Reading A-Z pays close attention to the National Reading Panel's recommendations and other research findings when developing its reading resources. The student and teacher resources on the Reading A-Z Web site have been developed to reflect the instructional practices and reading strategies that are best supported by research findings from a wide variety of sources. The resources also correspond to the findings of the Put Reading First federal initiative.
In 2000, the National Reading Panel published its research-based findings on the reading strategies and instructional practices that demonstrated the best results for reading achievement in developing readers. The panel reviewed more than 100,000 reading studies, and from those, analyzed several hundred key studies that met its criteria for sound scientific research. The results are organized around five key areas of reading instruction--phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
The findings are intended to help educators and publishers understand and address the best methods of instruction and develop the most effective instructional resources. The hopeful outcome is improved reading performance on the part of all children.
This document addresses each of the five areas of reading instruction identified by the National Reading Panel. It identifies specific Reading A-Z resources designed to support effective instruction. It also covers other areas cited by research that fall outside the parameters of the five key areas.
Providing Differentiated Reading Instruction to Meet the Individual Needs of Students
By Adria F. Klein
Phonological awareness addresses the sounds of language. It does not teach the symbols that represent sounds, but rather the sounds alone. Instruction in phonological awareness includes the following:
Word awareness is the knowledge that words have meaning. Students with word awareness can discriminate individual words in a passage read to them. Beginning readers must have this skill before they can extract meaning from what they read. For example, a student needs to know that the spoken word dog represents a creature that has four legs and barks before he or she can understand what is meant by the printed word dog.
Rhyme awareness is the understanding that certain word endings sound alike, and therefore contain the same sounds, such as the short /a/ and /p/ sounds in cap and map or the long /i/ and /t/ combination in fight and kite.
Onset and Rime
Onset is the initial consonant in a one-syllable word. Rime includes the remaining sounds, including the vowel and any sounds that follow. For example, in kite, the /k/ sound is the onset, and the /ite/ sound is the rime.
This is the recognition that words are divided into parts, each part containing a separate vowel sound. A student with syllable awareness can identify bat as one syllable and batter as two syllables.
This is the student's awareness of the smallest units of sound in a word. It also refers to a student's ability to segment, blend, and manipulate these units. A student with phonemic awareness hears three sounds in the word bat: /b/, /a/, and /t/.
The National Reading Panel’s findings focus on the phonemic awareness aspect of phonological awareness.
Phonemic awareness can be taught and learned. Effective strategies include teaching students to: identify a particular sound in a word; recognize the same sound in different words; recognize one word that begins or ends with a different sound from a group of three or four words; segment and blend the sounds in a word; and manipulate sounds in a word through deletion, addition, and substitution of other sounds.
Phonemic awareness helps students learn to read and spell. The most effective instruction quickly moves the student from awareness of a particular sound to an association of that sound with a letter symbol. Once letter symbols are introduced, students should be able to manipulate the sounds within words by using the letter symbols.
The best results occur when instruction focuses on one or two phonemic manipulations at a time, rather than three or more manipulations. Several simultaneous manipulations may cause confusion, dilute the teaching of a particular manipulation, or introduce more difficult manipulations before easier ones have been mastered.
Reading A-Z materials support the suggested practices and recommendations of the National Reading Panel in the following areas:
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Phonics teaches developing readers the relationship between phonemes (sounds of oral language) and graphemes (letters that represent sounds in print). Students who learn phonics master the sound/symbol code that enables them to read and spell. Mastering phonics, or the alphabetic principle, will help readers decode unfamiliar words and automatically recognize familiar words.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, research has found that phonics instruction can and should begin as early as kindergarten. Early instruction has a significant and substantial effect on later reading ability.
Not all phonics instruction is equally effective. Research findings show that a phonics program must contain two elements in order for instruction to lead to real reading results:
Direct and explicit teaching of the major sound/symbol relationships in a specific and clearly defined sequence, known as systematic phonics, is a more effective instruction strategy than teaching phonics without a systematic order or without direct and explicit instruction.
A systematic phonics program should cover all the major sound/symbol relationships, including consonants, blends, short and long vowels, consonant and vowel digraphs, diphthongs, and variant sound-symbol relationships. However, instruction of sound/symbol relationships is most effective when combined with plenty of practice and application through the reading and writing of words.
Systematic phonics instruction improves word recognition and spelling in kindergarten and first-grade students from a wide range of economic and social backgrounds. It also significantly improves students' reading comprehension. This systematic instruction is particularly beneficial to students who are having difficulty learning to read.
Phonics instruction is a component of reading instruction, but it should not constitute the entire reading program. It should be integrated with other reading instruction in phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension strategies in order to create a complete reading program. Phonics instruction is greatly enhanced when it provides ample opportunity for students to practice the sound/symbol relationships they have been taught.
Practice should include reading word lists and phrases, as well as continuous text in books and stories. Students also should have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of sound/symbol relationships through writing.
