Yesterday I was listening to Pea ramble on and on about princesses and all of things that being a princess entails. She was using some of her own Spanglish words in her descriptions, and I was reminded of something I heard a couple of years ago on an airplane. The man in the row behind me was traveling with two small kids. Based on the conversation I could overhear, these kids were obviously very sharp. One of the kids mentioned that someone had “shutted” the door. The dad was quick to correct him–“It’s ‘shut’, not ‘shutted’.”
This dad’s heart was in the right place. He obviously wanted his children to speak correctly, and that’s a good thing. But his method was a little off. The better response would have been, “Yes, he ‘shut’ the door.” See the difference? The second method is called modeling, where the correct past tense of the word “shut” is demonstrated for the child instead of making a correction of what the child said.
In this case, the kid was actually a lot smarter than the dad realized. The child is becoming fluent in the English language and has realized that the usual way to make a word past tense is to add the -ed suffix to it. He incorrectly applied this approach to the word “shut”, but that’s ok. He just demonstrated that he has a firm grasp on one of the rules of our language. Modeling the exception for him is a way to positively reinforce one of the many complicated exceptions to the rule without pointing out his error.
Modeling is a strategy commonly used with students who are learning a second language to correct them without making them self-conscious and accidentally discouraging them from continuing to practice. It only makes sense to do the same thing to help encourage fluency in a small child who is learning his or her first language.
Better known as The Five Components of Reading, the Fab Five are the crucial instruments that research has shown kids need in order to become successful readers. Research is great . . . but are these really so important and are they necessary? My answer to both questions is a big resounding YES! Each one is important and they are absolutely necessary to teach so that your kids not only build a strong foundation of skills, but also continue to develop them in order to become accomplished readers that go on to do well in other subject areas.
Before I break down each of the Fab Five, it’s important to note that these components are not “steps to reading”. They are not meant to be introduced one at a time and mastered before moving on to the other. While it’s true that children will have to learn parts of some components before they can work on others, they are meant to work together throughout the process of learning to read. This means that you will be working on different aspects of the five components as your child’s skills grow. For example: Your child may need to work on some phonemic awareness skills before he/she can work on phonics. Yet another child can be working on vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension all at once in the same story. It may sound confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it once you see examples in the teaching methods and lesson ideas!
What Is Phonemic Awareness?
Phonemic awareness (PA) is the ability to hear and manipulate the different sounds in our language. Basically that means that kids should be able to hear, put together, and separate the sounds in spoken words.
You may have memories of learning phonics in school and being continuously drilled on letter sounds and spelling rules until you thought you would explode. Or you may be a product of whole language instruction (like me) and have very little knowledge of the intricate workings of our written language – you know how to read and write, but you’re not sure how it all works. It just depends on when and where you went to school. So which way is best? Recent research has shown that along with phonemic awareness instruction, both phonics and whole language instruction is best. You can read more about the differences between the two and why they should work together in this article. Either way, phonics instruction has come a long way since we were in school and there are ways to make it fun! So let’s get started on what you need to know to teach your child phonics.
Fluency … the great bridge. Fluency acts as the bridge between decoding words and comprehending what they mean. But what does fluency mean? Here’s the National Reading Panel’s official definition:
Fluency: The ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression.
Words, words, words! The more words your child knows, the better reader he or she will become. The great news is that you don’t have to wait until your child is of reading age to start building the vocabulary they will need in order to be great readers. This is because there are four different kinds of vocabulary that we use in our lives: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Studies show that children with larger listening and speaking vocabularies experience greater comprehension, therefore success as readers than children with a more limited listening and speaking word bank. This is because a child can know the meanings of thousands of words without having to know what they look like or how to spell them. Once they know the meaning of a word or a concept, they can just attach that knowledge to the visual representations (the words) later on as they are exposed to them in reading and writing. This large listening/speaking word bank helps them be more efficient readers because they don’t have to spend time learning to read the word and the meaning, they just have to learn to attach a known meaning to a new word.
Comprehension is THE ultimate goal of reading! Everything we teach our kids in reading is so that they will end up having comprehension, or an understanding of what they read. We spend so much time learning how to read just to get to the point where we can read to learn. Comprehension = knowledge. But just because comprehension is our ultimate goal doesn’t mean that you need to wait till your kids are older or have “mastered” everything else in reading before you teach it.