Elements of Effective Reading Programs

Instructor: Shannon Orr
This lesson discusses the necessary steps students must master in order to become great readers. This lesson reminds teachers that it is important to build a firm foundation so that readers can develop their reading skills over a period of time.

Why is Reading Important?

As a teacher, one of the greatest moments is seeing children develop into academic scholars. The pride on their faces when they are able to identify letters and connect the sound each letter makes is indeed a huge achievement, but the learning does not stop there. It is important for students to be taught and understand each component that they need in order to be successful readers. Most students are taught these skills over a series of grade levels so it is important for each teacher to build upon the foundation that students already have so they can become great readers.

Helping readers develop their skills opens up their world.
Boy reading

Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

Phonemic Awareness is understanding that each letter can make one or more sounds and those sounds can be combined to make words. In Kindergarten, students begin to recite the alphabet and are individually introduced to each of the 26 letters. Once students can correctly identify each letter out of sequences, they have proven that they understand letter identification. As students are taught the individual letters, they should also be taught the sound or sounds that each letter makes. Phonemes are the individual sounds that each letter makes. Although there are only 26 letters in the English language, some of those letters can be combined giving a total of 44 sounds that can be made.

It is important for teachers to assess students' knowledge of letters and all the sounds that the letters can make. This skill is important for beginning readers as well as helping students as they encounter words that may be unfamiliar. Phonics is combining letter sounds to make words. Phonics is important because it gives students the skills they need to be able to sound out unknown words as they develop into readers. When a teacher shows a student the word dog, they should know that the word has 3 different letters and each letter makes one sound and when blended, they can read the word dog.

Reading Fluency and Vocabulary

Once students are able to identify words, the next step is teaching them how to correctly read those words. Reading Fluency is the ability to read words correctly at an appropriate speed and emphasis. Often, when students first begin to read, they sound like robots. All the words are read at the same speed and the sound of their voice never changes. To correct this problem, teachers could have students listen to him/her read a sentence and tell if the sentence is read correctly or incorrectly. Teachers could also read a sentence correctly, and have students repeat the sentence the correct way. Both methods help students to listen and identify how to read properly.

Understanding vocabulary is another important part of reading. Vocabulary are words used to make up sentences. When students come across words they are unfamiliar with, it may slow down their reading rate and also make them less confident in their ability to read. Teachers should show students how to use context clues, or the words around the unknown word in order to determine the definition. For example, a 2nd-grade student may not know the word timid, but he or she has the skills to sound out the word and is able to read the rest of the sentence. If the student reads the sentence, 'The girl was timid around the other students because she was new to the school', they could figure out that timid means shy. Students can think about what makes sense in the sentence and use that knowledge to define unknown words.

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