Reading Skills Addressed
The design and sequence of the activities used with the Flippen Reading Connection are intended to help children acquire skills in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading fluency, and comprehension.
Instruction in phonemic awareness (PA) involves teaching children to focus on and manipulate phonemes in spoken syllables and words. Students with phonemic awareness are able to distinguish phonemes, the smallest units of sound that are capable of differentiating meaning. For example, children with phonemic awareness can break the word “sit” into three separate phonemes: /s/, /i/, and /t/. In developing phonemic awareness, children begin to understand the nature of the building blocks of language and the manner in which these building blocks are put together to form words.
The National Reading Panel (Click here for PDF and refer to page 7) reported that teaching phonemic awareness significantly improves the reading skills of students more than instructional strategies that fail to address PA.
Phonemic awareness is a skill students must have (or be developing) in order to grasp the alphabetic principle (Click here for PDF) that units of print map on to units of sound.
Phonemic awareness is essential for learning phonics because manipulating letters won’t make sense until an understanding of the sound structure of a language has been acquired.
Phonics instruction entails teaching students how to use letter-sound relationships to read and spell words. There are several types of instructional approaches to teaching phonics (Click here for PDF) including:
- Analogy Phonics—teaches unfamiliar words by using analogy to known words
- Analytic Phonics—teaches how to analyze letter-sound relationships in known words
- Embedded Phonics—teaches phonics skills by embedding phonics instruction during reading of text
- Phonics through Spelling—teaches how to segment words into phonemes and then select the correct letters to represent the phonemes
- Synthetic Phonics—teaches how to convert letters into sounds and to blend the sounds so that they form recognizable words
A meta-analysis conducted by the National Reading Panel (Click here for PDF and refer to page 9) revealed that systematic phonics instruction is significantly more effective than instruction that lacks phonics instruction. Furthermore, systematic Synthetic Phonics had a positive and significant effect on the reading skills of disabled learners as well as low-achieving students who are not disabled. In addition, this type of phonics instruction was more effective than other instructional approaches in improving the alphabetic knowledge and word reading skills of students of low socioeconomic status (SES).
The Flippen Reading Connection uses systematic phonics instruction, with an emphasis on Synthetic Phonics, to enhance the reading skills of students.
In order for growth in reading power to occur, there must be a continuous growth in word knowledge. A larger vocabulary makes it easer for a student to make sense of the text that is being read. The findings of the National Reading Panel on vocabulary identified specific implications for teaching vocabulary (Click here for PDF and refer to page 14):
- vocabulary should be taught both directly and indirectly
- repetition and multiple exposures to vocabulary are important
- learning in rich contexts, incidental learning, and use of computer technology all enhance acquisition of vocabulary
- direct instruction should include task restructuring and should actively engage the student
- dependence on a single vocabulary instruction method will not result in optimal learning
Once students master the skills involved in phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary building, reading fluency and comprehension can follow.
Reading fluency is described by Rasinski (2003) as the ability to read passages accurately, rapidly, effortlessly, and with appropriate expression. This skill allows readers to focus on the meaning of the passage they are reading. The Flippen Reading Connection uses teaching strategies including oral reading, supported reading and repeated reading to improve the reading fluency skills of students such that they acquire “automaticity” in reading. Attaining automaticity is a complex task, and LaBerge & Samuels (1974) proposed that reading fluency is based upon the rapidity with which microlevel subskills (such as comprehending letter-sound relationships, recognizing letter combinations, and understanding the meaning of words) are executed.
Wolf & Katzir-Cohen (2001) state that after being fully developed, “reading fluency refers to a level of accuracy and rate, where decoding is relatively effortless; where oral reading is smooth and accurate with correct prosody; and where attention can be allocated to comprehension.”
Only after students have become automatic in carrying out the lower-level skills can they turn their attention more fully to the task of comprehending what they are reading.
Harris & Hodges (1995) define comprehension as “intentional thinking during which meaning is constructed through interactions between text and reader”. Reading comprehension is essential to the development of effective reading skills and can only be achieved upon mastery of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and reading comprehension skills. Comprehension strategies must be explicitly taught, and are designed to help learners become more active readers such that they are able to construct meaning from text.
The Report of the National Reading Panel (2000) identified 16 categories of comprehension strategy instruction, of which, 7 had solid scientific basis for concluding that reading comprehension in non-impaired readers improved as a result of a specific type instruction. The types of instruction are:
• Comprehension monitoring: Readers learn how to be aware of their understanding of the material;
• Cooperative learning: Students learn reading strategies together;
• Use of graphic and semantic organizers (including story maps): Readers make graphic representations of the material to assist comprehension;
• Question answering: Readers answer questions posed by the teacher and receive immediate feedback;
• Question generation: Readers ask themselves questions about various aspects of the story;
• Story structure: Students are taught to use the structure of the story as a means of helping them recall story content in order to answer questions about what they have read;
• Summarization: Readers are taught to integrate ideas and generalize from the text information.
Some of the comprehension strategies are helpful when used alone, but the evidence suggests that reading comprehension strategies are more effective when integrated into a multiple-strategy teaching method. When used appropriately, comprehension strategies allow students to recall information, answer questions, generate questions, and summarize texts. A combination of these techniques can improve scores on standardized comprehension tests.