By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger
Some characteristics of excellent readers can include rereading sentences or phrases until meaning is made as well as high comprehension scores from kids who can decode independently. As teachers, we need to realize that students who do not use these strategies independently need modeling and repeated practice in order to make progress. Keep reading because, in today's blog post, three low-level processes of word study will be defined and teaching ideas will be given to help every striving reader succeed.
Level One: Phonemic Awareness
A phoneme is a sound within a word. Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with sounds in words, syllables, onsets, and rimes. This ability is essential for beginning readers. Replicating, rhyming, and segmenting phonemes can be introduced and practiced you read books to students. You can also help kids better identify phonemes within two- or three-syllable words from a story by clapping for each syllable.
You can use the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb" to model the two syllables in little. You can also show a picture of a lamb to give students visual support and say, This is a little lamb. Little is a two clap word. Watch as I say and clap the word. Have children practice doing the same as they hear you say the nursery rhyme and emphasize parts of the rhyme that include two syllables.
Several parts of Letter Buddies can be used to support phonemic awareness. The letter cards can be used for modeling to have students construct clay or pipe cleaner letters as they think about the shape letters. The Letter Books include pictures of words that start with each letter shown on the cover of each book. Other parts of the series can be used to help kids practice searching for words that start with the letter being modeled. Notice that these activities should not involve reading the word, but should be based on hearing and identifying the letter.
Level Two: Phonics
Phonics is based on the alphabetic principle that there are systematic relationships between letters and their sounds. This is important because learning to read is based on reading and writing. Your readers should be reading like writers.
About eighty percent of words in the English language can be written by using the sounds of letters in words and syllables. The features of the letters are very important for students to articulate because this will demonstrate their awareness of letter sounds and print. However, students should not be encouraged to overuse sounds within a word as it is attempted to be read; this can prevent fluency and hinder comprehension.
Humpy Has Two Humps is a level G book for first-graders. Your book introduction could include discussing the humps of a camel and reviewing the sound of the letter h. Before you come to page 3, you could introduce the word Bactrian by having students frame the word with their fingers.
After kids frame the word, ask, What do you see as you look at the word? They should respond with ideas like "more than one syllable," "includes a blend," or "the letters an." Encourage students to look for word parts as well as picture clues when they need to make meaning of an unknown word like Bactrian.
Level Three: Decoding
Decoding has been compared to a bridge that allows the reader to reach comprehension. Modeling, guided practice, and independent practice facilitates reading fluency and comprehension on the part of the reader. This means students need tools to practice using literacy strategies to improve reading comprehension and fluency. Good tools to start with include the correct level of guided reading books.
Guided and shared reading times can be used to provide opportunities for students to discover ways to decode words that are new in a timely manner. Looking for word parts they know, using beginning sounds, and rereading the first part of the sentence are ways to help kids think about a word. An introduction to a book being read for the first time can also help the reader as new words are met.
Insects is a level F book that could be helpful to teach kids in a science study. This leveled book has great nonfiction text features that boost comprehension and improve the vocabulary of insect body parts. Vocabulary development is a very important part of decoding and comprehension.
As the body parts are studied, you can draw students' attention to the word abdomen and say the following: Do you think the word might have more than one syllable? Let's try clapping each syllable of the word. Do you think this might be a three-syllable word? Then you can have similar discussions about other body parts shown on the page, and you can encourage students to write about the body parts.
Our task is not an easy one. It is complicated with the different needs of the students. Some students may not need help with some of the processes mentioned in today's blog post, but we need to be as attentive as possible to meet the needs of all students. Be sure to visit our blog again soon for more guidance to use with your students!
Dr. Geraldine Haggard is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent thirty-seven years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Dr. Haggard elsewhere on our blog.