Phonics relies on phonemic awareness

Phonics relies on phonemic awareness. Children must have the knowledge that words are made up from phonemes or units of sound. Phonics instruction links these phonemes with written letters so that children can transfer knowledge of sounds to the printed word. Phonics teaches children to be able to identify the phonemes that make up each word, which helps children to learn to read and spell. The main objective of phonics instruction is to help children quickly establish the sounds in unfamiliar written words. When children stumble new words in texts they use the elements of phonics to decode and understand. A knowledge of the relationships between letters and sounds is vital for decoding words which, in turn, is critical for reading. Learning the letter-sound correspondences, and how to blend them together, provides students with a strategy for approaching unknown words (National Reading Panel 2000; Department of Education, Science and Training 2005). The NRP (National Reading Panel 2000) report found that systematic phonics instruction enhances children’s success in learning to read and is more effective than instruction that teaches little or no phonics. The most successful method of teaching phonics is synthetic phonics. In synthetic phonics, children are taught to sound and blends from the beginning of reading instruction, after a few letter sounds have been taught Synthetic phonics works because it is systematic and successive; it recognises that certain skills or concepts need to be taught before others, and therefore skills are taught in a specific sequence.
Fluency is the skill to read fast and naturally with accuracy and expression. Fluency includes the skill of automaticity which allows a child to distinguish words quickly. For students, achieving automaticity in reading is vital to becoming effective readers. When reading skills have developed to a point of automaticity students no longer need to use their working memory to decode, and they can use that memory for comprehension. Although fluency alone is not adequate for high-levels of reading achievement, it is significant because it provides a link between decoding and comprehension (National Centre for Education Statistics 1995). Fluency builds on phonemic awareness and decoding skills. Fluent readers are able to decode words fast and precisely, allowing them to turn their attention on the meaning of the text (National Research Council 1998; Hudson, Lane ; Pullen 2005). Poor automaticity can lead to confusion or misinterpretations of the text, making fluency an important skill for text comprehension (Rasinski ; Zimmerman 2011). Research in this area has examined several instructional approaches: modelling oral reading, repeated reading and independent silent reading. The first method involves teachers reading texts aloud to demonstrate appropriate phrasing, speed and expression. Teachers can assess reading fluency through accuracy and automaticity. Accuracy and automaticity can be assessed by measuring a student’s reading rate and words correct per minute (WCPM (Rasinski 2014; Hudson, Lane & Pullen 2005). Monitoring children’s WCPM throughout the year gives a clear record of their progress in terms of both accuracy and speed. To assess the patterns of rhythm and sound teachers can listen to students read selected passages and assess elements such as their expression, inflection, volume and pace (Hudson, Lane ; Pullen 2005). Teachers may use a checklist (e.g. Hudson, Lane ; Pullen 2005) or a more quantifiable scale (e.g. Zutell ; Rasinski 1991) to measure these elements.
Vocabulary plays a vital part in word recognition. Beginning readers use knowledge of words from speech to recognise words that they come across in print. When children ‘sound out’ a word, their brain links 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 they have learned through listening and speaking, and it makes sense to them, they will keep reading. If a match is not found, because the word they are reading is not in their vocabulary, then comprehension is disrupted. This will be the case even if they are able to produce the correct pronunciation through the decoding process. Vocabulary is therefore an important element for effective reading instruction. Biemiller states: Teaching vocabulary will not guarantee success in reading, just as learning to read words will not guarantee success in reading. However, missing either sufficient word identification skills or suitable vocabulary will ensure failure (Biemiller 2005, cited by National Reading Technical Assistance Center 2010). Vocabulary is learned both indirectly and directly (National Reading Panel 2000). Children learn the meanings of many words indirectly, through every day experiences with both oral and written language including conversations, being read to and reading on their own (National Institute for Literacy 2006). Nonetheless, students should still be taught vocabulary directly. Direct instruction helps students learn hard words, such as words that represent multifaceted concepts, or that are not part of their everyday experiences (National Institute for Literacy 2006). Effective vocabulary instruction includes teaching student’s new words directly as well as teaching students word-learning strategies they can use to learn words on their own (Graves 2006). Strategies for successful vocabulary instruction include: how to use word parts (e.g. suffixes, prefixes and base words) to figure out the meanings of words in text; and how to use context clues to determine word meanings (National Institute for Literacy 2006; Learning Point Associates 2004). Consistent and frequent exposure to new vocabulary words is important. Several studies have found an association between repeated readings of stories and improvements in vocabulary in preschool and primary school students (for example, Senechal 1997; Penno, Wilkinson & Moore 2002). In reading aloud, teachers should encourage their students to actively participate with the text by explaining new words and asking them questions about the book or what is going to happen next (Trivette et al. 2012). Evidence also suggests students need regular exposure to words across multiple contexts (McKeown et al. 1985).

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