Young children begin learning and demonstrating common reading skills long before they can read their own names. The Common Core State Standards identify five foundational reading skills which help students build a solid understanding of how and why we read. While many students entering elementary school have already begun to acquire some of these skills, they are skills that students continue to use and build upon as they move through the middle and high school years and into college and careers.
While reading printed words become intuitive to most adults, the basic features of printed words on a page can be confusing to pre-literate 5- and 6-year-olds. One of the first foundational reading skills students encounter is making sense of the arrangement of letters into words and words into sentences. The names of letters, the purposes of spacing between words, the names and functions of punctuation marks, tracking from left to right and top to bottom and the fact that each word on the page represents one spoken word are all part of understanding the basic features of print.
Students immerse themselves in words and sounds when they are learning to read. Picking apart the words they hear into individuals syllables and sounds is a crucial skill in learning to put sounds back together to create words. Phonological awareness speaks to a child's ability to recognize and name vowel and consonant sounds and to distinguish if she is hearing a particular sound at the beginning, middle or end of a word using only her listening skills. This awareness also includes the ability to figure out if a word has a long or short vowel sound without seeing the word in print.
Phonics and Word Recognition
When most people think of learning to read, they picture kids pouring over books about fat cats with hats that sat on a mat. Phonics and word recognition are the parts of learning to read that look the most familiar to us. Young students honing these skills are putting together consonant and vowel sounds in predictable patterns and identifying common one, two, three and four letter words on sight. These skills, however, go far beyond the fat cats. Students all the way up through high school are continuing to add to their bank of easily recognized words and are constantly challenged to use phonetic skills to sound out or spell unfamiliar words.
Once students can recognize or decode just about any word they come across, reading with the fluency and accuracy necessary for comprehension becomes the most practiced skills. Most students reach a point where they are no longer learning to read, but reading to learn. Students who read to learn need to have the ability to read quickly enough to grasp the information held in longer passages while monitoring their reading for meaning and understanding. Learning to reread a passage, skim a paragraph and read aloud are all part of reading with fluency.
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