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Five Pillars of Effective Reading Instruction Phonemic

Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary and


Comprehension

The National Reading Panel completed


extensive research to determine the most
effective way to teach students how to read.
The research revealed that when the
following five components are effectively
taught, they lead to the highest chance of
reading success (known as the five pillars of
reading): phonemic awareness, phonics,
fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

1. Phonemic Awareness:

Definition: The ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in
spoken words.

Current research indicates phonemic awareness is the strongest predictor of reading


success, even at the high school level. Training in phoneme identification, manipulation,
and substitution is essential for early grades and is indispensable in deterring dyslexic
tendencies. The basic fundamentals employed can easily be applied to older students.

Phonemic awareness, not intelligence, best predicts reading success.

Research Supports Teaching Phonemic Awareness To Older Students

Often phonics instruction is used primarily in kindergarten and first grade. But
should it stop there? New research reveals that teaching phonemic awareness to students
in 2nd grade, as well as English language learners of all ages, is beneficial to reading
development.
The research confirming this finding can be found in the article titled, Older
Children Need Phonemic Awareness Instruction, Too, which defined phonemic
awareness as "the understanding that speech is composed of a series of individual
sounds. … Having phonemic awareness allows students to distinguish the sounds that
letters make individually and together when creating words."

The study found that phonemic awareness instruction is beneficial for second
graders and English language learners because they are still developing their
understanding of phoneme relationships.

In fact, the study found that teaching phonemic awareness to English language
learners helps them progress with their reading skills at a faster rate than with
alternative instruction.

The article made these bold statements about the relationship of phonemic
awareness and learning to read:

“Phonemic awareness is both a prerequisite for and a consequence of learning to


read.”

“Research suggests that phonemic awareness is the best single predictor of students’
reading success.”

The article also referenced the National Reading Panels criteria for Phonemic
Awareness instruction:

 Focus on 1-2 phonetic skills at a time


 Base instruction on students needs
 Help children manipulate the phoneme (sound) with the grapheme (letter)
 Carefully plan and teach skills in a very clear & specific manner (explicit
instruction)
 Include activities that actively involve students in experimenting with language
2. Phonics Instruction:

Definition: Instruction in the ability to draw relationships between the letters


(graphemes) of written language and the individual sounds (phonemes) of spoken
language. This teaches students to use these relationships to read and write words.

What is Phonics?

Parents of elementary students hear the term “phonics” and may have questions about
the meaning of this reading instructional method and the terminology that accompanies
it. It is helpful for parents to know the basics of what phonics means in order to
understand the method(s) used to teach their child to read.

Schools may be phonics-only, but most public schools use a combination of instruction
methods to teach young children to read. Simply put, phonics is the relationship
between letters and sounds. Phonics-based reading instruction is a methodology for
teaching young children to spell words and read them. The teacher introduces a series of
spelling rules and teaches the child to apply phonetics (how the letter combinations
sound out loud) to decode words based on their spellings. Phonics attempts to break
written language down into the simplest possible set of components.

Phonics is NOT phonetics. Phonetics is the study of speech sounds in general. Phonics
is the application of speech sounds to written language in order to decode it and
comprehend (read) it. English is a particularly difficult language to learn to read because
it contains 42 phonemes (sounds), but only 26 letters of the alphabet and no accent
marks. Many phonemes must be represented by combinations of letters. Over centuries,
the original Germanic version of the English language absorbed components of other
languages, including the Romance languages, Norse, Latin, and Greek. The spellings of
these words did not change when they were absorbed into English. For a young child to
learn to read English is quite an accomplishment. For a child to experience difficulties
in learning to read is not something to be ashamed of—it is understandable and treatable
with effective reading remediation.
One of the best ways to describe phonics is as a code that breaks written language into
comprehensible building blocks. If a child understands that a letter has a specific sound,
and that combinations of letters have corresponding specific sounds, than he can
“decode” words as he reads. Although phonics is considered to be a reading
instructional method, it also helps children learn to write as well.

In phonics-based reading instruction, which usually occurs in kindergarten through the


second grade, the child first learns the sound(s) associated with individual letters of the
alphabet. After mastering the individual letter sounds, the child moves on to recognizing
combinations of letters and the sounds associated with those combinations. At this
point, the teacher introduces simple words that apply the rules the child has learned. The
reading assignments and exercises are based on a controlled vocabulary in order to
reinforce the learning.

The child usually learns all the consonant letter sounds in kindergarten. Vowel letter
sounds are learned in first grade, along with letter combinations and simple words. By
second grade, word parts such as prefixes and suffixes are included as the child
increases his vocabulary and learns how to decode words that are exceptions to the basic
phonics rules. Successful readers typically can spell and read fairly automatically by the
end of the second grade, although some children need to continue phonics instruction
into the third grade. Children diagnosed with dyslexia and other reading disorders need
phonics instruction into the upper elementary grades, and those with reading difficulties
will continue to benefit from it beyond elementary school.

