Table of Contents
- Word Recognition & Language Comprehension
- The Simple View of Reading
- The Rope Model
- Big Six Framework
- Jacob Castle
- Oral Language
- Phonological Awareness
- Vocabulary/Language Development
The first couple of years of schooling are crucial in laying the basic foundation of language development that will carry a person through the rest of his life. Research suggests that late bloomers in reading never really catch up (American Federation of Teachers, 2004). As educators we play a vital role in ensuring early language development takes place in our young learners. The aim of this essay is to reflect on the research relating to the early reading development processes. It will clearly identify the key elements of the word recognition process and language comprehension, while also making links to the Australian curriculum, the rope model, the simple view of reading model and the big six model. In this essay we specifically focus on a student named Jacob Castle. Jacob is a Year one student who has some specific learning needs that we will address within this essay.
Reading is a very complex cognitive process that involves the decoding of symbols in order to obtain meaning - comprehension. All students will eventually be able to process text, understand its meaning, and then integrate it into what they already know (Leipzig, 2018). Most languages has a written text that one can learn, with the exception of some spoken only languages that are slowly dying out. Much research has been done on how individuals learn to read. There is currently no single all-inclusive model that can explain concisely how someone specifically learns to speak and read. Remarkably the speech construction process happens entirely without one’s conscious awareness. Humans have the ability to produce 3 words per second, a staggering 180 words per minute, while producing less than 1 speech error for every thousand words spoken. Although some errors are normal, the speech errors that we do produce provide valuable information about the process and they are relatively rare and difficult to induce experimentally ('Psycholinguistics/Models of Speech Production - Wikiversity', 2018).
Word Recognition & Language Comprehension
Word recognition is the ability someone has to identify written words accurately and virtually effortlessly. Language comprehension is the ability to correctly process words and find meaning and understand sentence grammar and text structure from words/sentences (Kemper & Herman, 2002). Language comprehension is a crucial aspect of everyday functioning in adulthood. Word recognition encompasses phonological awareness, phonics and irregular words, whereas language comprehension encompasses fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. These processes are best presented in two key research-supported models; Scarborough’s “rope model” (2001) and Gough and Tunmer‘s “simple view of reading” model (1986). These models provide teachers with the best scaffold to construct the most effective literacy session.
During the first year of school students are introduced to many new exciting opportunities to develop language skills through communicating with peers, teachers, known adults and students from other classes. A skills-based method of instruction has been promoted since before the 1920’s and has been presumed by some to be the best method to teach reading (Leu & Kinzer, 1995). The Australian English curriculum is built around three key interrelated strands; language, literature and literacy (SCSA, 2016). All early childhood development programs should incorporate a balanced approach integrating these learning strands by further developing students' knowledge and understanding, as well as their listening, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating skills (ACARA, 2015). In 2000 the biggest scientific research study on reading done by the National Reading Panel found that a balanced approach to reading instruction proved to have the greatest success in reading development. The panel concluded that a balanced approach included phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, guided oral reading, vocabulary development and comprehension (Riddle, 2015).
The Simple View of Reading
The simple view of reading characterizes skillful reading comprehension as a combination of two separate components developing simultaneously; word recognition/decoding and language comprehension (Gough & Tunmer, 1986). It is widely accepted that decoding and comprehension are the two basic requirements to reading and they are both found within the Five Pillars model and Psycholinguistic model (Davidson, Farrell, Hunter & Osenga, 2018). In other words, if students struggle with recognising words accurately and automatically, their reading will be affected through a lack of fluency and in turn, reading comprehension will suffer. Therefore, students who excel in their reading comprehension are those who are skilled in both word recognition and language comprehension.
The Rope Model
The rope Model recognises that skilled reading is made up of two strands composed of language comprehension and word recognition (Scarborough, 2001). Language comprehension consists of a student’s background knowledge, vocabulary, language structures, verbal reasoning, and literacy knowledge. Word-recognition focuses on a student’s phonological awareness, decoding skills, and sight recognition of familiar words. Concurrently, these processes reinforce each other and weave together to produce a skilled reader (“Scarborough’s Reading Rope: A Ground-breaking Infographic – International Dyslexia Association', 2018). Both these models require explicit instruction and guidance from a teacher, as well as continual practice over time. However, when these fundamentals are learned, students will eventually be able to strengthen their development and become more competent and confident readers.
