to Read and Write
acquisition is a complex task involving the development of oral
language and the mastery of written language, both reading and writing.
As parents of more than one child can attest, their children did
not acquire oral language in the same way or at the same pace. Language
acquisition is progressive, and it involves more than just modeling
and copying. Children develop oral language by participating in
increasingly complex conversations and extending their understanding
of the language they hear and use.
acquisition of written language is a similarly complex process.
Students do not progress at the same pace or in the same way. Teachers
have historically relied on various means to help students acquire
an understanding of the English language system. Most students succeed
in constructing their own understandings based on the methodology
used in their classrooms. Some students, however, need additional
support in learning to read and write.
approach to reading instruction that uses various teaching methods
with various levels of teacher support, which is based on the student’s
own oral language processes and provides them with a means to develop
their own reading behaviors to become proficient is of greatest
benefit to the largest number of students. To provide this kind
of reading instruction, teachers need to know what knowledge, skills
and strategies students already possess. Teachers also need a strong
theoretical and practical understanding of the process of oral and
written language acquisition. This understanding of theory and practice,
together with ongoing and thorough observation of each student,
is what makes an effective approach to reading.
is a cognitive process. Basic to the process is the understanding
that what can be said can be written down and then read again by
the writer or by someone else. Once students grasp this basic concept,
they must acquire an understanding of print—the code by which
speech is represented as visual information—and the skills
to decipher the code and turn it back into speech. In English, this
visual information is composed of the letters of the alphabet, arranged
in systematic patterns and clusters to spell words. Each letter
has its own distinctive visual features, and each letter stands
for one or more sounds
by itself or in combination with other letters. Beginning readers
need to learn to associate letters with sounds in order to access
the information represented by print and comprehend the intended
message. Comprehending the author’s intended message is the
goal of reading.
Readers, at all levels, bring
their own knowledge and experience to the task of reading and comprehending
what is read. Oral language and background knowledge are important
resources that readers use to decode print and make sense of the
message. As students progress through the grade levels to more complex
text, the language in books becomes increasingly complex; the language
of books is academic language rather than basic oral or conversational
language. This change must be part of their understanding as students
become proficient readers and writers. Extra support is needed for
students who are English language learners or who have low levels
of language in their primary language.
What Research Tells
Us About Teaching Students To Read
There is a considerable body
of scientific research that identifies effective ways to teach students
how to read (National Reading Panel, 2001). Five areas of instruction
have been identified that are critical elements to success in teaching
Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work
with individual sounds in spoken words. Before you become a reader
you must be aware of the sounds that are in words. Readers understand
that written words can be spoken and that they use phonemes or particular
speech sounds when they read a word.
Phonics is the relationship between the sounds of the spoken language
(phonemes) and the letters of the written language (graphemes).
Phonics is a system for remembering how to read words. The letters
of the alphabet and their corresponding sounds when placed in memory
are used to decode words.
Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and quickly.
Fluent readers decode automatically and therefore are able to concentrate
their attention on the meaning of the text. Fluent readers recognize
and comprehend words at the same time.
Vocabulary is the words we know and need to communicate. Oral vocabulary
is the words we use when speaking and reading vocabulary is the
words we can read in print. Reading text with meaning relies on
the words used being part of the vocabulary of the reader. A reader
needs to know most of the words that are read to comprehend the
text. Understanding phonics and using these skills to decode text
is not helpful if the word decoded by students is not a word in
their vocabulary or the meaning of the word can’t be determined
The purpose of reading is to understand what is read. Comprehension
is the ability to take meaning from text and remember and communicate
the meaning from the text. Good readers are those that monitor their
comprehension to make sure they understand the text.
Reading in the Classroom
The development of literacy
is progressive. The process of learning to read involves surrounding
students with conversation and print, modeling how reading is done,
providing direct instruction in specific areas of need, and encouraging
them to engage in similar activities independently. Various teaching
methods are available to provide this support throughout the reading
Reading aloud to students allows them to experience great
examples of literature, works they would not be able to read on
their own at this point in their learning, and to experience a variety
of forms and styles of writing. It acquaints them with the language
and form of books and allows them to appreciate the pleasure that
comes from reading without having to concentrate on the mechanics
of decoding the printed word. Reading aloud encourages them to want
to emulate the reader and to acquire the skills that will allow
them to enjoy the pleasure and satisfaction of reading for themselves.
The listening and thinking skills used during reading aloud help
students with the development of comprehension skills that are used
when students read themselves.
In the classroom, the reading done with students is called shared
reading. The technique of shared reading in the classroom was created
to replicate the experience of storybook reading, where the student
follows along as the adult reads aloud. Shared reading is commonly
done with books large enough to allow a group of students to see
the print and follow along. Shared reading can also be done with
poems and songs that are written on chart paper or the overhead
projector and with the products of interactive writing activities.
The teacher’s role in shared reading is to: 1) choose appropriate
material, 2) point to the text while reading word-by-word for beginning
readers and phrase-by-phrase or line-byline for more advanced readers,
3) read along with the students, 4) read in a fluent and expressive
manner, 5) select explicit skills for direct instruction, and 6)
observe the students' responses and behaviors.