3. Fluency Instruction:

Definition: Instruction in the ability to read text accurately and quickly, either silently
or orally.

Neuroscientists are learning more about how fluency is developed. Fluent reading is
established after the individual reads the word at least four times, using accurate
phonologic processing (slow, accurate sounding out). Fluency is built word by word and
entirely dependent on repeated, accurate, sounding out of the specific word. Fluency is
not established by "memorizing" what words look like but rather by developing correct
neural-phonologic models of the word. We now know fluency is not the apparent visual
recognition of an entire word but rather the retrieval of the exact neural model created
by proper repeated phonologic processing.
Fluency is defined as the ability to decode text with accuracy, automaticity and prosody,
the appropriate use of phrasing and expression to convey meaning. That being said, why
is this single reading component so highly recognized and emphasized in the field of
reading education today?

We are seeing a significant increase in the importance of oral reading fluency in the
classroom. With such a focus on Response to Intervention (RTI), this component of
reading is being specifically used to assess student reading proficiencies throughout the
country. Depending on their reading and accuracy rate (derived from a 1-minute fluency
probe), students are categorized into three distinct groups, which drive the “tiers” of
instruction in the classroom. Struggling readers are then progress monitored (generally
weekly) to determine their rate of improvement and if their instructional intervention is
deemed effective. This process continues to be questioned by teachers and reading
specialists in the field, as it is being viewed as a one-dimensional assessment that does
not accurately identify successful and/or struggling readers.

Why the Focus on Fluency?

With the ability to decode


text quickly and efficiently, the
reader can better recognize the
words with automaticity, which
allows the brain to focus more
intently on the content of the
text. This Automaticity Theory
(LaBerge & Samuels, 1974) is
based on the conjecture that
students can process one
component of reading at a time.
The key to understanding this
theory surrounds the idea that
reading requires more attention
than children can handle, which
means they are unable to
complete these tasks
simultaneously. Early readers
are confronted with a
“cognitive overload,” as they
are focusing all of their efforts and attention on the decoding of the text, which impacts
their ability to recall key elements and/or fully understand its meaning. Experienced
readers are able to decode words naturally and with automaticity, which provides
additional cognitive output. It is also important to note that this theory supports the
scaffolding system. This system encompasses the idea that children need to first master
letter sounds before they are able to effectively blend and view words in a more holistic
manner. Once students can decode text at a fluent level, they are more apt to apply
metacognitive strategies in order to successfully comprehend what they are reading.
This developmental process will enable students to become more efficient readers
through repeated and modeled reading.

Research continues to reaffirm the importance of oral reading fluency and its correlation
to increased reading comprehension. However, research also states that we cannot
assess early readers by (fluency), speed, accuracy and prosody alone without evaluating
their comprehension proficiencies, which includes both literal and inferential reasoning.
That being said, it is vital to use a sound research-based reading program and
instructional methods that include all facets of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics,
reading fluency, vocabulary development and reading comprehension. Utilizing
these key reading components in addition to effective differentiated instruction are best
practices when looking to meet the academic needs of all students.

Tips for Helping Students Improve Reading Fluency and


Flow
WATCH THIS OUT!!!!! www.storylineonline.net. (Authors read the best books on
this site and are the best models of fluent reading)

Have you ever heard someone who is so dynamic in reading that all you want to do is
keep listening to him/her? This is the flow of reading. When you hear it you know that
this is exactly what it should sound like when someone is reading. Now imagine this
scenario. A child is reading word by word in a monotone fashion and it sounds like it
actually hurts to get the next word out. If your heart is like mine, you feel really bad for
this child. All you want to do is make reading easier for them. Well, thank goodness
there is a solution.

The solution is fluency instruction. Fluency is the effortless reading of words


accurately, with the proper rate and expression. Fluency instruction has been known to
be a bridge between phonics and comprehension. It is a transition stage from merely
reading words to actually understanding what is being read.

Good fluency instruction must include top notch models of reading. Storyline online is a
perfect source for that. Other sources include audio books and YouTube. There are lots
of dynamic readers just pouring out their love for reading.

Sight word instruction is critical in fluency instruction. Using a source like Fry’s high
frequency word list is very helpful in creating automatic readers. However, you want to
make sure that you move beyond just single words and move into phrases and then short
passages so that reading is not limited to short choppy reading.

A new strategy that was developed by Timothy Rasinski combines the use of singing
and reading with a Karaoke machine. When students are singing they are forced to have
their voices keep up at a certain rate. Readers that struggle with using expression need
to see how fluent readers have their voice go up and down. One way to do this is to
have two highlighters. One highlighter shows where voices go up and the other shows
where a voice goes. Then the student and the teacher can start to notice together where
in sentences voices go up and down.

