Reading instruction checklist for a reading program should include the five essential components that research has identified:
- Phonemic Awareness
- Reading Comprehension
Use the checklist below to determine if each component is a part of the reading program your school is using.
Phonemic awareness is knowing that words are made of individual sounds and being aware of and able to manipulate these sounds, which are called phonemes. Phonemes are the smallest parts of sound in a spoken word, such as the /s/ in /sit/. Your child should be able to perceive individual sounds, think about them, and manipulate them. For example, your child should be able to perform the following activities:
- Rhyming (the fat cat Pat)
- Picking out syllables in spoken words (Su-san)
- Knowing the first and last sounds in a word (ran, can; sit, it)
- Separating the sounds in a word (/s/-/i/-/t/)
Teaching sounds along with the letters of the alphabet is important — it can help your child to see how sounds are related to reading and writing. If your child does not know
letter names and shapes, teach them along with phonemic awareness.
Understanding phonemes is essential to phonics instruction, described next. Make sure that your child’s reading program explicitly teaches phonemic awareness, and if your child does not understand phonemes, ask the teacher for extra help in this area.
Phonics is the relationship between sounds and letters. Children must understand that letters are representations of sounds before they can learn to read. Phonics instruction teaches children letter-sound correspondences and the alphabetic principle — that there are systematic and predictable relationships between written letters and spoken sounds.
Phonics instruction is most effective when it begins early — in kindergarten or first grade — and lasts for about two years. For older students (grades 2-6), ongoing phonics instruction can help bolster skills in reading individual words and reading text out loud, but they also need instruction in spelling, reading fluency, and comprehension…
If your child is in kindergarten, first, or second grade, make sure that systematic and explicit phonics instruction is included as part of the reading curriculum. If your child is older and having trouble learning to read, find out if he would benefit by having phonics added to his program.
Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and quickly. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on recognizing the words, they can focus their attention on what the text means. Fluent readers group words to help them understand what they read, so fluency builds a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.
Fluency depends on what readers are reading, their familiarity with the words, and the amount of practice they have had. Fluency develops as a result of many opportunities to practice reading successfully. Continued reading practice helps word recognition become more automatic, rapid, and effortless.
Students need instruction in fluency, especially those who are struggling. In addition to providing instruction, teachers should assess fluency regularly to make sure students are making progress. Monitoring your child’s progress in reading fluency will help the teacher determine if instruction is effective, as well as providing information needed to set instructional goals.
Vocabulary is knowing words and knowing what they mean. There are four types of vocabulary: listening vocabulary, speaking vocabulary, reading vocabulary, and writing vocabulary. For every child, each of these vocabularies may include different, but overlapping, sets of words. Beginning readers use their oral vocabularies as they recognize the sounds in words they are reading. It is much easier for them to read words that are already part of their oral vocabularies.
Children learn vocabulary both indirectly and directly. They learn directly when they are plainly taught individual words and word-learning strategies, such as how to use dictionaries, how to use parts of words to figure out meaning, and how to use context to find clues to word meanings. They learn indirectly through conversation, listening to adults read to them, and reading on their own.
Your child’s reading program should include direct teaching of vocabulary as well as opportunities for indirect learning. The teacher should promote word consciousness (an awareness of and interest in words) and should encourage students to engage in word play (e.g., puns – such as “When you use glue in class, it paste to be careful.”), do research into the history of a word, search for examples of a word in their everyday lives (e.g., by reading signs or cereal boxes), and point out how authors have chosen specific words to convey exactly what they mean.
Reading comprehension is being able to understand, remember, and communicate what has been read.
Reading to learn subject matter does not occur automatically once students have learned to read; strategies for taking the meaning from text need to be taught. At all grade levels, students can benefit from instruction in how to make sense out of text and how to construct meaning.
Comprehension strategies should be part of your child’s reading program. Comprehension strategies are conscious plans-sets of steps that are used to make sense of the text. Students who use comprehension strategies know when they understand what they read and when they do not. They monitor their own comprehension.