Friday, December 31, 2004

Helping Struggling Readers: Explicit phonics instruction

Helping Struggling Readers - New Horizons
What are the Essential Components of Effective Programs for Struggling Readers?

To answer this question, we analyzed the components of six programs for underachieving readers. The programs included Success For All, Reading Recovery, The Spalding Method, Early Intervention Reading, The Boulder Project, and The Winston-Salem Project. We also interviewed six teachers and four reading specialists about what they believed to be essential when teaching struggling readers. There were significant areas of agreement. According to the educators and the established programs, the necessary components of effective reading programs include 1) phonics instruction, 2) listening comprehension , 3) reading comprehension, 4) tutoring opportunities, and 5) extending reading from the classroom to the home. Each component is described below.

1) Explicit Phonics Instruction
There were three key reading strategies that all six programs and the ten educators cited as essential. The three skills included phonics, listening, and reading comprehension. All ten educators agreed that phonics was the number one skill that struggling readers lacked. Likewise, it was interesting to observe that the majority of instructional time in the six programs is dedicated to word recognition and fluency through explicit phonics instruction. The programs typically use prescribed texts in which stories contain letters and words that children have been introduced to.

I'm no conservative. So it's annoying that I have to align myself with the social conservative dominated phonics-first forces rather than the lefty "whole word" gang. Sadly, the data says the phonics fascists are right, and the commie whole word folks are wrong.

I'm a very strong reader, as is my wife. I probably could have learned to read using any technique. Most kids will teach themselves phonics given a few hints along the way. Children with reading needs need a directed, structured, focused, monitored phonics-driven approach. They need it even though, for the teacher, this is boring, boring stuff. It's boring stuff for natural readers too (it was hard for me to learn to read aloud -- sounding out words just slowed me down).

Boring. Dull. Painful. Necessary.

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