4. Vocabulary Instruction:
Definition: Instruction in the words necessary for effective communication.

Knowledge of word meaning helps with decoding and also improves reading
comprehension.

What part does vocabulary play in learning to read?


Vocabulary plays an important role in word recognition. Beginning readers use knowledge
of words from speech to recognize words that they encounter in print. When children
‘sound out’ a word, their brain is working hard to connect the pronunciation of a sequence
of sounds to a word in their vocabulary. If they find a match between the word on the page
and a word in they have learned through listening and speaking, and it makes sense to them,
they will keep reading. If a match is not created, because the word they are reading is not
found in their vocabulary, comprehension is interrupted. This is the case even if they are
able to generate the correct pronunciation through the decoding process.
It stands to reason, and research, that vocabulary is important for reading to learn as well as
learning to read. For understanding of text, students need to be familiar with the meaning of
at least 95 percent of words in any book or passage they read. Decoding instruction by itself
will not guarantee that students will gather enough meaning to learn from what they are
reading.

Vocabulary has a significant effect on student learning

The importance of vocabulary instruction is hard to dispute. Dr. Adams shared some
interesting statistics that emphasized the effect that vocabulary acquisition has on student
learning.

 Only 10,000 different words account for about 96% of words in spoken English.
 The number of different words in popular, contemporary, print is at least 1,000,000.
 If conversational levels of spoken language were reflected in print, we would be limited
to a reading level equivalent to Grade 4 or below. Clearly, written language is more
sophisticated, consistent, and exact than spoken language.
 There are more rare words in print than speech. For example, only 68 out of a thousand
words in a newspaper are rare words. In the oral vocabulary represented during Adult
Prime Time television, only 23 out of every thousand words are rare. The slightly more
encouraging fact for parents of children that watch cartoons is that they encounter 31
rare words in every thousand words of a typical cartoon. Students in 5th grade who
read an average of 65 minutes a day, ranked in the 98th percentile of a norm-referenced
assessment, and added an average of 4,358,000 words to their vocabulary in a year.
Students scoring in the 50th percentile range read only an average of 4.6 minutes a day,
adding 308,000 words to their vocabulary in a year’s time. Students who averaged 0.1
minutes of reading a day, as you would expect, ranked in the lowest 10th percentile and
only added a mere 6,700 words to their vocabulary in the same year’s time.

How can we effectively teach vocabulary?


It takes the average student about 25 experiences with a word before they ‘own’ it in
speech. Here are a few evidence-based practices that can help your students ‘own’
vocabulary words that they are explicitly or implicitly taught.
Read Alouds

Read Alouds are probably the best-known way to expose students to the meaning of words
that are beyond their level to decode. Intentionally select words that you want teach before
reading out loud. It is okay to quickly define a word that comes up in your story that
students may not understand. You could also take note of words that are implicitly taught in
the text, and return to them after reading.

Associate the ‘new’ with the ‘known’

Point out and explore connections and relationships between new words and words that
students already use in their vocabulary. For example: what is the relationship between the
word ‘car’ and the word ‘vehicle’? How is the word ‘melancholy’ the same as the word
‘sad’? How is it different? What is the difference in the degree of emotion displayed when
you are ‘mad’, ‘angry’, or ‘livid’? These explorations can be fun and will go a long way in
giving students immediate access to the meaning of words.

Use new words in sentences

Using a new vocabulary word in the context of a sentence will further support students in
understanding the word as well as recognizing it when they hear it again. In fact, use the
same vocabulary word in multiple sentences. Here are some examples using the word
‘compulsory’.

 To win the prize, attendance at the game is compulsory.


 Is this homework compulsory or voluntary?
 In some countries, education is not compulsory so many children stay home and work.
 If you want to drive a car, it is compulsory that you get a driver’s license.

When you model new words in this way, students are more likely to use them in their
speaking vocabulary as well.

Create opportunities for students to see, hear, read, and write the new
words

Using multiple senses when introducing or reinforcing a new concept, will facilitate
effective storage in the brain, and efficient retrieval for use when speaking or writing.
Encourage students to use new vocabulary words

A student truly owns a word when they can effortlessly use it when they speak and
write. Make it ‘compulsory’ for students to use the new vocabulary word at least five
times in their conversations with classmates. Keep track of how many times the new
word is used in the classroom. Encourage students to use the word at home with their
family members. Reward students when they correctly use the new words in their
writing.

Teaching students how to decode words is important in early literacy instruction but it is
not enough. Students also need to receive explicit instruction in fluency,
comprehension, and vocabulary to become proficient readers. Vocabulary instruction
has a powerful affect in all components of proficient reading (i.e. word recognition as
well as reading fluency and comprehension). When vocabulary increases, learning
increases and the good news is that vocabulary instruction is fun!

For a quintessential resource on vocabulary instruction, check out the book by Isabel
Beck.