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... With Reading and Writing for All!A Common Sense Approach to Reading and Writing For Teachers and Parents
By Louise McGrew
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Louise McGrew
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFacts about Reading
It is time for educators and parents to stop the pendulum! It's time for common sense to prevail and for children to be taught using research-based best practices with the most effective methods known.
The truth is that all reading programs have strengths as well as weaknesses, and while some students learn best using one technique, others achieve more success from alternative strategies. This means that most programs and methods have a place in the development of the reading process and, if they are used effectively, almost all students can learn to read.
Fact: Reading is as developmental as talking and walking. Timing is everything.
Fact: Phonics (the letter-sound correspondence) is one cueing system and needs to be taught through direct instruction, which means someone needs to explain and demonstrate how the letters and sounds work in the English language.
Fact: Syntax (the rules of language organization) is a cueing system and needs to be understood and used as the learner hears it modeled both in conversation and from the written word, as in stories.
Fact: Semantics (the meaning of language and context clues) is a cueing system and must be developed to make reading meaningful. Again, this is best done through conversation and lots of stories.
Fact: The majority of people, including our students, are visual learners.
Fact: There is a minority of students that needs extra auditory or kinesthetic strategies to access the sound-symbol relationships (mnemonic aids).
Fact: Approximately 80 percent of English words are phonetic.
Fact: Approximately 200 of the most-used words in the English language are not phonetic. (They must be taught by alternative methods.)
Fact: Discovering, making meaning from, and comprehending what is being read is part of the reading process—the reason for reading.
Fact: Children who are set up to fail will become failures, while children who are programmed to succeed will.
Fact: Reading can be taught in a positive way so that almost all students can learn to read with confidence and success.
Fact: Positive, direct instruction at the students' instructional level is absolutely critical if some students are going to become successful readers.
Fact: No single reading program takes into account all these facts ... because reading is not about programs; it is about a process.
I have sifted through many programs and selected the best techniques from each. I then incorporated those techniques to create a multifaceted learning approach and environment that promotes the reading process from many angles. Several strategies, as well as many techniques, will be described with examples demonstrating where and how they can be used effectively and efficiently in the development of the reading process. These have worked well for me for many years; however, you may find that you need to adjust the ideas to fit both your and your students' situations and needs.
The truth is that most of the prepackaged reading programs sold by large publishers contain far more stuff than is necessary, and many of these extras actually distract from the reading process. More often than not, teachers experience overload and are not sure what really needs to be covered and what is just fluff. (You can't get through it all, that's for sure.) This confusion generally finds its way down to the students. Remember, too, that these high-dollar programs are very scripted and do not allow for the flexibility that a real classroom needs. As important as systematic and sequential direct instruction is, one must teach in such a way that children are set up for success and not considered to be at the remedial level within the first month of school. Good teaching will minimize the negative educational experiences and give children the opportunity to see themselves as learners, not as failures.
A very important key in teaching reading is to recognize and understand that, in part, reading is developmental. Just as we acknowledge that children can learn to walk and talk at any time within a range of a year and still be considered quite normal, the ability to learn to read varies in individuals and should be a factor in considering when and how reading and writing should be taught. It should also help teachers and parents remember to be patient and allow the children in their care the opportunity to develop the readiness skills they need to be successful and not overreact when a student does not exhibit the aptitude that other students may be showing when reading is first being introduced. We have little control over the speed at which a child develops, but we can control how learning opportunities are presented, as well as what is expected of our children.
This book is designed to guide parents and assist teachers with the task of assimilating and developing materials and books in such a way as to ensure reading success for all.
Chapter TwoWhole Language
The whole-language concept took the reading world by storm in the 1970s and 1980s. The main idea was to immerse students in good literature and give them a rich background of language, with the notion that reading and writing would follow. The whole-language movement in its purest form excluded the direct, systematic instruction of phonics. It is safe to say that some students did learn to read under the whole-language precepts. However, the theory fell out of favor when it was discovered that many students being taught with this method could not read or write well. So, as is often the case, everything about whole language was jettisoned, which means that some very important ideas were abandoned as well.
Language as a Whole
One important aspect of the whole-language approach was the development of oral language. In order for reading to make sense, our children need to understand that words communicate meaning. That means the first step is to talk to children and then, as they are able, carry on conversations with them, helping them see the words take on meaning. Parents, from the time your children are in your arms, talk to them; they need to hear the sounds they will later need for speech when they begin imitating you. Then, as they begin making utterances, continue saying simple words back to them. Once they are able to say a word, incorporate the word into a simple sentence. For example, if your child points down and makes a sound, you say "down." Then, as the child develops, he or she may point down and say "down," at which point you would respond with, "Do you want down?" Or if your child points to a cat and makes a sound, you say "cat." When the child is able to point to the cat and say "cat," you respond with, "Yes, that is a cat." Never reprimand or correct the child because he or she didn't say "cat" the first time one came into view. Learning the language is developmental, and your job is to continually and conscientiously model the next level correctly.
The development of language is a continuous process that will be ongoing for many years. So with that in mind, learn to think "conversation" all day, every day. It isn't about quality time; it is about all the time. When you are cooking, cleaning, washing, driving, playing, etc., talk to your children about what you are doing or what they are seeing. These kinds of interactions stimulate vocabulary development and make language easy because it is within a context and has meaning. So parents, talk to your children.
Teachers, if you have some children in your room who are obviously unfamiliar with language and how it works, make sure you spend some time developing their language. It can be as easy as taking a walk around the campus and pointing out various things and describing them. It will probably be necessary to spend time in the classroom describing and naming all the paraphernalia. It will also be important to remember to use simple sentences so the students can understand you and duplicate your speech later, as well as to give them an opportunity to learn the vocabulary of the classroom.
