What Essential Skills Do Students Need to Become Mature Readers?
The National Reading Panel (2000) identified key skill areas that should comprise the reading curriculum for students who are at risk. These areas include phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. These skills are also essential for remedial readers. The only difference is that remedial readers will learn these skills later than their peers.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear the smallest units of sound in spoken language and to manipulate them. Students who are at risk are less likely to develop this important foundational skill naturally. Word play activities and language games often do not provide enough support. Because phonemic awareness is a critical foundational skill for learning to read, researchers examined whether teaching phonemic awareness skills to students who are at risk was effective. As a result of these studies, a considerable body of research now provides guidance for teachers informing them that teaching phonemic awareness skills to students who are at risk within a language-rich environment makes it easier for them to learn to read (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2001). Although there are many different phonemic awareness skills, this book stresses the two that researchers have concluded have the most value in a beginning reading program: segmenting and blending. Segmenting is the ability to break apart words into their individual phonemes or sounds. A student who can segment says /f/-/i/-/sh/ when asked to say the sounds in fish. The ability to segment helps students strategically attack words they will be reading in text and break words into phonemes when spelling. Blending, the opposite of segmenting, is the ability to say a spoken word when its individual phonemes are said slowly. A student who can blend can say the word fish after the teacher slowly says the individual sounds /f/-/i/-/sh/. Blending enables students to read unfamiliar text by combining single sounds into new words.
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