Elements of Reading
Reading is the process of making sense from print; comprehension is the goal of all reading. Comprehension is constructed by the reader, so no one understanding will match another’s, but how readers apply strategies as they process text influences the depth of understanding.
There are four elements of reading: word identification, fluency, comprehension, vocabulary. We will begin with word identification, since it is the foundation of the reading process.
Several terms are associated with the identification of words: word attack, word analysis, word recognition, decoding. These are often used interchangeably and suggest the act of translating print into speech through the analysis of letter-sound relationships. Each term is connected with what is commonly called “phonics”—a tool to analyze or attack words—which focuses attention on words parts and builds on phonemic awareness.
“Word recognition” suggests a process of immediate word identification i.e. words retrieved from memory. It includes the concept of sight words (or sight vocabulary) and suggests a reader’s ability to recognize words rapidly/automatically by making an association between a particular spelling/pronunciation/meaning by applying an internalized knowledge of letter-sound relationships. Word recognition together with word attack skills leads to word identification.
Many children develop knowledge about print before entering school through purely visual cues. These children enter first grade fully ready to analyze words, but others do not. They rely on your explicitly-planned lessons.
Ehri’s study (as cited in Vacca, Vacca, Gove, Burkey, Lenhart, & McKeon, 2003) claimed that there were developmental phases in word identification, whose characteristics could be readily identified, as children progressed.
The pre-alphabetic stage includes visual clues, such as those found on cereal boxes, traffic signs, and restaurant logos (stop sign, Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s).
The partial alphabetic stage, emerging during kindergarten and grade 1, includes some knowledge about letter-sound relationships (“S” looks and sounds like “Sammy, the snake”).
The full alphabetic stage includes enough knowledge about segmenting sounds (/c-l-o-ck/) to unlock the pronunciation of unknown words.
The consolidated alphabetic stage includes the ability to analyze multisyllabic words, using onsets and rimes. Fluency
Fluency is the ability to read text in a normal speaking voice with normal intonation (the rise and fall of the human voice) and inflection (the pitch, stress and pauses). In the context of literacy, one is “fluent,” who can read with expression and comprehension. Students who are fluent have automaticity. They do not devote attention to decoding, but focus on the construction of meaning. Problems in fluency are a major contributing factor to students’ lagging achievement. They often arise due to the lack of early contact with literacy or diverse linguistic background. Repetition is key to increasing fluency. A mixture of six methods helps to increase fluency.
Predictable text: Children can rely on their intuitive knowledge of language and sense to read with less and less assistance. Ex. Max’s Pet
Repeated readings: Children can practice reading aloud alone, with a classmate or parents, and to the principal.
Automated reading: Children can listen and read along with a tape, a CD, or a computer program. They can also record themselves, listen, and repeat until fluent.
Choral reading: Children need to hear mature readers with expression. The oral reading of poetry with various voice combinations builds on a natural interest in rhythms and highlights the beauty of tonal qualities in spoken English. In choral reading, all fluency levels can participate in unison, take parts, or read refrains without embarrassment.
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