Reading A-Z provides 58 lessons that cover all of the major sound/symbol relationships, including consonants, vowels, consonant blends, consonant digraphs, vowel digraphs and diphthongs, r-controlled vowels, irregular vowels, and silent consonants. These lessons include direct and explicit instructional guidelines. The Reading A-Z phonics program delivers this explicit set of sound/symbol lessons in a specific sequence. The sequence begins with single letter sound/symbol relationships (initial and final consonants and short vowels) and progresses toward more complex sound/symbol relationships.
Each lesson for Reading A-Z's Leveled Books from Level aa through Level P has a section devoted to phonics.
The phonics lessons and resources are only part of Reading A-Z's collection of reading resources and instructional strategies. They are part of a balanced approach to literacy that includes materials for phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
Reading A-Z's sound/symbol cards and direct, explicit instructional strategies provide students with practice manipulating sounds and symbols to form new words and alter existing words.
Each Reading A-Z phonics lesson includes reproducible Phonics Practice Sheets of decodable words, phases, and sentences. The lists consist solely of words containing the target sound/symbol relationship, previously taught phonic elements, and high-utility words.
Decodable books accompany each new lesson. These books consist entirely of words formed with previously taught sound/symbol relationships and high-frequency words. They place the sound/symbol relationships in the context of continuous text in book format.
Fluency consists of two parts: (1) the ability to read text at a standard reading rate, and (2) the ability to read text with proper pauses and expression. Fluent readers can recognize words automatically and effortlessly. They group words into phrases and meaningful chunks as they read, creating vocal expression and fluidity.
Fluent readers connect ideas within a text and connect texts to their background knowledge to form meaning. Less fluent readers expend much energy on decoding, leaving little energy to devote to comprehension.
Fluent readers read words as wholes without much conscious effort, and can focus instead on comprehension.
The following approaches contribute to improved fluency and overall reading achievement:
Reading A-Z provides hundreds of developmentally appropriate Leveled Books. They are easy to access and can be downloaded and printed for pennies. This means that students can keep the books for repeated reading.
Reading A-Z also provides leveled fluency passages written at graduated reading levels. These passages can be practiced, timed, and graphed to promote fluency.
Reader’s theater scripts are play scripts that provide practice in oral reading, fluent delivery, and correct expression through characterization.
Reading specialists often refer to four types of vocabularylistening, speaking, reading, and writing. Oral vocabulary, which includes listening and speaking, is important to understanding both spoken and printed words. Readers connect, or "map," written words with their known oral vocabulary as they read. If a reader has a limited oral vocabulary, he or she will have difficulty making meaning from words, even if he or she is able to sound them out. If a reader reads the sentence The dog is in her abode, and the word abode is familiar, then the sentence makes sense. On the other hand, if a reader is unfamiliar with the word abode, the text will not make sense.
Reading and writing vocabulary consists of the words students see or can place in print. The reading and writing vocabulary for many beginning readers, especially second language learners, is limited.
The easiest way to increase vocabulary is through exposure to new words through frequent reading, writing, and speaking. Students will pick up many words indirectly through independent reading. However, teaching specific words before reading a text helps both vocabulary acquisition and reading comprehension. Having dictionary and glossary resources for explicit instruction of vocabulary also makes instruction more effective.
Teachers can help students foster an awareness of and interest in new words through engaging word activities, interesting word facts, and word play.
Vocabulary is key to getting meaning from printed language. Beginning readers and second language learners with weak oral vocabularies will have difficulty comprehending text.
Reading A-Z makes a vast collection of books from many genres readily accessible to teachers and students. The books are written at graduated levels of difficulty so that students can be matched to books that are suitable for independent reading. Extensive independent reading helps build a student\'s vocabulary and therefore promotes comprehension.
Reading A-Z’s Leveled Books introduce glossaries and bold-faced vocabulary terms beginning at the second-grade levels. Both fiction and nonfiction books include words that expand a student’s vocabulary. These words are bold-faced to draw the reader’s attention and signal that they are included in the glossary.
Reading A-Z provides direct vocabulary instructional strategies for each Leveled Book lesson. Vocabulary terms are listed at the front of each lesson for introduction, pre-teaching, and discussion before a book is read.
Each Leveled Book lesson also includes vocabulary strategies for teaching prefixes, suffixes, multiple meaning words, synonyms and antonyms, figurative language, and more. Each Leveled Book is accompanied by at least one vocabulary worksheet. These worksheets allow students to work with words using crossword puzzles, anagrams, and other exercises. They also provide word-building activities with prefixes, suffixes, base words, synonyms, antonyms, and other language elements.
Comprehension quizzes for each Leveled Book include word-meaning items to check a reader’s grasp of the book’s vocabulary. Vocabulary flashcards promote engaging vocabulary-building activities. Generic graphic organizers for vocabulary instruction are available for downloading.
High-frequency words are taught explicitly and directly, and are used in running text in High-Frequency Word books and Leveled Books beginning at the kindergarten levels.
Without comprehension, reading is meaningless. Comprehension involves thinking about what has been read. Most reading experts agree that the thought processes and strategies involved in comprehending text can and should be taught directly and explicitly.