Big Six Framework
The “Big Six” framework model encompasses six key elements to teaching reading development. The National Reading Panel (2000) initially identified five key elements of reading development, known as the “Fab Five”; phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary/language development, and comprehension. Konza believed there was a missing first step and added ‘oral language and early literacy experiences’ as the first element renaming it the “Big Six” (2014, p. 153). Remember these elements as they will be discussed later within this essay.
Teaching any young student how to read and write is a challenging task for any classroom teacher or parent, no matter how skilled. Many decisions need to be made regarding the method of instruction, teaching strategies, materials used, as well as the individual needs and abilities of the child. Most classrooms has a range in the reading ability of their students’ with some students being exceptionally advanced readers while other children may struggle to read simple sentences fluently. Based on the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, our hopes as a primary teacher are to help further develop and strengthen reading instruction through the incorporation of the “Big Six” elements, as well as through an evidence-based approach of reading development (Rowe, 2006, p. 20).
Jacob Castle is 6 years and 7 months old and in Year one. We are told that he is a beginner reader that can read simple three letter words, but struggles with any words longer than three letters. He has a simple understanding of the basic code on grapheme-phoneme correspondence. Grapheme-phoneme correspondence is the relationship between the sounds and the letters which represent those sounds; also known as 'letter-sound correspondences'. These letter-sound correspondence is expressed in vowel-consonant (VC), consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC), consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant (CCVC), and are used to describe the order of letters in words, for example ‘am’, ‘Sam’, ‘slam’. Another area Jacob finds difficult is the full alphabetic phase of decoding. Jacob seems to struggle with his sound-symbol relationship. This involves understanding how each letter is used systematically within his alphabetical instruction. Early on in this phase, a person is apt to decode many words letter-by-letter, referred to by some as the spelling-sound phase of word learning (Ehri & Soffer, 1999; McCormick, 2003). We are also told that he can read some irregular high frequency words, however is unable to recall and spell most irregular words. He has some difficulty with his phonics and is confused by some vowel sounds relating to letters such as ‘i’ and ‘e’.
Within my classroom I will make use of a daily literacy session that consists of 60 minutes each morning. I will divide the students into four groups of appropriate reading difficulty (The Penguins - strong readers; The Tigers – average readers; The Elephants – developing readers; The Giraffes – poor/struggling readers). Each group is made up of between five to eight students. Students are assigned a group dependent of their reading test results recorded. Each day the classroom teacher will assist a different group to provide teacher-to-small-group interaction and assistance. The group rotations are as followed: (1) guided reading activity, (2) find the high frequency words, (3) favourite part and draw a picture, (4) spelling game (Beat the Elephant or Cloze activity) and (5) make a silly sentence activity. Each group will be assigned a different reading book that matches the appropriate level of reading difficulty, as well as each activity will be altered to cater for the needs of the group. For example, in rotation 2 - finding the high frequency words, the Penguins group will need to find the high frequency words within the text themselves whereas the Giraffes group will be provided with a list of words that they simply have to re-write five times. Another example of differentiating for the students’ needs can be for rotation 3 - the favourite part and picture, the Penguins and Tigers can get to act out their favourite part whereas the Elephants and Giraffes can build their favourite part of the text in playdough. Jacob is assigned to the Elephants group - a developing reader.
Below we will take a more detailed look at how the language development process takes place within a classroom, by incorporating the “Big Six” elements (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary/language development, and comprehension).