In guided reading, students assume more responsibility than in shared
reading. The teacher and a group of students, or sometimes just
one student, have their own copy of the book being read. The teacher
provides an introduction to the story, and then observes the students
as they read orally, talk, think, and question their way through
the story. The text chosen for guided reading should be within an
instructional range and should permit some new learning and the
opportunity for problem solving by the students. The teacher assists
the students in the problem solving experiences in such a manner
as to promote future use of the behaviors and strategies needed
by the students in problem solving situations.
In independent reading the students assume responsibility
for reading. Opportunities for independent reading should be part
of each stage of students' literacy development. Materials for independent
reading can be familiar stories that students know from reading
aloud, shared reading, and guided reading experiences. New books
appropriate to a student’s independent level may also be used.
The teacher can take this time to observe individual student reading
and problem-solving behaviors.
Two other small group teaching
methods are available for more advanced readers that use flexible
grouping and where students apply reading and thinking strategies.
Reciprocal teaching is an instructional approach that is used to
help students read for meaning and monitor their comprehension.
It is a small group activity that uses the major strategies of predicting,
clarifying, questioning, and summarizing to encourage thinking during
the reading process. This approach focuses more on reading in the
content areas but is appropriate for literature as well.
Students who are proficient at using decoding systems can be organized
into book clubs where the books read are selected by topic and interest.
Book clubs help develop deeper comprehension strategies and overall
enjoyment of reading. The teacher meets with the group regularly
to discuss issues, clarify points, and extend student thinking while
monitoring for progress.
The Reciprocity of Reading
Reading and writing are reciprocal processes. When a student reads,
he is decoding the message that the author has sent. When a student
writes, he needs to organize his thinking to form the message that
he intends to send to himself or to another reader. During writing,
students need to use alphabetic principle, word analysis, spelling,
and the conventions of print required for the particular message
that is being written. There are many important skills that are
necessary to learn in the reading and writing process. Different
kinds and levels of understanding are needed for students to use
these skills in reading and in writing. The ability to read or decode
a word does not guarantee that a student will be able to write or
encode the same word.
The Writing Process
Writing instruction is based upon student’s oral language
development and knowledge of the world around them, very much like
reading instruction at the acquisition phase. Learning that what
one says can be recorded in written form and then read by another
becomes a goal even for the very youngest student. In order to provide
writing instruction, teachers need to know what knowledge students
The reciprocity of reading and
writing is an essential connection that all students need to develop
and draw upon. Writing is done at many different levels of understanding
and thinking. The writer needs to understand the basic principles
of letter-sound correspondence, letter formation, and using systematic
patterns in words and word clusters to spell words. Central to the
process is, of course, that the writer is sending a message to the
reader and that the message carries a meaning.
Students need to understand
various purposes and forms of writing:
• Narrative writing tells a story or gives an account of something
dealing with sequences of events and experiences.
• Expository writing is the communication of details, facts
and content specific information.
• Descriptive writing provides a verbal rendition of a character,
event, setting or plot.
• Persuasive writing attempts to change a reader to a new
belief, position or course of action.
Writing generally develops more
slowly than reading. A reader has the advantage of gaining new knowledge
by reading the writing of others. Writers on the other hand have
only their own knowledge and must use this information to express
themselves in print. Beginning writers are encouraged to write about
things they know and are familiar with in their lives. They are
encouraged to use the language that they hear every day in their
homes and communities. Even though this writing might not be grammatically
correct, it helps students understand that their thoughts and ideas
can be written down and communicated to others. This level of ownership
is an important part of becoming a writer.
Writing in the Classroom
The development of oral language is progressive. As vocabulary grows,
language structures become more complex and the knowledge base expands
as students progress in their language acquisition. Likewise, in
their writing, students progress from beginning levels of vocabulary,
sentence structure, spelling and phonology to more complex levels.
There are a variety of teaching methods and experiences that support
students’ growth in writing.
Interactive writing is a process in which the teacher and the students
collaborate on the construction of the text and share the role of
scribe. The negotiation of text is a process that develops thinking,
planning, refining and consolidating while at the same time developing
appropriate language structures and increasing vocabulary. Types
of interactive writing provide different levels of support. In transcription
students focus on known text and how that text was constructed.
In innovation students also work with known text but add their own
thinking and writing to the end product. In negotiation students
and teacher share the responsibility for deciding what to write
and then the writing itself. The teacher and students can work at
many levels of competence, from letter recognition and formation
to learning various types of writing. Interactive writing is an
effective method to support skill development in beginning readers,
focus on the confusions of struggling readers, and teach advanced
writing skills to more proficient readers and writers.
Interactive editing is a teaching method where the teacher and students
collaborate to edit familiar, error-free text. Interactive editing
provides an opportunity to discuss grammar and all of the conventions
of writing in the context of an authentic writing activity. The
importance of the reciprocity of reading and writing is emphasized
in interactive editing. The reading style and form becomes the model
for the writing, particularly with expository materials.
Advanced Word Analysis
Advanced word analysis is the study of spelling patterns, suffixes,
prefixes and word origins. Words and patterns are taught based on
teacher observation of the independent writing of students. The
emphasis is on teaching students to make associations and to draw
upon what they already know about works in order to decode or pronounce
Independent writing is the ultimate extension of all the other methods
of writing instruction. The goal is that the students are all given
the time necessary to independently write text, incorporating all
they have learned in large group and small group writing methodologies.