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Learning to read is a complex process that requires a solid foundation in language skills.
And for years, because of these complexities, the best way to deliver effective reading and phonics instruction has been under heated debate.
A lot of the methods for phonics instruction promoted and used today – are just as complicated.
They create friction for students who struggle to read because there’s this disconnect…everything is taught in isolation.
And a child’s brain has nothing to attach the new learning to.
But what if there was a phonics instruction method that was proven to get students reading more rapidly?
Watch Science Short #5 below to find out about a research-based method to get your readers achieving faster. [OR, see below for a quick read instead!]
Meaningful Connections Make Learning Easier
Children come to us in the early elementary years with a rich language system already in place.
They already have a vast amount of phonology and semantics locked and loaded in their brain, just waiting for new information to be attached.
And when phonics programs aren’t taking advantage of that –
Teachers are missing out on the value of harnessing a child’s powerful language system and building from there.
Many phonics programs teach one sound at a time – for a very lengthy time – with little to no connection to what a child brings to the table.
The result – you spend too much time on one sound, making it near impossible to gain any momentum.
And in your busy teaching world – you have no time to waste.
So, if children come to us with all of this information…
Doesn’t it make sense to work with that foundation? To begin with what they know instead of an arbitrary process that doesn’t connect to the semantics and phonology (years in the making) the child already understands?
The answer is a clear YES.
And at Reading Simplified, we’ve created a simple and effective method – rooted in what we know about the research – that sets the stage for successful reading.
And it isn’t complicated.
But before I get to that game-changer, let’s take a quick look at how our code works.
Organizing Phonics Instruction for Beginning Readers
Since children come to us possessing the semantics and phonology necessary for successful reading–
We should present how to read from their perspective.
That means working with what children already have – an extensive vocabulary and the ability to recognize sounds in words.
So, by drawing attention to the things they already know, it’s easier to create a bond with the new information presented in print.
Instead of a haphazard approach or organizing teaching based on adult perceptions of print – rather than the needs of beginner readers –
Phonics instruction should align with children's existing language systems.
And that means organizing phonics instruction by sound.
Our written language is essentially a code to represent sounds.
So, start with what students already know: their language systems and awareness of the sounds of our language.
Then, connect new information, like orthography, AKA our spelling system.
Here’s an example,
When a child hears the word “sat,” she knows it means to sit down (semantics), and she can hear the sounds in that word:
The phonology is /s/ /a/ /t/.
So our job is to help her connect those sounds to each symbol (orthography, spellings, or phonics knowledge).
Even with a more complex word like couch – she hears the sounds /c/ /ow/ /ch/ and can know that they're connected to the “c,” the “ou,” and the “ch” spellings.
She’s making those bonds between her existing language systems and print.
Even though she may not have a heightened awareness of the sounds and words like “sat,” she certainly perceives the differences in individual sounds and words…
Because she knows that “sat” is different from “cat” or “cot” or “pot.”
Thus, we simply draw the child’s awareness to the things she already hears in those words and have her attach that meaning to print.
Sort It: A Game-Changer for Organizing the Code by Sound
How does this look in instruction?
For example, we could elongate and exaggerate the /oa/ sound as we ask, “What sound do you hear in go or boat or snow?”
The child will tell you that he hears the /oa/ sound.
Now, at that point, we organize that information by sharing with him, “Let's read some words with the /oa/ sound. But you'll discover a more than one way to spell these /oa/ sound words!”
go home show boat toe
In contrast to traditional phonics instruction, we’re not working with one /oa/ spelling for an entire week and then presenting a completely different spelling for the same sound a week later. Or months later!
Instead, at Reading Simplified, we have a solution designed to help you present new information in alignment with what your students brought to school with them on Day 1.
Sort It, one of our core activities, organizes new information based on sound–again, what the child already knows!
And one thing that makes this activity really stellar, is that it gives kids access to a lot of information about phonics quickly because the information is organized in a way that they can understand –
Which allows them to easily connect it to their existing language system for faster learning.
Not only have we heard of the successes of thousands of Reading Simplified teachers relying on Sort It, I also folded a very similar activity into the Targeted Reading Intervention, which has been published in over 10 top tier research journals and is on the What Works Clearinghouse. Then we called it “Sort, Write, and Say.”
To Wrap Up
Language is the foundation upon which reading is built.
And by recognizing and leveraging children's existing language skills, we can make reading instruction more effective and understandable.
Organizing phonics instruction by sound, rather than arbitrary patterns, allows us to connect what children already know to the new information they encounter in print.
The Sort It activity is just one example of how we can make decoding instruction more efficient and effective.
Keep It Simple: start with the known and add the new.