Teaching Strategies for Beginning Reading

This posting is about teaching strategies for beginning reading. Since English learners develop literacy skills in similar ways to native English speakers, they will need some of the same instructional strategies. English learners should be immersed in meaningful, purposeful reading and writing activities that teach basic concepts about print and the numerous ways reading and writing are used for communication. At all times, comprehensible input should be provided to convey meaning of the printed word. It is well-established that the development of phonemic awareness and the teaching of phonics are important in the process of teaching children to read (Adams, 1990). Research also demonstrates that teaching these skills to English learners can benefit their reading development (Chiape, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, 2002).
Phonemic awareness is the understanding that speech is composed of a series of sounds and that those sounds can be isolated and manipulated (Tompkins, 2006). Teachers can develop phonemic awareness in children by providing many activities that involve songs, rhyming, word play books, and word games (Yopp & Yopp, 2000). Phonemic awareness provides a foundation for learning phonics, which is the understanding that speech sounds can be represented by letters and letter patterns (Gunning, 2003). A child will not be able to understand, for example, that the sound of /t/ at the beginning of the word toy can be represented by the letter t unless the child can hear and isolate  that sound from the rest of the word. The ability to recognize high frequency words is also critical to successful reading, so that attention can be focused on comprehending the text and not on decoding each and every word. As with native English speakers, it is essential to emphasize that the main task of reading is to construct meaning. Thus, instruction should always include real reading with text, such as poems, stories, or song lyrics. Prior to focusing on individual sounds, letters, or words, develop children’s understanding of the words (Peregoy & Boyle, 2005).
As mentioned earlier, the same strategies that are recommended by reading experts for developing literacy skills with native English speakers are also appropriate for English learners.

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