Reading is necessary for more than just enjoying books. Being able to read is necessary to learn academic content in school, function in everyday life and eventually enter the adult world of work. That said, only 35 percent of fourth-graders and 36 percent of eighth-graders could read at a proficient or above level in 2013, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. Teaching students to read isn't a one-technique process. There are a variety of strategies that effectively teach print awareness, phonics, fluency and more.
Using Phonics to Teach
Phonics uses the alphabetic principle to help children learn how to read, according to the website Reading Rockets. Letters and combined letter patterns represent sounds in spoken language, and the phonics strategy encourages beginning readers to recognize the relationships between letters in print and the sounds they make. For example, "th" makes the same first sound in "think" or "thank." Students start phonics instruction by learning individual sounds that the written letters make. This provides a basis for putting sounds together and reading words.
Building Language Fluency
Fluency refers to the ability to read in a continuous stream, without stopping or stumbling. Fluent readers are able to put letters together into words while understanding the content behind them. One strategy that is effective when working with young children is to model fluent reading, according to the Scholastic Teachers website. For example, select books from a few different age-appropriate genres, such as fantasy stories, informational texts or poetry. Instruct the children to watch and listen to you as they follow along with your read-aloud. Ask them to pay attention to how you read the words and how easy it is for them to follow what you're saying. Another technique that builds fluency is re-reading. By going over sentences and passages of text, students are able to practice forming the words and gain confidence in their reading skills.
Using Existing Knowledge for Comprehension
Understanding the meaning behind the words is necessary in order to read, and using existing knowledge to figure out unknown vocabulary or content can help students to build comprehension skills. For example, if a sentence contains a vocabulary word the student doesn't recognize, he can use his knowledge of the rest of the words to piece together the meaning. Predicting based on prior knowledge also works for comprehending styles of texts. Fill-in-the-blank sentences provide a way to help beginning students use this type of strategy. They can read the sentence and judge the meaning, then add the missing word based on what already is there. If the student knows the conventions of a specific style, he may have the ability to comprehend unknown text.
Previewing the Text First
Teaching students to preview the text first can help them more effectively make meaning of the words and improve comprehension. Instead of diving deep into the text, previewing involves looking at section headings, titles, pictures or captions. For example, students can page through their first chapter book and preview the title and chapter names. This gives them an idea what the book is about and what to expect when they read it.
- National Center for Learning Disabilities: The NICHD Research Program in Reading Development, Disorders and Instruction
- The Nation's Report Card: What Level of Knowledge and Skills Have the Nation's Students Achieved?
- Reading Rockets: Classroom Strategies
- Reading Rocket: Phonics
- Scholastic Teachers: 5 Surefire Strateges for Developing Reading Fluency
- National Capital Language Resource Center: Strategies for Developing Reading Skills
- Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images