Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.
Developing Fluent Readers
Reading comprehension is negatively affected when fluency is hindered by student's underdeveloped decoding skills. Teachers support students' growth towards reading proficiency by helping students develop their word identification skills. In this lesson, we will discuss sight word recognition, context clues, structural analysis, and the manipulation of phonemes within word families as strategies for improving word identification skills.
Sight Word Recognition
As students become fluent readers, they begin to automatically recognize a variety of words. Beginning readers take more time to decode words, which affects comprehension; therefore, the best way to add words to a student's ability to instantly recognize words is through exposure to a large amount of texts. There are 100 high-frequency words that make up about 50% of written language that students need to commit to memory. Many high-frequency words do not follow conventional phonics patterns, making them difficult to decode. Examples of high-frequency words include: and, said, the, to, and you. The use of flashcards and repeated reading from high-frequency word lists have been shown to improve instant word recognition.
Identifying Words in Context
Context clues are sources of information within the text that help students make inferences about unknown words. The three cueing systems for finding the meaning of words in context are semantic cues, syntactic cues, and visual cues.
- Semantic cues make sense of the passage based on the meaning of the words in the passage combined with the student's background information. For example, when reading a book about the ocean, the student might encounter a sentence that begins, 'The biggest threat to humpback whales is …' Using semantic cues, the student may supply the word 'orcas', 'sharks', or 'pollution' to end the sentence because any of those words would make sense.
- Syntactic cues relies on the structure of the sentence itself to determine what type of word goes in the sentence. For example, in the sentence, 'The biggest threat to humpback whales is the ….' Students know that the word 'pollution' is not a viable answer because of the definite article 'the.'
- Visual Cues come from a student's recognition of letter sounds to determine if the word looks right. Illustrations are also visual cues that can support word identification. For example, in the sentence, 'The biggest threat to humpback whales is the w--ing …' The student is able to recognize the graphemes at the beginning and end of the word, causing the student to supply the word 'washing', 'wearing', or 'whaling' in place of the unknown word.
By combing all three cueing systems, the student is able to come up with 'whaling industry' as the biggest threat to the humpback whales.
As readers mature, they are able to break multisyllabic words into their structural parts to decode. Some structural parts that students recognize include:
- Prefixes, or letters that come before a root word that alter its meaning, such as 'un,' 'dis,' or 're.'
- Suffixes, or letters that come after a root word that alter its meaning, such as 'able,' 'ful,', and 'est.'
- Inflectional endings, or letters that come after a root word that change the word. Inflectional endings change the tense of verbs. For example, adding 'ed' to 'open' indicates that the action occurred in the past. Inflectional endings change singular nouns into plural nouns. For example, the ending 's' after 'cat' would indicate that there is more than one.
Another way that students are able to decode words is by comparing them to words they already know. For example, Zachary may not know the word part 'hump' from 'humpback whale,' but he knows the words 'dump' and 'lump.' Using consonant substitution, he is able to decipher the meaning of the new word.
When students become fluent readers, comprehension is no longer hindered by their attention to decoding. One way to support automaticity in reading is through sight word recognition. Students must be able to quickly identify the 100 most common words in writing. Context clues offer information that allows students to make inferences about unknown words. Context clues encompass the three cueing systems: semantic cues, syntactic cues, and visual cues. Structural analysis is breaking up multisyllabic words into parts, such as root words, prefixes, suffixes, and inflectional endings. Another method for quickly decoding unknown words and word parts is by comparing them to words that are known using the manipulation of graphemes in known words.
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