It is also essential that your students get to practice the language. That will require scheduling time for structured interactions as well as some scheduled spontaneous language practice. The structured time could be the time when you are instructing them. While you are having them draw or cut, you describe everything you want them to do while you are modeling it for them. Then you have them repeat back to you what you are doing as you model it once again. Using words in context is very helpful for establishing vocabulary and developing language. Keep your sentences simple and correct.
Unstructured time, otherwise known as playtime, is also a great time for continuing the development of language. While the children are playing with blocks, you can simply comment, "Danny is building a tower with blocks" and "Sally is building a higher tower." Always be on the lookout for ways to incorporate language in your activities. Developing oral language helps children learn to communicate because they begin to experience the power of language. The better developed a child's language is, the easier the reading process is going to be.
A Love for Books
Another concept the whole-language approach encouraged was instilling a love for books. Good literature is of paramount importance if the reading process is to get off the ground. Children need to know what reading is so it will be something they want to learn.
This is probably the easiest part of the reading process to implement because the only things required are good books and a reader. Reading daily to a child should begin at birth and continue for as long as it is pleasurable for those participating. Remember, the key word here is pleasurable; a child should love story time and anticipate it with excitement, even requesting extra reading time. Just a tiny word of caution—be sure that whoever is reading either really enjoys it or is an excellent actor because the child's experience with reading must be positive.
A whole-language approach requires good stories. There are many lists of good books that children should be exposed to, and they all have their purpose. The most important point to remember is that you, the reader, should enjoy the story also. That isn't to say you won't tire of a child's favorite book long before the child does (especially in the case of preschoolers and early primary children), but your initial and underlying feeling for the story must be positive and reflect a feeling of enjoyment because you want the reading experience to be pleasurable. You want the child or children in your care to love stories, books, and reading.
As a side note, there are some fun books that may not have made the Best Literature Award list but often have an appeal to children. Your goal is to get children jazzed and excited about books. You want them to think of reading as an adventure and something they want to do. If a less-than gold-medal-winner book is fun, the child enjoys it, and it helps to stimulate the desire to read, go for it.
If read to, little ones will automatically obtain book-handling skills, such as knowing the front, back, top, and bottom and understanding that we read from left to right. They develop a sense of how to use a book just by observing a reader handling one and then mimicking the procedure. Page turning and general care are also things that very young readers will learn from exposure to readers and books. However, an occasional child may need some direct instruction or at least encouragement in the care and handling of books. If that is the case, do it as gently as possible but remain firm in your expectations of how books are to be treated. Your expectations will of course vary depending on the child's age.
In the classroom, because of the diversity of your students and the various skill levels with which they come to you, it is important that, as you read to them, you also talk to them about the front and back and the top and bottom of the book, about turning one page at a time, etc. As they get older, you might include discussions about who wrote or illustrated the book, again developing vocabulary. As they understand what writing means, you can introduce the word author and explain that the author is the person who wrote the book. You could then describe drawing in connection with illustrating. Any opportunity to develop vocabulary should be seized with enthusiasm.
Another important aspect of the whole-language approach is the discussion or dialogue that stories and books can evoke. The child's age and the type of story will determine the content of the discussion. With the little tots who are just learning to speak, there is a lot of pointing and naming and sound making. For example, you point to a picture of a dog and ask, "What does the doggie say? Grrr! Bow&endash;wow!" This is the beginning of language and reading.
For parents, this stage of the reading process simply involves reading and enjoying books with your children. As they get older, follow up with any questions or discussions that seem appropriate. Often, children ask the questions, and you will need to supply the answers or at least the dialogue that leads to the answer. Reading should be equated with an enjoyable conversation, the acquisition of language, and generally a good time.
Reading in these very early stages can also lay a very important foundation in the area of phonemic awareness. From the beginning, include nursery rhymes and other childhood jingles, chants, songs, and poems in the selections you read. Silly works well and can be a lot of fun. The intent is to help your child acquire an ear for rhymes, which, of course, lead to word families later. Do not fuss with word families now; that will come as the child learns to read. But the ability to hear words that sound alike can be very advantageous to beginning readers, so while you are reading for fun, be sure to include children's poetry, nursery rhymes, and the like.
Please know that your students will come to you with varying skills and levels of experience. The beginning introduction to reading basically involves the same things for you as it does for parents. You, the teacher, should be reading to your students throughout the day. Books should be a part of every classroom and used as tools for research and learning, but no matter how many books may be used during the day, be sure to take time to enjoy a couple of stories just for the fun of it. With older students, between eight and ten years old, start a chapter book that might be of special interest and read a chapter or two a day until you complete the book. But please do not shelve the wonderful, beautiful picture books! Continue to use them and encourage the students to enjoy picture books as long as possible. For one thing, many truly wonderful picture books need to be treasured by all ages, and many are appropriate through seventh and eighth grade. It's a shame to miss any of them. The pictures themselves evoke a lot of language and encourage vocabulary development if used appropriately. Pictures are important because they help set the context of the story, and for beginning readers that can be very helpful. Remember, you can have beginning readers in any grade.
Whole language is all about establishing a love for books, stories, and reading. If this is ingrained early on, the desire to read will fuel itself and practicing the reading process will come naturally, not be viewed as something to be avoided.
Excerpted from ... With Reading and Writing for All! by Louise McGrew Copyright © 2010 by Louise McGrew. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
About the Author....................xiii
Chapter 1: Facts about Reading....................1
Chapter 2: Whole Language....................5
Chapter 3: Phonemic Awareness and Phonics....................20
Chapter 4: How to Teach Phonics and Beginning Reading....................49
Chapter 5: Clarifying Strategies and Older Students....................91
Chapter 6: A Potpourri of Ideas....................104
Materials Manual Table of Contents....................126