Teaching Reading, Teaching Anything May 2001 "Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen of perception from one to another mind." —James Russell Lowell The Components of Effective Reading Instruction Decades of research in the fields of education and cognitive psychology have shown that the following skills are critical to learning to read proficiently: Phonemic awareness Letter-word correspondence skills Fluent word recognition Vocabulary Comprehension skills Appreciation of literature Once students have developed good phonemic awareness skills, research strongly supports concurrent training of the other five reading skills (letter-word correspondences, word recognition, vocabulary, comprehension, and appreciation of literature) as the next step towards reading fluency. Students learn to read most proficiently and quickly when all these skills are taught at the same time rather than sequentially. From Learning to Read to Reading to Learn Reading skills taught by the end of 3rd grade must prepare students for the literacy expectations they'll encounter in 4th grade. In 4th grade, students make a critical transition from learning to read to reading to learn. This changeover requires students to be fluent and automatic readers by the end of 3rd grade so they are prepared to read and comprehend complex narrative and expository texts in such content areas as history and science. Students in 4th grade are expected to read for literary experience as well as for information, and are expected to show: Initial understanding of the text Ability to develop an interpretation of the text Personal reflection on the content and response to the content Critical stance on the material In addition, in 4th grade, the types of words students encounter in the texts they are required to read are not typically found in everyday language; reading assignments become more technical and specific to the subject, such as science or social studies. If students are not reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade, they will not have the skill basis for comprehending these more challenging texts, nor will they have the vocabulary basics and decoding skills that will enable them to comprehend new words. Their academic performance (and enjoyment of reading) will suffer. Thus it is imperative to give students the best possible reading foundation as early as possible. Next Page... Teaching Anything: Instruction Based on Research on How the Brain Learns Neuroscience research has found that there is a potent combination of elements that lead to efficient learning of new tasks and concepts: Frequency Intensity Cross-training Adaptivity Motivation and attention Frequency For the brain to build and strengthen the pathways needed to learn a new skill, the student must be repeatedly exposed to the material being studied. Haphazardly picking at the piano usually produces little more than random melody, but daily practice can bring about true accomplishment. Learning to read is no exception; studies have shown that the more a person reads, the better that person will be at reading at any age and at any level of reading proficiency! Intensity Learning a new skill efficiently requires concentrated practice. Intense focus on a new skill allows the student to build more neural support for that skill in a short timeframe. When you train for a run, half-hearted jogging will not prepare your body for a race the way sprinting can. Reading skills are similar; the student must focus on the foundational skills critical to reading in order to become a proficient reader. Cross-Training Cross-training students on a wide range of skills reinforces the student's overall comprehension of the material while focusing on one or more specific skill sets. Just as good nutrition necessitates many different types of food at each meal, accomplished reading requires that the student be simultaneously proficient in many different skills. Adaptivity Adaptivity is a special feature of specialized reading instruction. It involves instruction that adapts to the student's incoming skill level. As the student continues to train, this type of instruction tracks the number of correct and incorrect answers and adjusts the training level when the student is ready to advance or needs to transition to different training material. This flexible approach ensures that the student is challenged but not frustrated, which in turn ensures that the student continues to pay attention to and enjoy the training, as well as continues to learn and progress in the exercise. Motivation and Attention Motivation keeps students interested in paying attention to the material and maintaining frequency of training. Instructional programs that offer several different motivational strategies keep students interested, and thus attention is sustained and motivation to continue is reinforced.