sessions.
When engaging children in shared reading, teachers will need to consider carefully the purpose of each session, the relevant learning objective and the opportunities the selected text provides, to support this work. Discussion of the text also offers opportunities to underpin other aspects of the curriculum such as personal, social and emotional development of the pupils.
The sounds of English
Although there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, there are 44 sounds or ‘phonemes’ in spoken English. Twenty of these sounds are vowel sounds and 24 are consonant sounds. Phonemes join together in different patterns to form words. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and pronounce phonemes in spoken language. Children need to develop phonemic awareness in order to learn to read the written word. In reading, the letter sounds and combination letter sounds have to be blended together, In speling, the whole spoken word has to be segmented (split up) into separate sounds so that letters and letter-groups can be written down to represent sounds.
Some languages like Dhivehi have very simple alphabetic codes where each letter or letter groups always stand for the same sound, and each sound is represented in only one way in writing. English, however has a complex alphabetic code. Most sounds can be represented in more than one way in writing (e.g. the /s/ sound can be written with the letter ‘s’, as in ‘sit’, with ‘ss’ as in ‘fuss’, and with ‘c’ as in ‘city’), and most letters and letter-groups can represent more than one sound (e.g. the letter ‘c’ can represent both /k/ sound as in ‘cat’, and the /s/ sound in ‘city’).
Sequencing phonics teaching
It only makes sense to start beginner readers at a simple level before introducing the more complex bit. This is best achieved by staging the work in an incremental sequence as follows.
a)Introducing the letters (grapheme) – sounds (phoneme) correspondence
- Children should be taught the 26 letters of the alphabet and the most commonly used sound for each letter.
- They should be taught to write each letter, forming it correctly. Once correspondence has been taught, they should be frequently revisited and practised. Pupils should be able to produce sounds quickly in response to letters and letters should be pointed to or written quickly in response to sounds.
b)Reading and spelling simple regular words
- Consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words (e.g. cat, mat, fat) with rhyming patterns are introduced. Again, skills of blending and segmenting these words should be taught.
- These skills of blending and segmenting CVC words are easily adapted to words containing consecutive consonants in CCVC and CVCC words (such as ‘spit’ and ‘mint’) and then on to more complex words (such as ‘split’ or ‘crust’).
c)Introducing ‘tricky’ words
Once children are starting to blend CVC words, high frequency words that do not follow the letter-sound correspondences taught can be introduced. This may be done at the rate of two or three per week but the professional judgment of the pace will be determined by the teacher.
d)Introducing sounds that are represented by more than one letter]
- Sounds that can be represented only by letter-groups (mostly diagraphs) should be taught (‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘th’)
- ng (sing)
- ‘ee’ (see), ‘ay’ (pay), ‘ie’ (pie)
- ‘oa’ (boat)
- ‘oo’ (moon, book)
- ‘or’ (port)
- ‘ar’ (car)
- ‘er’ (fern)
- ‘ow’ (town)
- ‘oy’ (boy)
Again, children should be given practice in reading and writing words containing these correspondences as they are taught
4. A balanced approach
To effectively teach reading the 3 approaches outlined above should be combined.
The outcomes that go with these notes are not new. This is the work teachers are already doing in the classrooms. The only difference is that what children should be able to do after instruction have been explicitly stated as outcomes, so that it will be easier for the teachers to assess students. In order to carry out the assessment of students, in addition to pen and paper test, classroom interaction, and classroom work should be used as evidence of whether pupils have achieved an outcome or not. This evidence should carefully be noted and at every opportunity the teacher gets, this should be consolidated and recorded under individual achievement. This record should be handed over to the teacher at the next grade. An example of such a recoding sheet is included below.
- Framework for teaching Literacy Hour National Literacy Strategy (2000)
- Fry’s 300 Sight Words
- Primary Framework for Literacy and Mathematics; Primary National strategy
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