All students need to be given ample opportunities within the classroom to develop their oral language skills and this can be achieved through; encouraging students to be active listeners, exposure to a range of different texts, encouraging social interactions with peers and through classroom discussion by building oral language into the daily classroom routine. Making use of a classroom guest, such as grandparents/parents visiting a classroom and sharing stories, is another great way to increase oral language by exposure (ACELA1443). “The pervasive influence of a child’s early experiences on future reading achievement must be understood if teachers are to maximise the opportunities of all children to become independent readers” (Konza, 2014). A great way to further develop listening skills are by instructing students to listen out for specific information or follow instructions in order to gain a reward (ACELA1446).
Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and define distinct units of sound. A student’s oral ability very much depends upon their experiences growing up and their community. Phonological awareness is developed through understanding one’s sound surrounding better. At the most basic level this is achieved through reading books and identifying different words as they are read within a sentence (ACELA1447). As Jacob is not yet at the full alphabetic stage of reading, a very useful activity is to teach syllable recognition. Syllable recognition can be taught by having students clap out the specific syllables of each word. The teacher can also make use of commonly known nursery rhymes to get students to identify the first phoneme of each syllable. Students can experiment by changing the sound in words, for example with the first sound in words such as ‘cat’ (r/at, m/at, s/at & p/at). Next, this can be done with end sounds and middle sounds. Middle sounds are usually a vowel and probably the most difficult sound to recognise (ACELA1448). All these activities are designed to build phonological awareness and help students develop the ability to deconstruct words. As Jacob will be moving on to the onset-rhyme phase of phonological awareness, his group can be assigned a rhyming book such as Room on a Broom by Julia Donaldson (2001).
Also referred to as letter-sound knowledge phonics is the link between what one hears and what one sees. For example, the written words are codes and phonics teaches students how it is decoded. Phonics should be discussed and revised on a daily basis at a Year one level as students need to become familiar with the many letter and sound relationships. The English alphabet has 26 letters that can make 44 sounds and this takes practice and repetition to become familiar with. In order to increase Jacob’s basic phonic skills, I would introduce a letter a day activity. From that one can move on to some more complicated phonics activities until students begin to better recognise letter and sound relationship (ACELA1778).
Vocabulary is a set of familiar words within a person's language bank, in other words the number of words a person knows and is able to use in text or speech. Studies have shown that a child’s vocabulary can improve by purely talking about everyday things, for example by narrating what one does, reading out loudly or singing (NRP, 2000). Arguably the best way to teach vocabulary is simply through doing lots of reading. All classroom consists of a broad range of diverse readers, such as Jacob, and it is of utmost importance to allocate the correct level of reading difficulty source material to each student. It is important to note that vocabulary can be taught across all subjects, for example, science words are defined in science lessons or maths concepts explained during maths lessons. By making use of a word wall where students get to add new words that they have learned to refer back to across all subjects throughout the day (ACELA1454). Students are not limited to learning new words only in one,s literacy sessions or language lessons.
Fluency is the ability to read accurately, quickly, expressively and while retaining the information read. Fluency links somewhat to comprehension and provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Fluency is mainly achieved through practice and a Year one teacher needs to provide lots of opportunities for all students to practice their reading fluency. Good practice in Year one is to keep readings short and no more than 50 words. The text should also make use of repetition so students can become more confident in reading. Visual ques can be useful in pre-primary however should not be used often as many students start guessing words rather than reading and decoding the word. Teacher guided reading can help Jacob and other slow readers in the Elephant and Giraffe groups to become more confident when listening to the teacher read first, then modelling after – echo reading (ACELY1659). Echo reading is a rereading strategy designed to help students develop expressive, fluent reading as well as used for print knowledge.
Comprehension is the ability to understand something. A very easy way to accommodate comprehension development within a Year one classroom is simply by asking students open ended question on the texts they read, for example “what did you think about that?” or “how does that make you feel?”. In doing this, students get to practice their comprehension strategies by identifying how they felt and finding key elements and facts within the story. They also get to share ideas with their fellow classmates. A simple activity that specifically will cater for Jacob is the “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, where students get to write their own blurb for the text (ACELY1660). In rotations 3 in the literacy activity, students get to pick a favourite part of the text and draw a picture. No matter what level a student is at with their comprehension, students get to share about their drawing or even buddy up and discuss each other’s favourite part and then have them share that with the class.