Five Components of Reading

SLC provides in-depth and engaging learning sessions on instructional practices to support all components of SBRR. What follows is an overview of the components SBRR routinely addressed during SLC PD sessions:

1.     Phonemic Awareness is the ability to distinguish, produce, remember, and manipulate the individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that phonemes are blended in spoken words and can be broken apart (segmented). Phonemic awareness is a necessary skill for mapping alphabetic symbols to spoken words and can be developed through direct, systematic instruction.

SBRR and Phonemic Awareness

The best reading programs place sufficient weight on phonemic awareness, which is the phonological skill most closely associated with the ability to sound out new words and to spell accurately. Phonemic awareness focuses on features of speech sounds and spoken words; it precedes tying those sounds to letters, as phonics does. Students may need auditory-verbal instruction, without letters in the mix, if they cannot differentiate sounds or if they inaccurately perceive and recall spoken words. Phonemic awareness benefits students not only in the short run, but also over the long haul.

Instruction teaching only rhyming and matching initial consonant sounds in words are not teaching phonemic awareness to the depth necessary to ameliorate reading problems. Programs that teach a letter each week, and only incidentally tell children that ‘letters make sounds’, may not give enough explicit instruction to help struggling students. Instead, students should be directly instructed to segment and blend the sounds in words, as these skills are highly predictive of later reading abilities.

2.     Phonics is the knowledge of the predictable correspondences between phonemes and graphemes (the letters and letter combinations that represent individual sounds). Readers use phonics as they learn to decode unfamiliar words, automatically recognize familiar words, and spell. Explicit, systematic instruction in phonics helps average children learn to read and spell more accurately and fluently than those who don’t receive phonics instruction. A wide body of scientifically-based reading research suggests that phonics is critical for preventing reading failure in children at risk.

SBRR and Phonics

To recognize words, children need to learn not only the connections between phonemes and graphemes, but also the spelling patterns for syllables from which longer words are constructed. Poor readers at the third-grade level and above, for example, often know simple letter-sound correspondences but do not know how to divide a multisyllabic word into its essential sounds. To do this, students must recognize base words and endings, roots and affixes, compounds and contractions.  Thus, phonics is more than most people realize, more than simple connections between letters and sounds. Good reading programs recognize this and build upon it.  Guided Reading and other popular whole language-based programs don’t, and do not directly measure or instruct phonics in any systematic way.

3.     Reading Fluency: Reading text with sufficient speed and accuracy to support comprehension. Fluency can be enhanced with various instructional techniques and with reading practice. To comprehend well, students must achieve adequate oral reading fluency rates. Thresholds for adequate oral reading fluency from first to fifth grade are well established by research

SBRR and Fluency

Close relationships among oral reading rate, accuracy, fluency (also known as prosody), and silent-reading comprehension of longer passages. The implication is that students are likely to comprehend a longer passage only if they read words accurately, know what they mean, and read the text with sufficient speed to foster understanding. Fluency-building exercises are recommended in programs consistent with SBRR, especially for students who read too slowly. SLC trains teachers on effective instructional practices to support and increase reading fluency (prosidy).

4.     Vocabulary: Best achieved by reading itself, oral language practice, and instruction in a wide range of topics. Reading comprehension depends heavily on knowledge of the individual word meanings in a text, and those meanings are learned by repeated exposure to a word’s use in context and by explicit, direct instruction in word meanings.

SBRR and Vocabulary

Accurate, fluent decoding skills are necessary to make a good reader. But this alone won’t get the job done. As children progress in reading, the variance between good readers and poor readers is increasingly explained by students’ knowledge of vocabulary: the more vocabulary one commands, the more fluid and accurate one’s reading knowledge. Vocabulary development is critical for all students whose language skills are weak, and it is wrong to assume, as many whole-language programs do, that children will learn vocabulary merely by being surrounded with books. Schools should continue vocabulary development through high school.

Teachers must also offer continuing instruction in word meaning and word use, tied to content learning, in order to narrow the gap between strong readers and poor readers.

5.     Reading Comprehension: Reading comprehension requires specific skills and cognitive strategies, background knowledge, and verbal reasoning. All are employed by good readers—who read with purpose and flexibility—to understand, remember, and communicate what has been read. Teachers can be instrumental in imparting to children the skills and strategies necessary to navigate narrative and expository texts.

Krista Morrison