- Souse, 2018
I firmly believe that being an educator transcends all acts of the human race. It means that you have the ability to change the course of a life in a moment. One of the most important skills a teacher can give his/her students in the power to read. Reading is such an amazingly mighty tool in the belt of the human race; it is linked to success in all aspect of life. Literacy is vital in the early years, and most be taught in a way that is understood by all. Unfortunately, there are households that do not give their children the advantage of strong early literacy skills and pre-reading skills. It is up to the child’s teacher to ensure that these skills are taught, sharpened and endure (Dehaene, 2010).
If neurological connections are not aroused and strengthened early on in the development of phoneme mapping, a child will already be at a disadvantage. Furthermore, young child’s brain must be able to detect words and understand how language is structured in his/her language. Parents who talk to their children early and often are strengthening these connections.
Since we know that the brain develops language early on, it is absolutely imperative that delays, difficulties and deficits be addressed as soon as possible. Also, classrooms should be equipped with language rich environments, and support the growth of the brain circuits necessary for reading. Reading is an immensely complex process that is not innate. This makes the job of learning to read difficult, and strengthens the argument for solid reading instruction.
There are three neural circuits involved in the reading process. “The visual processing system scans the printed word, the auditory processing system sounds it out in the head, and the frontal lobe integrates the information to produce meaning ( Sousa, 2017 ).” All three circuits must work together in order to decipher the written word. When these circuits work together, and reading instruction is systematic, continuous and targeted; the greatest reward happens… reading!
First, phonological awareness lies at the forefront of appropriate reading instruction. Phonological awareness is “is the recognition that oral language can be divided into smaller components.” Students must first be able to manipulate sounds, or develop phonemic awareness in in order to tackle written words. A teacher can strengthen these skills by practicing alliteration, rhyme and syllabication. The reading program that my district uses begins student in Kindergarten with auditory alliteration passages that ask students to figure out which sound a set of words all have. The students also have tasks that are anchored to pictures. In these tasks students are told a word, and asked to figure out which picture in the set starts with the same sound. The students then move on to rhyme, which comes in many forms. Students play rhyming games where they have a set of pictures and have to figure out when picture does not rhyme. They also do auditory/oral rhyming, and have to produce the rhyme when given a word. This process moves on through the Kilpatrick program using a P.A.S.T assessment to target phonemic awareness skills that need to be taught. These activities are done in small group settings every single day. Students also use phoneme push-its to push out sounds of words and switch, drop and add sounds later on in the program (Kilpatrick, 2015).
After phonics and phonemic awareness skills are thoroughly investigated, students move on to instruction in word study. Word study is extremely explicit, and is worked on at the students level. Word study looks at the rules of the English language and goes in a very sequential order. Depending on the student’s readiness and ability-level it is either taught inductive through the use of a sort and rule, or through multi-sensory instruction that is more explicit (Johnston, 2017). The teacher leads the students in a discussion about a rule, goes over exceptions to the rule, and works on the new skill. Students identify the rule in context, read words that follow the new rule and practice producing words that follow the pattern. This is known as encoding and decoding. Decodable texts, chunk chunk blend cards, white boards and sand can be used for these activities. The materials my district uses come from various sources. Some of these sources include Words their Way, Word Journeys, Beth Estill, and Orton-Gillingham. A D.S.A is given in order to determine readiness. The D.S.A is from Kilpatrick.
The next task a student must complete is related to fluency. We do not explicitly teach fluency, or the ability to read a text fluidly and with automaticity, in my district. When students are able to decode words quickly following pattern rules, they read more fluently. Decodable texts are used to work on decoding words following new patterns, and committing them to long-term memory. Fluency helps to build comprehension, since more working memory is available when a student is not using it to decode words.
After students tackle learning to read; they are prepared to read to learn. Early on, this is highly guided and done by charting with all students participating in the modeling process. As students become transitional readers, they become fluent enough to use their free working memory to think more deeply about what they are reading. The words on the page began to come together, and the student is able to think beyond the pages. This is the ultimate goal of reading, and is taught through the use of high-quality mentor texts, read out louds and charting. After student are familiar with a piece of the comprehension pie, they are released to work on the skill on their own in a text on their independent reading level. Vocabulary comes into play at this time. New tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary words are explicitly taught, and others acquired naturally with exposure.
When all things come together, and students are given proper reading instruction; the miracle of reading happens for most readers. If a student is not identified quickly, and given differentiated interventions when they are not successful; it becomes extremely difficult for them to keep up and catch up. The use of systematic, consistent and brain based reading instruction is imperative in classrooms (Wolf, 2010).
Souse, D.A. (2017). How the brain learns (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin
Kilpatrick, D. A. (2015). Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties. John Wiley & Sons.
Dehaene, S. (2010). Reading in the brain: The new science of how we read. New York: Penguin Books.
Wolf, M. (2010). Proust and the squid: The story and science of the reading brain. Cambridge: Icon Books.
JOHNSTON, F. (2017). WORDS THEIR WAY. n.d: PEARSON.