Comprehension is an active process that requires an intentional and thoughtful interaction between the reader and the text.
Following are seven key comprehension strategies that developing readers should be taught:
Explicit and formal instruction in the application of comprehension strategies has been shown to be highly effective in enhancing understanding.
Good readers have a purpose for reading. They are active thinkers and are engaged in the reading process.
Each Reading A-Z Leveled Book lesson targets a comprehension strategy. The lesson indicates the strategy under the lesson objectives, cites it as a purpose for reading, and provides opportunities for discussion and practice before, during, and after reading. The teacher models the strategy using think-aloud techniques written into the lesson.
Each set of Leveled Book worksheets includes a graphic organizer or visual learning device to engage the reader and give purpose to the reading. These resources are aligned with the targeted comprehension skill of each lesson.
Generic graphic organizers can be used to teach comprehension skills and strategies.
Each Leveled Book is accompanied by a set of literal, inferential, and open-ended critical/creative thinking response questions.
Two generic retelling rubrics (scoring forms) are provided to assess a student\'s retelling of a story or book.
Leveled reading is the widely accepted practice of providing reading instruction in small-group settings using books that are developmentally appropriate.
Repeated oral reading that includes guidance from teachers, peers, or parents has a significant and positive impact on word recognition, fluency, and comprehension across a range of grade levels.
Students should read often to practice the skills they have been taught. They should be given ample opportunity to practice reading books at their independent reading level.
They should read a rich variety of books from a wide range of genres, and they should read developmentally appropriate materials.
Parents can support their children\'s reading development by reading to their children, listening to their children read, and discussing what their children read.
Reading A-Z provides educators with a large collection of developmentally appropriate reading books spread over 29 levels of difficulty. The books have been written to strict leveling criteria and then further analyzed using software that rates each book using more than 20 factors of difficulty.
The Leveled Books use natural language in meaningful contexts at the early levels. They make repeated use of high-frequency words. The graduated difficulty of each level ensures that the reader is receiving his or her instruction with materials that adequately challenge without causing frustration.
Reading A-Z allows teachers to download as many copies as necessary to meet their leveled reading needs. Because teachers can download and assemble books for pennies apiece, students can keep the books and take them home for repeated reading.
Each book is accompanied by a lesson built along the leveled reading conventions of strategy instruction before, during, and after reading.
Each Leveled Book includes a quiz that covers literal, inferential, and critical/creative thinking questions.
Reading A-Z provides two benchmarks books and running records for each reading level. These observational records of reading behavior allow a teacher to monitor student progress and guide instruction with developmentally appropriate materials.
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Alphabet instruction involves teaching the naming, recognition, and formation of the 26 uppercase and lowercase letter symbols used to form every word in the English language.
After phonemic awareness, recognition of the letters of the alphabet is the most important indicator of early reading success.
Starting at preschool and kindergarten, schools should help students learn the names and shapes of letters. Incorporating writing/printing into letter instruction is a powerful means of developing letter recognition. Using letter/keyword/picture displays when introducing letters is an effective strategy. (Adams, 1990)
Reading A-Z offers a large collection of resources for teaching the alphabet, including alphabet books and chants for each letter, worksheets, flashcards, and a bank of teaching strategies.
The alphabet books reinforce uppercase and lowercase letter recognition. They also teach the student important pre-reading skills, such as recognizing the front and back, top and bottom of a book, left-to-right progression, one-to-one word correspondence, and the notion that words carry meaning.
The flashcards can be used in a number of interactive activities to reinforce letter recognition.
Reading A-Z alphabet books and flashcards use letter/keyword/picture presentation for introducing letters.
Reading A-Z provides several letter formation worksheets for each letter of the alphabet in Zaner Bloser style, D’Nealian style, and cursive style. These worksheets promote work with letter formation, which has been shown to improve a student\'s ability to recognize letters.
Research has shown that children who read well in early grades are much more assured of later academic success. Furthermore, research shows that those who fall behind in the early years will most likely lag behind academically in subsequent years. (Snow, Burns, and Griffin, 1998)
According to research, the two most important early indicators of reading success are phonemic awareness and letter naming and recognition.
Reading A-Z provides a vast collection of alphabet resources that include an alphabet book for each letter of the alphabet (English, Spanish, and French), alphabet flashcards, alphabet chants, alphabet bingo cards, and letter formation practice sheets. A bank of teaching strategies with engaging student activities for alphabet instruction is also offered.
Research provides compelling evidence that parental involvement has a positive effect on a student's academic achievement. (Clark, 1983; Comer, 1980; Eccles, Arberton, et al., 1993; Eccles-Parsons, Adler, and Kaczala, 1982; Epstein, 1983, 1984.)
Reading A-Z offers hundreds of developmentally appropriate books that can be downloaded from any Internet-connected computer and printed for pennies per book. Many of these books have English, Spanish, and French versions. Reading A-Z books can become a part of each child’s book collection at home for repeated practice with parents and other caretakers.
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